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Apply varnish to brand new dining table?

1008 Views 11 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  JASheehy
I have recently taken delivery on a new dining table purchased from a furniture store. It's not fine furniture by any means but it's moderate quality and nice looking. (

It will be the everyday dining table so it will get heavy use, and we do still have kids at home. The tabletop is presumably sealed with something but I haven't been able to determine what was used by the manufacturer. I also don't know what would typically be used by manufacturers of mid-priced dining furniture, although I assume it's some sort of varnish and not a wax.

My question is whether it's a good or bad idea to apply a protective varnish to the brand new table. The product I'm considering for use is Polyvine Wax Finish Varnish, which I already have on hand. A related question is whether I would need to lightly sand the new table before applying the Polyvine.

The table looks quite nice as is and I don't want to mess it up. It has two leaves that will probably be used quite sparingly, so although it's not ideal, I could do a trial run on one of them if necessary. If it's a bad idea to apply varnish to a brand new table, I'll just use it as is and hope it doesn't get beat up too quickly.

There is a lot of info on the Web about refinishing older furniture, but I haven't found much about what can/should be done with brand new furniture. I would appreciate any advice from finishing experts on this forum. Thanks!
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I vote for bad idea. I'd leave it alone, assuming that the factory that made it had access to good spray equipment and curing conditions that will provide at least as much protection as anything you could add on top of it. And is probably a smoother finish with a more even sheen than you can get at home too.
I'd leave it alone, then if it doesn't hold up to use (but no reason to think it won't), tackle refinishing the top (sanding/scraping carefully to not get through the veneer).
+1 Bad Idea.
Let the kids wreck it and take the time to build something nice later when they can respect your work. By then it may be time for grandkids to come and do damage.
Yep. I agree with the other comments. Bad idea.

Welcome to LJ.
Without knowing what kind of finish is on it now, I would not suggest adding anything to it. In order to do that, the existing surface would need to be lightly sanded in order to insure good adherence. And, according to the specifications, the top is probably elm veneer. Modern veneers tend to be very thin.

Probably the best you should do is keep a good coat of paste wax on it and use a table cloth when extra protection is needed. If the table will ever be used as a play table or for arts and crafts, you might consider having a sheet of acrylic or some other false top handy.
Invest in some placemats that the wife likes. Then make sure everyone uses a placemat when eating or doing homework etc.
+1 bad idea to refinish new table surface.

+1 placemats and/or table cloth.

Better ideas:
Buy table top pads, use under table cloth.
Buy tempered glass plate
Buy polycarbonate plate/film cover
Sell children to some gypsies.
or Don't worry about it

Best Luck.
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Years ago people use to put table pads on their "expensive" tables. I recall back in the 1970's my wife did that to an expensive table we had. They still custom make those pads and they are pretty much fool proof when it comes to kids and other damaging things. When special company comes take the pads off. Some can cost half as much as your table so shop around.

That aside, If you really want to add a hard finish I would suggest adding 3 or 4 coats of a floor grade varathane . I used it when I refinished an oak table several years ago and it wears and resists damage like iron. I have used it effectively on wood stair too. I would not recommend using a varnish.
I would lightly sand the top to create a texture for adhesion. To make sure there is no wax that might interfere with the finish clean it with a solvent. (naptha or paint thinner) Then apply the varathane sanding lightly between coats. After a week or two you can use a paste wax applied with a white 3M pad and buff.

Ambient temperature can be critical to water based varathane finishes….easier to use than oil base and almost odorless. To cool and they dry to slowly allowing dust to settle. To warm (above 75) they dry to fast and don't level out leaving brush stroke ridges. Usually the first two coats can be applied the same day but wait 24 for the 3rd and possibly 4 coat.

CAUTION. With all finishing projects it is best to do some testing. In this case practice on one of the leafs is a good idea…or the bottom if it has the same finish.
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We bought a table probably of similar quality when we had teenagers inthe house. We tried the "placemats and be careful" routine. In a short time we had several small scratches show up.

We ended up buying a set of custom table pads like what that Les described.

Problem solved.
If I was gonna use table pads and hide the wood, i would just get the folding plastic table from Costco. Kind of like at weddings.
The manufacturer here posts a FAQ section on their website. It DOES have a factory finish, and while they don't specify what it is, they do mention what items will damage the finish. It's all pretty standard CYA stuff.
Thanks very much to everyone who replied to my (first ever) post.

I appreciate the advice, and also the humor. The consensus was strongly against trying to apply additional sealant to the factory finish. I'll try the placemats-and-be-careful routine and see how it goes. I'll also get a pad or some other sort of covering that I can use whenever I think it needs extra protection. Selling the kids to gypsies is definitely on the table (pun intended!).

Thanks again for the helpful responses and the kind reception on LumberJocks.
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