refinishing an outdoor patio table

Last year we bought a patio coffee table from Article. It was pretty expensive, and I was very disappointed when the finish quickly started to peel off the top of the table. We called Article several times, and they refused to refund our money, claiming that the table wasn’t intended for outdoor use (despite the description and photos on their website). For the past six months, every time I stepped outside and saw that table I felt a twinge of annoyance . . . so we finally decided to take matters into our own hands!


(Please excuse our lack of plants on the patio — it’s still winter here!)

We sanded off the finish using an orbital sander, starting with an 80-grit paper, moving to a 100-grit paper, and then ending with a 120-grit paper.

our masks came in handy!

John showed me how to get out stains by turning the sander slightly to the side and sanding with an angle at the site of the stain.

When the table was smooth, we dusted off the sawdust with a hand-held broom and then cleaned the top with denatured alcohol on a rag. It dried within a minute or so, and we applied the first coat of oil-based polyurethane immediately.

The poly was clear, but it still darkened the wood considerably. In the photo below, the left side of the table has a first coat of poly; the right side is natural.

We left the table in our driveway for a few days, and I added coats of polyurethane when I had time. I lost track of how many coats I applied! A few times I sanded with a 180-grit block before adding another coat, but I don’t think that was necessary. We allowed at least four hours or so between coats.

Despite all the sanding, you can still see a stain on the table (in the top right of the photo below). I decided that the stain doesn’t bother me — after all, the table looks significantly better than it did before. And we can always put a potted plant on top of the stain!

The MVP of this project was the foam brush. I highly recommend wrapping a used brush in plastic sandwich bags between coats–sometimes you can use the same brush for three applications. I hate throwing these brushes away, but it’s practically impossible to get oil-based poly out of a regular paintbrush. And the chemicals involved in that process are extremely nasty.

After many, many coats of poly, our table looked much better, and I think it’ll withstand the heat and humidity this summer. This was such an easy and satisfying project!

I can’t wait to fill our patio with potted flowers and sit out here when the weather warms up!

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