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How To Refinish A Picnic Table


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Mable Nord



So, you've got a weather-beaten, worn-out picnic table that's seen better days. Don't rush to replace it just yet! With a little elbow grease and some basic supplies, you can breathe new life into your trusty outdoor furniture. Refinishing a picnic table is a rewarding and budget-friendly project that can make a significant difference in your outdoor space. Whether you want to restore it to its former glory or give it a fresh new look, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the process step by step.


Refinishing a picnic table is not only a practical way to extend its lifespan but also a fun and creative endeavor. It allows you to unleash your DIY spirit and add a personal touch to an essential piece of outdoor furniture. By the end of this guide, you'll have the knowledge and confidence to tackle this project with ease, turning your weathered picnic table into a stunning focal point in your backyard or patio.


Throughout this article, we'll cover everything from gathering the necessary materials and preparing your workspace to sanding, cleaning, and applying the finishing touches. Whether you prefer the natural look of a stained finish or the vibrant appeal of colorful paint, we'll explore the options available to help you achieve your desired aesthetic. Additionally, we'll delve into the importance of applying a sealant to protect your hard work from the elements, ensuring that your newly refinished picnic table remains in top-notch condition for years to come.


So, roll up your sleeves, put on your DIY hat, and let's embark on this transformative journey to revitalize your picnic table!


Step 1: Gather Materials and Prepare Workspace

Before diving into the refinishing process, it’s essential to gather all the necessary materials and set up a suitable workspace. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Protective Gear: Start by ensuring your safety. Wear protective goggles, a dust mask, and gloves to shield yourself from dust, debris, and chemicals.
  • Materials: Depending on your chosen finish, gather sandpaper (medium and fine grit), wood stain or outdoor paint, a sealant, and brushes or a paint sprayer. If you’re staining the table, consider using a wood conditioner for optimal results.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Prepare a bucket of soapy water, a stiff-bristled brush, and a hose for cleaning the table’s surface. Additionally, have a clean cloth or sponge for wiping down the table after sanding and cleaning.
  • Workspace Preparation: Choose a well-ventilated area for your workspace. If working indoors, ensure proper ventilation or use a respirator. Lay down a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect the ground from drips and spills. If possible, work in a shaded area to prevent the finish from drying too quickly.
  • Tools: Have a screwdriver on hand to tighten any loose screws or bolts on the table. If the table has extensive damage, consider using wood filler to repair any cracks or holes.

Once you’ve gathered all the materials, it’s time to prepare the workspace. Clear the area around the picnic table, removing any obstacles that could hinder your work. If the table is currently finished with paint or stain, consider working in a location where sanding and refinishing won’t create a mess.


By taking the time to gather the necessary supplies and setting up a well-organized workspace, you’ll be ready to tackle the next steps of the refinishing process with confidence and efficiency.


Step 2: Sanding the Table

Now that you’ve gathered your materials and set up your workspace, it’s time to begin the transformation of your picnic table. Sanding is a crucial step in the refinishing process, as it prepares the surface for the new finish and removes any existing coatings or imperfections. Here’s how to approach this essential task:


Begin by inspecting the table’s surface for any rough patches, peeling paint, or uneven areas. Use a medium-grit sandpaper to smooth out these imperfections and remove the existing finish. If the table has intricate details or hard-to-reach areas, consider using sanding sponges or sanding blocks to ensure thorough and even sanding.


After addressing any rough spots, switch to a fine-grit sandpaper to further smooth the entire surface. This step is crucial for achieving a uniform and polished look for your picnic table. Take your time and sand in the direction of the wood grain to prevent visible scratches or marks.


Once you’ve completed the sanding process, use a clean cloth or a vacuum with a brush attachment to remove the sanding dust from the table’s surface. It’s essential to ensure that the surface is entirely free of dust and debris before proceeding to the next step.


Remember, thorough and careful sanding is key to achieving a professional-looking finish. By investing time and effort into this step, you’ll set the stage for the subsequent stages of the refinishing process, ultimately leading to a beautifully restored picnic table.


Now that the table is smooth and free of imperfections, you’re ready to move on to the next step: cleaning the table to prepare it for the application of the new finish.


Step 3: Cleaning the Table

With the sanding phase complete, it’s time to thoroughly clean the picnic table to ensure that the new finish adheres properly and looks its best. Here’s how to approach this crucial step:


Start by preparing a bucket of warm, soapy water. Using a stiff-bristled brush or a sponge, scrub the entire surface of the table to remove any remaining dust, dirt, or grime. Pay special attention to crevices, corners, and any intricate details the table may have. This thorough cleaning process will ensure that the new finish applies evenly and that the table’s natural beauty shines through.


After scrubbing the table, rinse off the soapy residue with a hose or clean water. Ensure that all soap and dirt are completely removed, and use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe down the surface and dry it thoroughly. It’s essential to allow the table to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.


If you encounter stubborn stains or discoloration during the cleaning process, consider using a mild wood cleaner or a solution of vinegar and water to tackle these blemishes. However, be cautious when using any cleaning solutions and always test them on a small, inconspicuous area of the table first to ensure they don’t cause damage or discoloration.


