What Is the Best Finish for an Oak Kitchen Table?

As the proud owner of an oak kitchen table, you are probably old school at heart. You don’t like modern kitchen tables, and you probably enjoy the durability of old-fashioned oak. 

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That being said, while oak is the perfect choice in terms of durability, it won’t last that long if you don’t give it the proper finish. Considering the number of spills you’ll probably make on that table, it’ll probably be ruined before you have the chance to show it off. 

So, what should you use in order to make your oak kitchen table shine gloriously? What kind of finish for kitchen table should you pick? Well, luckily for you, you have a variety of options.

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Types of Finishes

Oak is a material that accepts pretty much any kind of finish. You just need to choose the one that works best for you. Here are the most common options that people use on their kitchen tables:

  • Oil-Based Finishes

First of all, you need to buy a finish that will offer you ultimate protection. If you also want to give some color to an unfinished surface, then you might want to try an oil-based finish. It is quite durable and very often the favorable choice for kitchen tables.

Here, you also have two options. You can go for paint (clear or colored), or polyurethane. Polyurethane is easier to apply, and the finish is long-lasting. You also have the option of brush-on polyurethane, but it does not dry as quickly. Read this article on how to finish a table with polyurethane to find out more details about this product.

  • Varnish

Varnish may be tricky to apply, but when it is very often the perfect choice for both indoor and outdoor oak kitchen tables. Varnish is a mixture of resin, oil, and solvents that will protect against UV lights and stains. For a kitchen table that gets a lot of light, varnish is exactly what you’ll need. 

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  • Water-Based Finishes

If you don’t like strong odors as you are finishing the oak table, you might want to try water-based products. They release only a little bit of odor when used, and there is little to no smell once they are completely dry. 

Plus, since the coats of these finishes are quite thin, they will be dry in no time. The only issue here is that you’ll have to go with two coats if you want to apply color rather than transparent formulas.

  • Shellac

Shellac is a formula that uses both wax and solvents. It is very attractive and easy to apply, making it a great choice for beginners. Bear in mind that the product is not as durable to wear, so if you use the kitchen table a lot, it might not last as much. 

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How to Finish an Oak Kitchen Table

After you decide which formula you want to use for your oak table, you need to apply the finish. However, before you get to that stage, there is some prepping that you need to do first.

  • Step 1: Move the Table

Ideally, unless you are using a water-based finish, you may want to move the table to an area that is well ventilated. Make sure that you also protect the floors, in case there is any accidental spilling.

  • Step 2: Check for Imperfections

Once you are in the right spot, you might want to check for imperfections. Does your table have any imperfections on it? If that is the case, you might have to sand it first. If you already have an old finish on the oak table, you should use a chemical solvent to remove it.

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  • Step 3: Prime

Depending on the status of your oak kitchen table, you may or may not have to prime it. That being said, if it has many cracks or scratches, you might want to apply a clear wood primer first. Rust-Oleum has a good clear option in their RockSolid primer. This will ensure you get a smooth finish, without any visible imperfections.

  • Step 4: Apply the Finish

With your oak table cleaned nicely and primed, it is time you proceed with the main task: apply the finish. You might want to pick a cool day because otherwise, the formula will dry before you even get the chance to properly spread it. Don’t be stingy when it comes to applying the product. Remember: less is not always more. The Restor-a-Finish from Howard Products is a good option if you want to be done quickly, but there are many other good products as well.

The Bottom Line

Finishing an oak kitchen table is quite simple, as long as you choose the right product. Pick the formula that works best for your purposes, because when it comes to oak, you have plenty of choices to check.


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