How to Finish a Table Top with Polyurethane

How to Finish a Table Top with Polyurethane at Home?

Want to finish a table-top with polyurethane and bring a new look? Then, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’ve spent some time restoring an old wood, you probably don't want to cause any damage to it. Restoring damaged wood can take a lot of time and effort.

Fortunately, if you want your table-top to be as durable as possible, then a polyurethane finish is a great solution. It will protect your wood from surface scratches, scuffs, spills, and water damage.

Here, you will learn how to properly finish a table-top with polyurethane. So, take a peek below for more!

Different Types of Polyurethane

Before applying a polyurethane finish, you need to know that there are two types of polyurethane finish. So, we’ll briefly show the main differences between them. And we’ll also help you choose the one that best fits your needs.

Water-Based Polyurethane

These are quite popular due to its low toxicity, odor, and how easy it is to remove compared to oil-based ones.

If you love a natural look, then water-based polyurethane is your go-to solution. It will preserve its natural tone without adding color to the wood.

Water-based polyurethane is less toxic than oil-based polyurethane. But that does not mean you shouldn’t be careful when using it.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

Compared to water-based ones, oil-based polyurethane is slightly more durable. It requires fewer coats, lasts longer, and it’s cheaper than water-based polyurethane.

Oil-based polyurethane is also more toxic than water-based polyurethane. So, keep your windows open when using it.

How to Apply Polyurethane Finish on a Table Top?

how to finish wood with polyurethane

If you want your table-top to be as durable as possible, applying a polyurethane finish should the first thing on your checklist. Polyurethane is used to seal and protect the wood. It prevents oil and water from penetrating the wood.

1. Prepare Your Workspace

How you prepare your surface will directly affect the durability and the look of the final product. So, take the time to prepare your surface before applying the polyurethane finish. This will avoid any mess in the process, such as particles sticking to your coats of polyurethane.

  1. Brush off any dirt from the table-top.
  2. Dampen a rag and rub it back and forth against the table.
  3. Use a clean rag and wipe off any excess water.

2. Ventilate Your Workspace

When you’re using polyurethane finish, you always want to keep your windows open to ventilate your room and reduce its odor.

  1. Open the window in the room that you want to ventilate.
  2. Do not use a fan in your work area as dust could get into your wood.

3. Protect Your Area

Before applying a polyurethane finish, it's crucial to mask-off and protect areas that you want to keep clean. If possible, carry the table-top and cover it with a protective cloth. Make sure that it covers a few feet beyond the wood on all sides.

4. Remove Old Finishes

how to polyurethane a table

You should remove the old finish before applying a new one and give your wood a fresh new start. Some people would simply sand the wood to remove the old finish, and while that may be effective, sanding can be too messy and time-consuming.

Fortunately, sanding isn’t the only method available for us. Heat guns are incredibly useful when you want to strip old finish from the wood.

Removing paint with heat is safe. But you might want to consider having a container of water, just to be extra cautious.

Things You Will Need

  • A respirator
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • A heat gun

Steps to Take

  • Wear a respirator, a safety goggle, and gloves.
  • Set the heat gun to the recommended high setting.
  • Move the heat gun slowly and steadily.
  • Heat a little bit of it at a time.
  • Come right behind it with a scraper.
  • Keep doing this until you remove the old finish.

By now, you should see how the old layers come right off.

5. Clean up

Now, clean the wood area to remove all the dust created by the heat gun. Before moving onto the next step, vacuum off the surface with a clean rag. The aim is to remove as much finish residue as possible.

  • Dampen a rag
  • Use the rag to wipe off any finish residue

6. Stir the Polyurethane Finish

Do not shake the can of polyurethane because if you do, you will introduce air bubbles into the polyurethane. And when you brush it on, you will get air bubbles on your wood finish. Instead, use a stir stick to mix the polyurethane’s components evenly.

7. Seal Your Wood

Prepare the polyurethane by creating a mixture of polyurethane and mineral spirits. Pour the products into a container and gently stir the mixture. Do not shake the polyurethane finish. Make sure the surface is clean before you brush on the seal coat.

  • It’s important to protect the surface below against the splashes. Because splashes can permanently stay in the wood.
  • Dip the bristles; don’t dip the bristles deeper than a third into the paint.
  • Paint along the grain.
  • Keep doing this until you seal the wood.
  • Now, keep it to dry.

8. Apply the First Coat

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Dip the bristles.
  • Tip-off any drips.
  • Paint along the grain.
  • Put an even amount of material throughout the process.
  • Apply the finish on the side as well.
  • Keep doing this until you cover the table-top.
  • Don’t touch the table-top as you’re just going to mess it up.
  • Let it dry — this process takes about 24 hours.

Final Words

Applying polyurethane finish on a table-top is relatively easy using the proper gear. And as long as you follow every step, you should be able to get to the final result.

If you’d like, you can use sandpaper over the heat gun when removing the old finish. At the end of the day, it’s just personal preference.

Keep in mind that you still need to be careful when using your table-top. Strictly avoid spilling water on it, and if accedentally happens, instantly wipe it off. Don’t keep it outside as moisture could get into your table-top.

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