I reached for relief, my head throbbing in pain, while mumbling under my breath. You knew better. And, truly I did. I just have a knack for forgetting key information at the right time. Last summer, we were staining wood furniture for our dining room. Before I moved in, Anthony bought good bones dining set from one of our friends. Originally, it came from Ethan Allen and when I looked at the current prices of dining sets, my head nearly rolled right off my neck.
You see, we live in a small farmhouse built in 1899. While the house itself stands pretty solid, it needs a lot of love. Since we have limited income, we need to do a lot of our projects ourselves. As such, they almost never get done in one shot. At the time, we were working on replacing several windows and siding on the front of our house and we still need to finish the rest. No way did we have over $1k to spend on a dining room set. Good thing we’re handy, right?
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The Story Behind the Dining Set DIY
Even before I moved in, I knew I hated the color of the dining set. It looked tired and had taken on an ugly yellow hue. Still, the shape itself was quite nice and Anthony got the set at a steal of $250. It has an expandable leaf and six chairs. Even at the discount stores, that would be impossible to find at such a low price. But, that color haunted me…
So, I did what any self-respecting DIYer would do and decided to change it.
We completed this project over the course of months, in multiple stages, partially because I lived in another state… and was rarely here. The first stage, and by far the easiest, was recovering the chair seats. This was such an easy project and you can see how I did it in this post. We picked out the fabric together, and my family helped when they came to stay too! Overall, it was a quick, fun project that I would do over and over again.
We did the chairs next, which took the longest because of the detailing in the backs and legs. More on that later. It seemed like we’d never finish! But, we did. Finally, we tackled the table. We could have decided to paint the set instead of staining it. It would’ve taken less time and I never would have gotten a headache from the fumes (whoops!), but I really love our newly revived set.
Staining vs. Painting
Everyone has different preferences, so deciding whether to paint or stain your furniture is entirely your decision. I actually love both ways, but I’m a sucker for a rustic, stained look. More often than that I choose to stain. We also wanted to be able to seal the table well, since we plan on eating there often. Ultimately, stain seemed to be the right choice for our needs.
The benefit of painting is that it’s usually a quicker process, and there is a greater variety of colors available. If you wanted your table to be hot pink (not really my style, but to each their own), you could certainly do that. In either case, you want to make sure you sand well to prep the service for painting or staining. Orbital sanders* make the sanding go really quickly. I simply love ours! If you’re going with paint, make sure it’s a type of paint that can take a beating. HGTV suggests using a high-quality water-based enamel paint for a table because it needs to be able to take a beating.
Both methods need a finishing coat. We used polyurethane to seal our table. Another option is furniture wax, which I have seen other bloggers use and rave about. However, I cannot attest to its success because I have not personally tried it — it’s on the DIY project list. 😉
Make It Easier On Yourself
It may sound silly, but wherever you do this type of project, make sure you have the following:
- a clean space — you don’t want to drip stain or paint on anything unintended
- good ventilation — or, trust me, you will get a headache (I’ve been there, done that)
- drop cloths to protect the surface below.
We do a lot of our projects in the garage, so we aren’t always worried about dripping on the concrete floor that’s also dusted with oil stains due to Anthony’s mechanical hobbies. But, we still use a drop cloth for good measure. Keep in mind the conditions of where you’re working. Ventilation is super important, especially with stain and polyurethane. I figured I was just doing a quick coat of stain and didn’t need to open the garage doors for air. Boy did I learn my lesson!
Ultimately if you have these things, it will make your project and clean up run a lot smoother overall. We chose a Black Cherry Stain* for our project. I personally love the look, especially with our beautiful new seat covers. 🙂
Dampen the wood prior to staining. I use a spray bottle filled with water to spray an even coat. Then, wipe up the excess with a towel (since it’s pre-stain, I just use a regular cleaning towel). Let it sit for five minutes. This will open up the pores of the wood and make it easier for it to absorb stain.
Some people use a brush to apply stain, but I actually prefer using a cloth-like material. You can buy the fancy staining cloths, but I just use really good paper towels. I have a two paper towel system. I use one for applying the stain, and then I always follow with a dry paper towel to take up the excess. Depending on the project, usually I just work on a sizable spot. By the time I finish, where I’ve started is usually ready for the second tiling.
You want to give stain a little time to absorb into the wood before wiping it down, but don’t wait more than a couple minutes, or it will start to get tacky and you’ll end up with weird spots. I also found out while we did our table, that sweat beads also create a bit of a weird look when they mix with the stain.
You can apply multiple coats of stain for a deeper color, but keep in mind that the finishing coats will always change the color slightly, usually making it slightly deeper.
Make sure your coats have enough time to completely dry during both the staining and finishing stages. But, this is especially important in the finishing coats. Poly is very sticky, so it needs to fully cure between coats. Part of the reason it takes so long for these types of projects is because of the need to wait for it to dry. Ultimately, this didn’t bother us because the opportunities to work on it were so spread out. It ended up working in our favor that we’re so busy most of the time!
Anyways, I used a brush to apply the polyurethane and made sure to brush in the direction of the grain as much as possible for a smooth finish.
What do you think of the final look? Tell me what you think in the comments! Have you tried different methods? Tell me what your tricks and favorite projects are as well! 🙂 If you’d like to see more projects like these, organization tips, and exclusive freebies, sign up for my weekly newsletter at the end of this post! This blog wouldn’t be possible without the love and support of all of you, so thank you so much!
Happy weekend and thanks for stopping by!
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