How To: Paint A Dining Room Table with Oil Based Paint

Hi Everyone!

Thank you guys so much for all the compliments on the dining room table makeover.  Several of you asked for the deets on how I did it so I’m here to deliver. Forewarning: this is a long, detailed picture heavy post.

Now,  I’m sure there are several different ways to do this.  This is just the way I went about it.  First I want to start off by saying this was not an overnight project.  It took several steps and a few days to cure before it was all said and done.  But, I think the end result was more than worth it.

Ok so lets get started shall we.

As many of you know I scored a table on Craigslist for $20.  Honestly, I was expecting to find a hot mess when I pulled up to make the purchase.  I mean, honestly, who sells a table that large for that cheap unless its in pretty bad shape? I got really lucky on this one because it was in much better condition than I expected.  I figured if it ended up being a complete fail, Id only be out 20 bucks.

After I got it home and set it up I gave it a really good inspection to survey the damage.

I loved the fact that its really large and could easily accommodate 10 people.  We entertain a lot so our 4 seater wasn’t cutting it any longer.  Its really heavy, solid, and sturdy so I knew it would be worth it to invest the time into fixing it up.

Aside from some surface damage, there was no major work that needed to be done.  This meant I could focus all my energy on the cosmetic corrections.  I went into the purchase knowing that whatever table I bought was going to get painted white, so I wasn’t so worried about the condition of the wood.  I wasn’t particularly a fan of the detailing on this piece, so it made my decision that much easier.

I started off by removing all the accent hardware

Next I decided to strip the top.  The table had a dark stain and couple layers of varnish to remove so I knew sanding away the layers would be a mess and would be incredibly time consuming.  I used Citristrip for this step. 
I chose it because I was working indoors and because I didn’t want to use anything incredibly harsh.  This was my first time ever using any type of stripping product.  It was easy to use and even smelled a bit like oranges.
I slathered it on to the top only.  The sides and legs would get a couple coats of primer before the color went on.  Unlike traditional stripper this stuff takes much longer to tear through layers.  I let it sit for about 4 hours before I attempted to scrape away the the layers. 

The scrape away was incredibly easy and super fast.  Even my little man wanted in on the action!!
With any type of stripping agent you should not have to struggle to remove any paint and/or varnish.  If you find yourself needing to apply lots of pressure, you haven’t let it sit long enough.
After removing all the stripper/varnish I wiped down the top with a slightly damp cloth, wiped it dry and prepared to sand. This is what it looked like at this point:
I know some of you are cussing me out right now for covering up that wood.  I gotta admit, I gave it a second thought but I stuck with the plan.  I discovered the top was a veneer finish so I didnt feel bad painting over it after all.
I patched all the holes and gashes and used my orbital for this sanding step.
I used 150 grit paper for the initial sanding and went back over it with a 180 grit. After that I vacuumed it down, then wiped it down with a clean cloth, then used tack cloth to make sure all the dust removed.
Next I primed the entire table with my favorite primer
I used a foam roller for the table top and a cheapie brush for the sides and legs.  I didn’t sand the sides or legs at all because this stuff is like magic.  
I gave the top two coats of primer and the sides and legs one coat.  In between coats of primer I used the orbital and 220 grit paper to sand and make sure the top was completely smooth.  A little trick I read is to close your eyes and wipe your hand across your sanded surface.  Anywhere it doesn’t FEEL smooth gets a bit more sanding.  A lot of times though things LOOK smooth they may not be.
After the final coat of primer I repeated my sanding process and prepared to paint.  I used an oil based paint for the table.  I was happy with my last experience so I wanted to give it a try on a larger scale.  I went with Rustoleum Enamel again
For this entire project I wanted to brush on the paint so I invested in a good quality brush meant for oil based paints. 
The key to painting with oil is to allow the paint to do most of the work for you.  Just lay on a thin layer and try not to brush over what you just layed down.  This particular paint will level itself out slowly.  I wasnt able to find Penetrol, so I really took my time and tried to minimize brushstrokes as much as possible.
For the first layer I painted on the horizontal (the length of the table) and let it dry for 24 hours.  (pics snapped with the cell phone)

Next, I lightly sanded with the orbital and 220 grit paper again and painted the second coat on the vertical (width of the table). I did this because I wanted to make sure I got an even and smooth end result. 
After letting the second coat dry for another 24 hours I was incredibly happy with the results.  I was pleasantly surprised that I had very minimal brushstrokes especially since I didn’t have the help of Penetrol.
The next step was the hardest for me: waiting.  I let it cure for 4 days before I moved it into the dining area. That’s still probably not a lot of time, but I at least wanted to make sure it got good and hard before I subjected it to the abuse of hosting family meals.


