How I Transformed This Table in 8 Simple Steps

I have a short version above or you can read through step by step below. If you make it to the end there’s a lazy DIY tip.

After 6 years of hating this table I am finally doing something about it. I’m delighted with how it turned out so thought I would share my 8 step process.


  • Oven Cleaner
  • Comfort Grip
  • Sugar Soap
  • Cleaning Clothes
  • Sander, I used an orbital Sander
  • 80 grit sandpaper
  • 240 Grit Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint

I had grand plans to strip the varnish from the table top and leave it natural. However after a closer look I realised my solid wood table was actually MDF. So those plans went out the window, I just hoped that it was varnish on the table to and not a laminate veneer.


Table makeover
table legs before

Step One: Strip Top Layer of veneer

As it is MDF I was a little worried about how I would strip the varnish off the table. I still needed to get the top coat off as it was pretty thick. Oven cleaner is my go to for stripping varnish and stain. It’s so easy and requires very little heavy lifting.

Having used oven cleaner to strip another piece of furniture recently, I found it difficult to keep your finger out the way of the trigger. So I picked up this Trigger Grip from Bunnings

Oven Cleaner
trigger Grip
furniture upcycle during

Step Two: Wash it off

You literally spray it on, leave it for 60 minutes and hose it off.


varnish<br />
varnish removed from table

Step Three: Sugar Soap

I wiped the table and legs with sugar soap ready for paint.

Sugar Soap
wiping furniture with sugar soap

Step Four: Sand the table top

As I have to paint the edge of the table and legs (as they’re MDF) I lightly hand sanded the edge of the table and legs ready for paint. 

Luckily there was a wood veneer on the top of the table, I sanded the table top using an orbital sander, 80 grit sandpaper, to remove the excess varnish. I had to be careful as it was very thin and needed to be very careful about exposing the MDF and effectively ruining the table.

Ryobi sanding
sanding my table

Once the varnish had been removed I sanded again with an orbital sander, using a 240 grit paper to smooth.

Ryobi Leaf Blower

Step Five: Paint

Before I painted I wiped the table top and legs with sugar soap. I used blue tape around the edges of the table top (I’m a pretty messy painter) and painted the edge of the table and the legs. 

I primed the side of the table and used a roller and brush to paint the edges of the table, removing the blue tape before the final layer of paint had dried.

Painting<br />
painting table

Once the legs were primed I sprayed 2 coats of top coat.

Spray paint ryobi

Step Six: Distress

I left the table for 48 hours for the paint to fully dry before I distressed the paint. There really is no right or wrong way to distress, it’s personal taste. I like to run a course sanding pad along the corners and edges of the table and legs to remove and rough up the paint. 


Distressed table
furniture makeover

Step Seven: White Wash

I felt the tabletop was too yellow, and some irregular patches would only be accentuated with stain or bleaching. I wanted to lighten the top, so I slept on it for a few days, walked past it, stared at it for a few days, and then decided to whitewash it.


I didn’t use an exact measure. I filled a takeaway container with ⅔ full of water and mixed the paintbrush I had used. Other than the brush, I didn’t add any other paint. I brushed it on in the direction of the wood and then wiped it off with a damp cloth.

I just did the one layer, but you could add a second, then let it dry for 24 hours.

whitewashing table
Whitewashing table
whitewashing table

Step Eight: Poly

I used a waterbased poly, I didn’t want to yellow the look with an oil based. I painted 3 coats of poly with a paint brush, sanded with 240 grit sandpaper inbetween applications.

That was it. It was a relatively easy process. I always think the hardest part to any DIY project is the fear of how it will turn out. 

Table makeover

My advice try not to suffer from paralysis by analysis. If it doesn’t turn out you can always paint it or try a different method.

Lazy DIY Tip

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