By taking the time to clean the table meticulously, you’ll create an ideal canvas for the application of the new finish. The effort invested in this step will contribute to the overall quality and longevity of the refinishing process, ensuring that your picnic table looks stunning and well-maintained for years to come.


Now that the table is clean and dry, you’re ready to move on to the next exciting phase: applying the selected stain or paint to rejuvenate the table’s appearance.


Step 4: Applying the Stain or Paint

With the table sanded and cleaned, it’s time to infuse it with a fresh burst of color and protection. Whether you opt for the natural elegance of wood stain or the vibrant allure of outdoor paint, this step will breathe new life into your picnic table. Here’s how to approach the application of your chosen finish:


Wood Stain:


If you prefer to enhance the natural beauty of the wood, wood stain is an excellent choice. Before applying the stain, consider using a wood conditioner to ensure even absorption and minimize blotching. Using a brush or a clean cloth, apply the wood stain evenly in the direction of the wood grain. Allow the stain to penetrate for the recommended duration, typically 5-15 minutes, and then wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth. For a deeper color, additional coats can be applied after allowing the previous coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Outdoor Paint:


If you envision a pop of color or a bold statement for your picnic table, outdoor paint offers a wide range of hues to choose from. Ensure that the paint you select is suitable for outdoor use and can withstand the elements. Using a brush or a paint sprayer, apply the paint evenly, covering the entire surface of the table. Multiple thin coats are preferable to one thick coat, as they provide better adhesion and durability. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying times.


Regardless of whether you choose wood stain or paint, it’s essential to work in a well-ventilated area and apply the finish evenly to achieve a professional-looking result. Take your time and pay attention to detail, ensuring that the entire surface is covered and that the finish is applied smoothly.


By applying the selected stain or paint, you’re not only adding visual appeal to your picnic table but also providing essential protection against the elements. Once the stain or paint has dried completely, you’ll be ready to take the next step: applying a sealant to safeguard your hard work and preserve the table’s rejuvenated appearance.


Step 5: Applying a Sealant

After the stain or paint has dried and your picnic table boasts a fresh, vibrant appearance, it’s crucial to apply a sealant to protect the finish and ensure its longevity in outdoor settings. The sealant serves as a barrier against moisture, UV rays, and general wear and tear, safeguarding your hard work and preserving the table’s rejuvenated appearance. Here’s how to approach this final step:


When selecting a sealant, opt for a product specifically designed for outdoor use and compatible with the chosen stain or paint. Polyurethane, spar urethane, or marine varnish are popular choices for sealing outdoor furniture due to their durability and weather resistance.


Before applying the sealant, ensure that the table’s surface is clean and free of any dust or debris. Using a high-quality brush or a paint sprayer, apply the sealant evenly in thin coats, following the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying times between coats. Pay special attention to any intricate details or areas prone to moisture exposure, such as the table’s edges and underside.


Allow the sealant to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the product, this may involve multiple coats to achieve the desired level of protection. Once the final coat has dried, inspect the table to ensure that the sealant has been applied uniformly and that no areas have been missed.


By applying a sealant, you’re fortifying the finish and shielding your picnic table from the elements, including rain, sunlight, and temperature fluctuations. This proactive measure will extend the life of your newly refinished picnic table, allowing it to withstand outdoor conditions and retain its beauty for years to come.


With the sealant applied and dried, your picnic table has undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as a stunning and resilient centerpiece for your outdoor space. Now, it’s time to step back, admire your handiwork, and revel in the satisfaction of breathing new life into a cherished piece of outdoor furniture.



Congratulations! You’ve successfully revitalized your weathered picnic table, transforming it from a tired, worn-out piece of furniture into a striking focal point for your outdoor space. Through the process of gathering materials, sanding, cleaning, applying a fresh finish, and sealing the table, you’ve not only restored its appearance but also extended its lifespan and enhanced its durability.


Refinishing a picnic table is a gratifying and budget-friendly project that allows you to unleash your creativity and DIY spirit. Whether you’ve chosen to highlight the natural beauty of the wood with a rich stain or infuse the table with a burst of color using outdoor paint, your efforts have undoubtedly breathed new life into this essential piece of outdoor furniture.


As you sit back and admire your handiwork, take pride in the fact that your picnic table is now well-equipped to withstand the elements and serve as a gathering place for outdoor meals, games, and cherished memories. The application of a sealant ensures that your hard work will endure, maintaining the table’s rejuvenated appearance for years to come.


By embarking on this transformative journey to refinish your picnic table, you’ve not only enhanced your outdoor space but also gained valuable DIY skills and a sense of accomplishment. This project serves as a testament to the power of creativity, perseverance, and the satisfaction of breathing new life into cherished possessions.


So, as you enjoy the beauty and functionality of your newly refinished picnic table, take a moment to appreciate the journey you’ve undertaken and the remarkable results you’ve achieved. Your outdoor space now boasts a stunning and resilient centerpiece, ready to host gatherings and create lasting memories for years to come.


Now, it’s time to gather your loved ones, set the table with pride, and bask in the joy of outdoor living, knowing that your refinished picnic table stands as a testament to your dedication and creativity.