How To Paint a Dining Room Table to Make It Last

After painting our dining room table.
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Our dining room set is one of the few pieces of furniture in our house that we bought new and not second-hand.

But over the past 9 years of daily use and multiple military moves, it’s looking a little worn out. Structurally, the table is still in great shape, but the finish on the tabletop was starting to flake off. And it was driving me crazy.

Before painting our dining room table.
(Before.)
After painting our dining room table.
(After.)

I would gladly pick up my paintbrush and get busy with any other piece of furniture, but so many furniture flippers on social media say that they avoid dining room sets. 1) because of the amount of work that is required and 2) because they are used so much that the paint doesn’t always hold up well.

For those reasons, I have put this project off for years! After taking these pictures during a game night and cringing at the janky tabletop, I moved the table outside the next day and got to work.

Here’s how I painted my dining room table:

(You can see how much the top of the table was flaking. And it didn’t help that the kids would pick at it.)

Dining Room Table Painting Supplies:

DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6423K)DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6423K)DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6423K)Diablo SandNet 220 Grit 5โ€ Sanding Disc - DND050220H10IDiablo SandNet 220 Grit 5โ€ Sanding Disc – DND050220H10IDiablo SandNet 220 Grit 5โ€ Sanding Disc - DND050220H10ISimpli-Magic 78966-100PK Shop Towels 14โ€x12โ€, Red, 100 PackSimpli-Magic 78966-100PK Shop Towels 14โ€x12โ€, Red, 100 PackSimpli-Magic 78966-100PK Shop Towels 14โ€x12โ€, Red, 100 PackZinsser Bulls Eye 123 Plus White Water-Based Acrylic Primer 1 gal.Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Plus White Water-Based Acrylic Primer 1 gal.Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Plus White Water-Based Acrylic Primer 1 gal.Pro Grade - Paint Brushes - 2Pk - Paint Brush SetPro Grade – Paint Brushes – 2Pk – Paint Brush SetPro Grade - Paint Brushes - 2Pk - Paint Brush SetFoamPRO 163-P, 165-5 | 4โ€ Fine Finish Foam Roller Refills (5 Pack) | Foam Paint Roller Covers | Home Painting Supplies & Paint ToolsFoamPRO 163-P, 165-5 | 4โ€ Fine Finish Foam Roller Refills (5 Pack) | Foam Paint Roller Covers | Home Painting Supplies & Paint ToolsFoamPRO 163-P, 165-5 | 4โ€ Fine Finish Foam Roller Refills (5 Pack) | Foam Paint Roller Covers | Home Painting Supplies & Paint ToolsMetal Paint Tray & Liners, fits 9Metal Paint Tray & Liners, fits 9Metal Paint Tray & Liners, fits 9Shur-Line Handi Painter Refill 3 in. W Paint Pad for Flat Surfaces - 24 PackShur-Line Handi Painter Refill 3 in. W Paint Pad for Flat Surfaces – 24 PackShur-Line Handi Painter Refill 3 in. W Paint Pad for Flat Surfaces - 24 PackBOMEI PACK 4 Pack Blue Painters Tape, 1/2BOMEI PACK 4 Pack Blue Painters Tape, 1/2BOMEI PACK 4 Pack Blue Painters Tape, 1/2Minwax 65555444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, Quart, Gloss - 2 PackMinwax 65555444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, Quart, Gloss – 2 PackMinwax 65555444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, Quart, Gloss - 2 Pack1 qt Minwax 63333 Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Satin1 qt Minwax 63333 Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Satin1 qt Minwax 63333 Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Satinweideer 12 Pcs Sanding Sponge 220# Coarse Sanding Blocks Set for Brush Glasses Sanding Wood Sanding Metal Washable and Reusable YHMK-220weideer 12 Pcs Sanding Sponge 220# Coarse Sanding Blocks Set for Brush Glasses Sanding Wood Sanding Metal Washable and Reusable YHMK-220weideer 12 Pcs Sanding Sponge 220# Coarse Sanding Blocks Set for Brush Glasses Sanding Wood Sanding Metal Washable and Reusable YHMK-220

 

Step 1: Sand

The first step to any furniture flip is getting a smooth surface.

I only needed to scuff sand the legs and sides of the table. So, I used an 80-grit sanding net. (I prefer sanding nets to regular sanding pads because they tend to last longer.)

