Liza Greis

Do-it-yourself projects and Home Decor

Dining Room Table Makeover {Refinishing A Wood Veneer Table}

My sister has lived in her new home for about a year now and has started to feel settled enough that she has been having me help her fix things up and decorate a bit. I was at her house and she was telling me about this darling farmhouse table that she wanted that was $1,000. I had her show it to me and low and behold it looked very similar to her current table. I told her I could save her a ton of money by refinishing her old one. I didn’t know until I started in on the project that this tabletop was not solid wood. I’ve shared how to refinish a table before (that is solid wood) so this time it is all about refinishing a wood veneer table!


old table before makeover


She was over the bar height table and bar stools. I told her I could cut the legs down. She didn’t love the stain color and the spots where her daughter spilled fingernail polish remover. Easy. Sand the top down to the bare wood. She wanted white legs to brighten up her space. Super easy. Paint :)


bar height table before makeover

This was the table in her previous house.


I first approached this table makeover like I have others in the past. I grabbed my sander and started with a heavy grit sandpaper. I soon discovered that the top was not solid wood, but in fact a thin layer of wood veneer over plywood and then a layer of real wood. I found this out when a spot along the edge sanded down past the veneer. I knew I was going to have to do things a bit differently.

Here are my tips for refinishing a wood veneer table!

Removing the Old Finish

If I would have realized it was veneer beforehand, I probably would have used a stripper first. Then I would have hand sanded it the rest of the way.

Since I already had sanded 1/4 of the table, I kept using the sander. BUT I switched out my heavy grit sandpaper for a medium grit (120 or 150). It made it go a bit slower but also made it so I didn’t go through the veneer.

Be careful around the edges. There’s a tendency to use more pressure around the edges and it wears them down more. The couple of places I sanded through the veneer were both along the edge. I ended up leaving the edges for last and doing most of it by hand. Since it is a thin veneer, it went faster than you might think.

Once you are done with the sander and the majority of the previous finish is gone, wipe off the dust. Get a 220 grit sand paper and sand the whole top by hand to get a very smooth finish. The sander will leave small (almost undetectable) marks in the raw wood. When you go to stain they will will become more noticeable. Doing this last step of hand sanding will make all the difference in your finished project.

Get really close and look to make sure all marks are gone. Sometimes wiping it down with a wet rag will mimic staining and allow you to see the areas that still have sander marks.

Staining and Sealing

Once it is all sanded, you are ready to stain! Since my sister’s dream table had a grayish brown finish, I used Weather Oak by Minwax. I did two layers of stain and once it was completely dry, I sealed it with polyurethane.

Tabletops take a lot of wear and tear so it is recommended to do three coats of poly. Follow the directions and lightly sand between each coat for the best finish.


sanding down wood veneer


At first I was worried about cutting the legs since they are tapered and wouldn’t lay flat on my miter saw. I was worried they would be slightly off from each other and the table would wobble. When we went to take the legs off to cut them, we realized they had adjustable feet. So after we cut them we added the adjustable feet back on and they helped balance out any imperfections with the cuts. So if you are shortening legs, add adjustable feet! Easy way to make sure your furniture won’t wobble.


gray and white farmhouse table


I am really happy with how it turned out and more importantly, my sister is too. She ended up buying new chairs and I think the new metal chairs fit the table much better.


farmhouse table with eucalyptus centerpiece


I think the gray stain paired with the bright white legs is gorgeous!


farmhouse tablesetting


farmhouse table with metal chairs


Another thing she did to update her builder grade home was to buy all new lights. It took us all day to shop around for deals. I am a cheapskate even when it’s not my money ;)


farmhouse table and pendant light


Have you ever refinished a table? What about refinishing a wood veneer table? What are you best tips.? I’d love to know so share in the comments!