I did NOT use a top/poly coat for this project. All the research I read pretty much said using a poly coat with oil based paint is redundant so I skipped it.  We’ve lived with it for a week now and its perfectly fine.  The gloss finish also makes it incredibly wipeable. 
 So as a reminder heres the before:

And heres the after:
I know that was a long post so thanks for sticking with me guys.  I hope it was helpful.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  Until next time….


  1. says

    What is penetrol? and how do you use it? Also
    How is your table holding up? Other than oil paint what other paint can I use to get that glossy finish but be very durable for my dining room table.

  2. says

    Im going to paint my dining room table and I would like to know how is your table holding up and other then oil paint what paint can I use for tht glossy finish.

  3. says

    I wish I weren’t in an apartment. I really want to paint my table white. But with two munchkins running amok, I’m worried about them putting their hands in wet paint 😛
    Maybe I can work at night and it will be dry by morning…

  4. says

    This is beautiful!! I am wondering how the paint has held up this far. I want to paint our table so badly but I’m so very nervous for my rough little boys to lay their paws on it:) I have never painted with oil before.

  5. says

    This is awesome. I’ve had a table that’s been screaming for a paint job, and now I know how to do it. Yeah! Thank you!

  6. says

    I love it!! I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. Now I’m thinking about painting my own table! Great Job!

  7. says

    That looks incredible!! As a momma with three boys, our dining table takes a LOT of abuse, so I’m interested in how it’s holding up now after a few months? Great job!

  8. says

    While the table looks good, veneer in NO way indicates something sub-standard. In fact, just the opposite. Veneer is generally used for incorporating expensive and rare woods as shown by your table. Maybe today it’s considered cheap, but that’s only because it’s cheap woods covering mdf board. That top was outstanding stripped and would have really added so much to the final effect, especially with those charming bentwood chairs. I guess we’ll leave that job to the next generation! 🙂

    • says

      Hi there!!! You’re very right about the veneer:) I’ve seen some very beautiful and amazing veneer pieces before. In fact I thought the design on the table top was quite beautiful. I was just going for a different overall look. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  9. says

    I think it’s really pretty! I’ve been looking for the perfect gloss white, and I might give this one a try in my sprayer. I just hate cleaning oil based products out of it, though. Lol
    Visiting from That DIY Party!
    Second Wind of Texas

    • says

      Hi Jodi!! Thanks so much for stopping by. If I keep these painting projects up I’m gonna need to invest in a sprayer myself!!! Do you have a good one you can recommend?

  10. says

    Wow! What a transformation. I absolutely love it in white. I think I need to lighten up my dining room furniture soon… it is black and wood toned. The white is so fresh and gorgeous:)

    • says

      Hi Krista! Thanks so much for stopping by! It was totally worth the work in the end. You should definitely give your furniture a new look! You’ll fall in love with it all over again! Plus it’s free:)

  11. says

    OK, I am going to teleport my table to you and you can get Julia to use her sprayer and it will be awesome! LOL, My poor kitchen table! I don’t know if I’m going to keep it or get a new one yet! xo Kristin

  12. says

    The table turned out amazing!! I really want to try my hand at stripping old finish off a price of furniture vs. sanding —- I really really dislike sanding old finishes off!

    How did you like the cleanup on your brush?

    • says

      Hey lady. Thank you! Now i can just figure out how to build furniture from scratch like some awesome people I know….;)

  13. says

    It turned out AWESOME! I it! You inspire me everyday to go a little out of my comfort zone with my redo’s. I’ve been looking at my upcoming projects a little different lately and I see some ‘color’ coming into my life and home.

    Don’t forget we have a shopping trip coming up. 😉

    • says

      Hi Belinda! Thanks sweets. Yay for color! Your home is already so beautiful and I’m sure whatever you do will just add to its beauty. Yes, I’m excited about our upcoming excursion. It should be a lot of fun!

  14. says

    Still love the table even if you painted over the pretty wood. My next thing is to try to use that exact paint in my spray gun. Only have to get that compressor exchanged yet 😉

    • says

      Ooh if you work with it in the sprayer I would love to know how you do it. I love using a brush for my furniture painting, but I’m also really curious about a spray application too.