Years ago, we were given an older console table. At first, I wanted to replace the worn out hardware because the color matched our old house. But, due to age, the table had faded around the hardware, making it making it almost impossible replace without a visible shadow of the old. We recently moved, and the color no loner matches our house, so I decided it was time to paint it.
The table is obviously coated with a thick layer of polyurethane. Although I like the idea of chalk paint, I am going to spray paint this one. That said, step one is to strip it, then sand and clean to prepare for paint.
This post describes the steps to remove the polyurethane and prep the table to be painted.
- CitriStrip Safer Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel
- Old paint brush
- 2″ Plastic Stripping Tool
- Drop cloth, tarp or protective surface
- Mason Jar with lid
- Chemical Resistant Gloves
- Protective Mask and Glasses
- Well Ventilated Space
- Mineral Spirits and old rag
- Abrasive Stripping Pad
- Metal waste container
- Sandpaper (100 grit)
Step 1: Prepare to Use the Stripper
Since I was planning to do this project in my garage, I decided it wise to go with an environmentally friendly, low odor product for the stripper. I chose CitriStrip Safer Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel.
Per the manufacturer, find an old metal paint can or equivalent to use as a waste container for the stripper.
The lid of the CitriStrip is not wide enough for a paint brush, so identify a container to transfer it to. I used a small glass mason jar with lid.
Be sure you have a protective mask and chemical resistant gloves on hand.
Remove drawers and hardware so you can apply stripper to all sealed surfaces.
Use an old rag to wipe down the table and remove any debris and ensure it is clean so the stripper can do its job.
Place the furniture on a tarp or drop cloth in a well ventilated area. I used an old tarp, and applied the stripper in my driveway (Note: I moved the table into the garage out of the sun after applying stripper).
Step 2: Apply to a Test Area
Before applying to a large surface, find a small area to test, just in case!
I chose the back section of the table for my test area, since it will back up to a wall in the house. Other great areas would be the underside of the table (if sealed), or the back top of a table leg.
Open the CitriStrip container and remove the seal. Discard in the metal waste container.
Pour a small amount of stripper into a glass mason jar (just enough to cover your test area about 1/8″ thick)
Use the paint brush to apply the stripper to the test surface in a fairly thick, even layer (but should not be dripping).
The manufacturer recommends you apply the stripper in as few brush strokes as possible because it will stay wet longer if not overworked.
I picked up as much stripper on the brush as possible and then just pulled it in one direction across the table. If you end up with too much, you can always take it off with the brush and put it back in the jar. My paint brush was pretty soft, but it was still hard to apply the stripper very thick. The older, softer the brush, the better.
Step 3: Scrape the Test Area
Wait for 1-24 hours.
As a general rule, the longer the wait, the easier it will be to scrape, even if the stripper dries.
Use a plastic stripping tool to scrape a small portion of the test area. If the majority of the paint or varnish is not removed, wait longer. If it comes off easily, continue to scrape the entire test surface.
You may still have to put some elbow grease into the process to remove the coating, but you don’t want to have to push hard enough to damage the wood.
The finish on my table was bubbly and starting to pull back after 2 hours so I scraped a small area with a 2″ plastic stripping tool. While some of the finish came off easily after 2 hours, it appeared that only the top layers of polyurethane were free, so I re-applied stripper to the section and waited 8 more hours (I chose 8 hours simply because that is when my kids were in bed and I could get back to working on the table).
IF you get to this point and there is visible polyurethane in LARGE patches, reapply stripper to those areas. IF the patches are small, you can remove them when you sand the surface later.
Step 4: Apply to Furniture, Wait, and Strip
If the test area is a success, apply stripper to the reminder of the furniture.
If the piece is large, you may want to work in sections, based on the amount of time you have to work on the project each day.
Wait until the surface is visibly flaky or bubbly before scraping (I waited 24 hours). There may be variations in the thickness of the coating on the furniture, so you want to be sure it all comes off when you start working on it.
Use a plastic scraping tool to remove stripper and coating.
Determine if additional stripper needs to be applied to LARGE patches, plan to sand down small patches.
I applied the stripper in a thicker coat since I was confident the stripper would not damage the table after seeing my test section. As shown, after 24 hours the surface was flaky and the majority of the coating came off with hardly any effort.
When finished scraping, there were a few larger patches of poly remaining on the legs and top rim of the table. I re-applied stripper to those areas and waited 12 hours. After 12 hours, only some small flecks of poly on the flat surfaces and some pesky spots in the crevices of the rim of the table remained.
Step 5: Sand and Clean
Use 100 grit sand paper to remove any remaining poly coating from the crevices and surfaces. Turn the furniture over or on its back to reach any difficult areas and apply appropriate pressure.
Be sure to sand only in the direction of the wood grain to prevent adding unwanted texture to your surface that you’ll have to remove later.
100 grit sand paper removes flecks easily and the process went much quicker than I had anticipated.
Following sanding, wipe down all surfaces with a dry rag to remove any dust or loose material from the surface.
After sanding and stripping, there was some dried stripper reside on the wood (looked light orange/white). This needs to be removed before painting or the paint will not stick.
Use Mineral Spirits to clean the entire surface, scrubbing any visible areas to remove stripper residue.
I use an old, soft T-shirt to apply and scrub the table.
Allow the surface to dry fully and confirm that all stripper has been removed.
Once the surface is clean, you are ready to paint!
Step 6: Dispose of Waste Properly
Allow all materials that have come into contact with the Stripping Gel to dry fully before disposal.
According to the manufacturer, you may need to check with your state on how to properly dispose of used stripper. “Many windows and doors are finished in old paint compounds that may contain hazardous materials. Make sure you dispose of old stripper and finish in a metal container, and keep this in a well ventilated area. Check your federal, state and local guidelines for proper disposal.”
I swept all stripper flakes from my tarp and put them in the metal waste can and sealed it when everything was bone dry. I am waiting to hear from the county hazardous materials group but assume I need to take it to a hazardous material drop location to dispose of it.