Farmhouse table makeover

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  1. Michelle says

    Thanks so much for this post! I recently acquired a dining table with a veneer top (I highly suspect because of the repeat wood grain pattern on top). I also live in an apartment which requires that I do the refinishing inside, so a striping agent would not be an option. I like that I don’t HAVE to use a stripping agent. However, my concern is the polyurethane. When the weather starts warming up here (I’m in Colorado), I can cross ventilate. But will that be enough? Or should I just chalk paint the whole thing and forget getting that perfect farmhouse table look I was after?

    • Liza Greis says

      Hi Michelle!

      I have used polyurethane indoors. I had to with this table since I completed the top in early December. Luckily we had some warm enough days that I could open windows and vent it enough. I think as long as you wait until the temps are decent you will be fine!

        • Liza Greis says

          I did the sanding outside on my driveway (right after taking the before pic) but then it got cold enough that I decided to bring it inside to finish. Ideally I try to do big projects like this in the warmer months but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.

  2. Lea says

    Wow oh wow!!! Now I wanna do mine!!!! What a beautiful update!
    Who’s the older, you or your sister? Just curious, my sister and I are a little like this together?

    • Liza Greis says

      Haha! She is older :) She’s into fashion and has a hair salon so she makes me cute and let’s me borrow clothes and I decorate and do projects for her. It’s a win win!

    • Liza Greis says

      The dining room light was her one “splurge”. All the other lights were in the $40-70 range. This dining room light is from Pottery Barn and was on sale when she bought it making it $279 I believe. It was right around $300. Pottery Barn has sales on lighting pretty often so you can get a good deal if you are patient.

  3. Diane says

    Hi Stacey,
    Thank you for great helpful tips. I’m in process of refinishing our round breakfast table( Pier1). It had several ,t the wood, stain off, I tried to match missing stain. Used polyurethane ,water cleanup.You can see every brush stroke. So I’m back to sanding this off and once again trying to stain these areas to blend. I used Minwax walnut. stain and a t will not cover area to wood. Either looks black or missing. What can you suggest? I did use 220 sanding paper before the last attempt. Thank you!

  4. Jennifer Beckham says

    Lovely, where did you purchase those wood slab chargers or did you make them? I have been looking for some.

    • Liza says

      My sister got them from Amazon. She bought them so I am not sure which seller. You could do a search for metal dining chairs.

  5. Karen Ann Paradis says

    HI! I am in the process of re-finishing my veneer / wood oak table. The big flat pieces (table top and part of the base) are veneer and the edges and feet of the table are hard wood.

    I don’t want to stain the table, I want to keep the natural wood color ; I prefer light wood color. What do you recommend to finish the table? Varnish, polyurethane (oïl or water)?

    I have done other staining varnishing jobs around the house for decoration so I know to be extra careful on cleanliness before starting to work and sanding between coats… just wish to know if you can help me out on the finishing. Many thanks

    • Karen ANn Paradis says

      OH and I have access to a garage so ventilation and odour are not an issue, as well as having a place to let it dry between coats.

    • Liza says

      I like to use the fast drying polyurethane by Minwax. Three coats is recommended for tabletops. I have used it for years and years and it is very durable!

      • Karen Ann Paradis says

        All done with 5 coats… very happy with the results…. Now I will attack the chairs… once I have found some fabric !!!

  6. Allison says

    Thank you for your step by step directions. One question: What did you do with the spot along the edge that you sanded down past the veneer? I am in the same boat you are in.. I didn’t know it wasn’t a solid wood table until we used an oxalic acid solution on it to get rid of water rings/spots then sanded some more. I would prefer to still stain the table top, but I’m worried now I will have to paint it instead.

    • Liza says

      I stained the whole thing and then went back over the spots that I had sanded down too far and added a bit more stain. It is noticable to me since I know where they are, but my sister can’t tell at all.

  7. Jen says

    I must have sanded too long with using a 80 grit because there are so many scratches from the sander that I didnt notice until after I stained the table top. How do I get rid of these lines and remove the stain I just laid down yesterday?

    • Liza says

      I have done that before. The only way to get rid of scratches and the stain is to sand again. Use a 120 or 220 grit sand paper. Test by wiping with a wet rag. If when it is wet, it doesn’t show scratches, then you are good to restain.