**For Clarity** Scuff sanding means lightly sanding a surface. You don’t have to remove ALL of the paint or varnish, you just need to make the surface rough to give the primer something to stick to.

However, the top of the dining room table was a whole different story. I wanted it to have a wood finish and not be painted.

But that’s tricky when the top is not solid wood. The top of our dining room table is pressed wood covered by veneer.

The trick to sanding veneer is to use a light hand. Don’t press down hard or tilt the sander on its side. I made that mistake and blew through the veneer in a couple of places. (Thankfully, after I added stain it’s hardly noticeable.)

**For Clarity** Blowing through the veneer means that you sanded all the way through the thin sheet of veneer and exposed the pressed wood.

After getting off all of the stain/varnish from the tabletop, I cleaned the dust off with a damp rag.

After sanding the dining room table to get ready for paint.
(After several hours of sanding, this is what the table looked like before we started painting.)

Step 2: Tape

There was no way to salvage the veneer around the edge of the tabletop since it was pretty dinged up, and the sander had blown through the veneer pretty much everywhere.

So, I taped it around the edge of the flat part of the tabletop.

It was tedious, making sure I got the tape lined up as perfectly as possible, but it wasn’t as time-consuming as I feared it. In less than 30 minutes it was ready to go.

The trick was using short pieces of tape, instead of trying to cover more area faster with long pieces. Just make sure that each piece overlaps and doesn’t leave any gaps.

Step 3: Prime

The next step to painting the dining room table was to prime it.

Using my favorite primer (Zinsser), I rolled it everywhere that I could using a small paint roller. Then I used a paintbrush to reach the areas that the roller couldn’t. I let it dry for about an hour.

**Pro Tip** I prefer foam rollers over knit polyester because the foam doesn’t leave little stray fibers in the paint and gives a smoother finish.

After the primer was dry, I took a 220-grit sanding sponge and lightly sanded it. There were a few areas, especially on the edge of the legs where the sanding sponge took the primer completely off, but mostly it helped smooth out any brush strokes or texture from the application.

I did this process 2 more times for a total of 3 coats of primer.

Step 4: Paint

It was finally time to start painting!

I applied the paint the exact same way that I applied the primer. I cut in using a paintbrush and then used a paint roller to cover the flat areas.

**Pro Tip** Don’t skip the light sanding between the layers of paint! Honestly, it made SUCH a huge difference in the finish. You can’t see brush strokes anywhere!

I did 3 coats of paint, letting each coat dry for 2 hours (as directed on the label).

Step 5: Remove Tape and Touch Up

Before the last coat of paint was even dry, I removed the tape from the top of the table.

Unfortunately, there were several areas where the primer or the paint bled through and had to be touched up.

We scraped the paint off of these little areas and touched them up with a little craft paint brush.

Step 6: Stain

So far, all of the painting had been done in ONE day and I was excited to finish our dining room table.

We hastily applied the stain to the top of the table using a flat spreader, but it left a lot of streaks!

The next morning we ended up sanding the top again (not completely bare, but enough to get rid of the streaks). And then we applied the stain again using rags.

This time, we took our time and it looked so much better.

After adding stain to the dining room table.
(You can tell how streaky the stain was on the tabletop.)

Step 7: Seal

After letting the stain dry most of the day, we applied 3 coats of polycrylic.

For the tabletop, we used a glossy polycrylic to make it easy to wipe and clean. However, for the legs and sides of the table, we used polycrylic with a satin finish to make the paint more durable, but not necessarily shiny.

We lightly sanded between each coat of poly, using a 320-grit sanding sponge.

After painting our dining room table.

Our dining room table was FINALLY done! And it looks brand new!

I am so happy with how it turned out! The finish is flawless and the color is perfect. It is exactly what I envisioned when I started this project.

However, I definitely see why furniture flippers avoid dining room sets. We spent at least 16 hours working on just the table alone. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get around to painting the chairs.

Even if we bought a sprayer, the thought of sanding all of those tiny slats wears me out.

So, at least for now, we’re calling the mismatching chairs and table an ‘eclectic look’ and leaving it alone.

Painting our dining room table was certainly not easy, but I think putting all the extra time and effort into it will make it last for years to come!

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This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may make a commission at no extra cost to you. For more info, please see my full ad & affiliate disclosure.

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