Finishing Cheap Furniture Yourself

Not sure what wifey was pointing out at first.
Wifey sent me an email last week that included the photograph on the left. She mentioned she wanted to get that.

Seeing how there were a few things on the page, I asked her to clarify. Turns out, she wanted to buy the TV tray (below).

Seeing how we do our best not to spend money, wifey's request was reasonable. She's been wanting to buy a table or two to hold the numerous amounts of indoor household plants we seem to have lying around. (Father-in-law appears to have discovered his green thumb while living in Canada).

My only concern was the quality of the table. I mean, for $10.99, there has to be something wrong with it right?

$10.99 for a wood table? Need to check it out.

This was actually the perfect excuse to look into finishing furniture ourselves. Especially the cheap ones we pick up from time to time. Sure, we got ourselves a deal, but it looks out of place. Wifey and I don't really care, but the mother-in-law feels embarrassed when she invites her friends over. That and if these wood tables are holding potted plants, there's a chance water might spill on the table. Leaving the table as is would leave marks that would be hard to remove. Especially with all the deposits in our tap water.

First thing was to look into a safe and clean method of finishing painted furniture. After a lot of time was spend reading up on all the options (more time than I'd like to admit), I decided to pick up a can of Polycrylic. There are 3 options. Gloss, semi-gloss, and satin. We chose the satin because we didn't want that extra shiny look. Plus, from what I read online, the satin finish is fairly shiny as well.

It's a small can, but apparently it works really well.
Some of the merits of Polycrylic are low odour, water soluble, and a little bit goes a long way. Water soluble was important to me because I didn't want to use paint thinner to clean any oil based finishes. Wifey was concerned about the smell, which is why the low odour was a major selling point for her.

The price is a little steep, but considering it's supposed to last a long time, we'll see if it's worth the investment.

So anyway, on Saturday we went to the closest Canadian Tire to check out the tray table. As I suspected, it was a little flimsy. For everyday use, it wasn't useful at all. However, our plan was to use the table to hold a potted plant. For that reason, the flimsiness wasn't too bad.

We picked up two tables. One was painted black and the other was a natural wood colour.

When we got home, we discovered the wood table had scuffs on it. This was hidden by the paper label placed over the scuff (likely by the factory to hide the scuff). Luckily, it was the wood table and we were planning on painting it anyway. Wifey wanted to paint it white and fortunately for us, the previous owners left a small can of white paint in the basement (among other paints). It was still good after all these years.

I took the tables outside and with 220 grit sandpaper (we bought this when we first moved in to remove excess plaster. Previous owners loved poking holes in the drywall, we used plaster to patch them up) sanded both tables lightly.

After that was done, I took a damp cloth and wiped the dust off the tables.

When the tables were dry, we started painting the wood table white and I started to use the polycrylic on the black table.

From all the sources I found on the Internet, it said that the polycrylic is fast drying. As a result, you need to be quick in applying it to furniture. I did my best to quickly paint the table and let it sit for a couple of hours.

When I was finished with the black table, I helped wifey finish painting the wood table. After a few coats, we finished and allowed the paint to dry.

Now, we were ready to apply the polycrylic to the white table. Of course, to be safe, we waited until the next day to apply the polycrylic. I wasn't sure how long it would take for the white paint to dry. Before starting, I sanded the painted finish on the white table and the first layer of polycrylic on the black table. (You need to sand the polycrylic layer before applying additional coats. This apparently helps the polycrylic stick to previous layers).

After applying the the polycrylic to both tables, I waited another 2 hours for the tables to dry before applying another layer. In total, I applied 3 layers to the white table and 4 layers to the black one. The more layers of polycrylic, the more durable the surface becomes.

Finally, I was finished.

Here's the final result of the white table.
Compared to paint only, the table is extremely smooth now.
And here's the black table.
Look at the shine.
Overall, this finishing project didn't take up too much of our time. Most of the time spent was used to dry the paint and polycrylic. But it's not like we spent that time watching the paint dry. We did other things like prepare dinner or do the laundry.

Additionally, despite all the coats of polycrylic I applied, it doesn't appear we made much of a dent in the can. Looks like the polycrylic will last us a very long time.

Total cost of both tables and polycrylic (with taxes) is just under $50. Awesome. Compared to this tray table from IKEA, we picked up a great deal*.

*Okay, granted IKEA probably has better quality furniture. But it's $129 for one table. With tax, that's $145. That's not including the drive to IKEA which is pretty far from where we live. Don't get me wrong, I like IKEA. It's just some of their prices are out of whack.


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