How To Finish a Table Top With Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a clear coating that is applied over wood to protect it from wear and tear. It is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Water-based polyurethane dries more quickly than oil-based polyurethane, but both types will provide a durable finish.

A well-made table can be a beautiful addition to any room in your home. But what do you do if the finish starts to wear off or if you just want to give it a new look? You could try refinishing the table top yourself using polyurethane.

To finish a table top with polyurethane, sand the table top until it’s smooth. Then, remove any dust with a damp cloth or a tack cloth and stir the polyurethane so that all the ingredients are mixed evenly. Apply the mixed polyurethane to the table top with a brush or roller. After applying, allow the first coat to dry before applying a second coat. If you want an extra layer of protection, you can add a third coat. Allow the table top to dry completely before using it.

Applying polyurethane to a tabletop is a great way to protect it from scratches and wear and tear. The process is simple and only requires a few tools and supplies.

Types of Polyurethane for Table Tops

  1. Oil-based Polyurethane
  2. Water-based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is more durable than water-based and it will yellow over time. Water-based polyurethane, on the other hand, dries clear and is less smelly, but it doesn’t last as long.

How to Polyurethane a TableTop

Polyurethane is one of the most durable finishes for a table top, so it’s a great choice if you want your table to last for years. Here’s how to finish a table top with polyurethane:

First, You’ll Need The Following Tools to Apply Polyurethane

  • A foam brush
  • A natural bristle brush
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Polyurethane (you should consider using Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane in a can)
  • You’ll also need some painters’ tape, a drop cloth and some old newspapers to protect your work surface.

Assuming you already have a table top that’s been sanded smooth, the first step is to apply a coat of primer. You can use any kind of primer, but we recommend an oil-based primer for best results. Once the primer is dry, sand it down with fine-grit sandpaper until the surface is completely smooth.

How To Finish A Table Top With A Polyurethane In Easy Steps

How To Finish a Table Top With Polyurethane

Step One: Sand the Table Top Until It Is Smooth

If you want a smooth, professional-looking finish, sanding is an important step. You’ll need to sand down the tabletop until it’s smooth before applying any polyurethane. Use fine-grit sandpaper and work slowly and evenly to avoid leaving behind any scratches or gouges.

Step Two: Get Rid Of the Dust

Sanding will obviously leave some dust on the table top. After sanding, you’ll need to get rid of all the dust on the tabletop. A simple way to do this is to use a damp cloth or tack cloth to wipe it down. Once you’ve removed all the dirt, you can move on to the next step.

Step Three: Prepare The Polyurethane

Now that the surface is prepped and sanded, it’s time to move on to the polyurethane. For this step, you’ll need two things: a can of polyurethane and some rags. Before you start applying the polyurethane, give it a good stir. This will help to mix up any sediment that might have settled at the bottom of the can.

Step Four: Apply The First Coat

After you’ve prepared the polyurethane, you’re ready to apply the first coat. We suggest that you pour some into a tray and use a brush or roller to apply it evenly across the surface.

Step Five: Sand Before The Next Coat

After the first coat has dried, you’ll need to sand it down again before applying the next coat. This helps to ensure that the second coat will go on smoothly and evenly. Use fine-grit sandpaper, again, and work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the tabletop.

Step Six: Apply The Second Coat

After the first coat has dried, you’ll need to apply a second coat of polyurethane. This will help to ensure that the table top is protected from scratches and wear-and-tear. Simply pour some into a tray and use a brush or roller to apply it evenly across the surface. Allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step Seven: Add a Third Coat (Which is Advisable)

When you want an extra layer of protection, you can apply a third coat of polyurethane. Simply follow the same steps as before and allow it to dry completely before using the table top.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to create a smooth, professional-looking finish that will last for years.

How To Finish a Table Top With Polyurethane

Why It’s A Good Idea To Finish Your Table Top With A Ployurethane

Polyurethane is a clear plastic that is applied to wood to protect it from water damage and wear and tear.

  • Polyurethane is available in different finishes, from glossy to matte, so you have a variety to choose from
  • Polyurethane is durable
  • Easy to apply, making it a great option for do-it-yourselfers
  • It will not yellow or crack over time
  • Can be applied to both finished and unfinished wood

The Caveats Of Using A Polyurethane On Your Table Top

  • It is a plastic, so it can give the wood a synthetic feel
  • Some people are sensitive to the fumes emitted during the curing process
  • It is not as easily repaired as other finishes if it is damaged

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of using polyurethane to finish your table top, you can decide whether it is the right option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I get a smooth finish with polyurethane on a table top?

The key to getting a smooth finish with polyurethane is to sand between each coat. This will create a smooth surface that’s free of any brush strokes.

Can I Use a Roller to Apply Polyurethane On a Table Top?

Yes, you can use a roller to apply polyurethane on a table top. However, we recommend using a foam brush for best results. This is because a roller can leave behind air bubbles, which will be visible in the finish.

What is The Best Way To Remove Polyurethane From a Table Top?

If you need to remove polyurethane from a table top, sanding is the best way to do it. Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper and work your way up to a fine-grit sandpaper.

How Many Coats Of Polyurethane Should You Put On a Table Top?

The number of coats you should apply depends on the desired finish, how much traffic the table will see, and personal preference.

That being said, it is recommended that you apply at least three coats of polyurethane to a table top.

Is Polyurethane Good For Table Tops?

The answer is a resounding yes! Polyurethane is an excellent choice for finishing a table top. It is durable, easy to apply, and provides a beautiful, high-gloss finish.

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Between Coats of Polyurethane?

When you don’t sand between coats of polyurethane, the finish will be very smooth but it won’t be as durable. The new coat of polyurethane will have trouble adhering to the old coat and it will eventually peel off. Sanding between coats gives the new coat something to grip onto so that it can bond properly. Without sanding, your finish will be more susceptible to damage and it won’t last as long.

Do You Need To Use a Primer Before Painting?

No, you don’t need to use a primer before painting. Polyurethane is a great way to finish off a table top and protect it from scratches and water damage. You can buy it in either a gloss or satin finish, and it comes in either aerosol or brush-on form. Whichever type you choose, make sure to read the instructions on the can carefully before beginning.


Polyurethane is one of the best ways to protect your table top and give it a nice shine. To finish a tabletop with polyurethane, start by sanding down the surface with 220-grit sandpaper until it’s smooth. Next, apply a thin layer of polyurethane with a foam brush, making sure to evenly coat the entire surface. Allow the first layer to dry for at least four hours before applying a second coat. Once the final coat is dry, enjoy your newly protected tabletop.

Now that you know how to finish a table top with polyurethane, put your new skills to the test by giving it a try on your own. Don’t forget to sand down the surface first and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.