How to refinish an old table

I’ve been unhappy with my home office set up for a while. The biggest issue has been the desk space. It just hasn’t been cutting it for me. I had a table that I could use instead of the desk I was using, but it was in pretty bad shape. So I took on a project – refinish the table! And I did it with only $5 and in 30 minutes!

table before-after

Here’s my office space with the original desk. This desk was designed to have a drawer underneath for the keyboard, and a monitor towards the back of the desk. But since I have a laptop instead of a desktop computer, it really wasn’t working for me. I ended up with the computer at the front of the desk and a lot of wasted space at the back.

office space before
I’ve had this table sitting out in the garage for a while. It’s plenty big and sturdy, but it’s been well used… and the top wasn’t in very good shape.

table before
There are plenty of dings and scratches on the top.

table scratches before
And the edges were pretty beat up. These rough edges caught plenty of cat hair, and were snagging my sleeves. Not good.

table edge before
So I spent a whopping $5 on some white contact paper, and off I went!

white contact paper
Measure out the length of contact paper you will need to cover the table.

step 1 measure paper to fit table
Follow the gridlines on the back to make sure you cut it straight. Cut your length to fit, and flip it over so the backing side is down.

step 2 cut paper to length of table
Start at one corner, and peel the backing off slowly. Use your hands (or a book) to press the contact paper down on the top of the table and push out any air bubbles that get caught. Work 6-12 inches at a time, rather than pulling off the entire backing at once.

step 3 peel backing
Then it’s time for the corners. I made a slit with the scissors, and wrapped the edges around the corner of the table.

step 4 cut corners
Stick one side down, the wrap the other side around to completely cover the corner. Cutting the edges like this makes for a little neater corner than wrapping it like a package, but do whichever works best for you.

step 5 wrap corners
Use your hand to smooth the edges of the contact paper over the edge of the table. Work by pressing the paper over the edge and around the corner. Do not slide your hand down the length of the table, or you will get wrinkles in the paper.

step 6 smooth edges
I put my contact paper on a little crooked, so this edge of the table didn’t quite get covered. This edge of the table is going against the wall, so it didn’t really matter for me. If it’s more crooked than you like, you can peel the contact paper back up and it will stick right back down again.

uneven back edge
I had planned to wrap the contact paper around the bottom of the table, but found out that it doesn’t really stick to the particle board-type bottom of the table.

not stick to particle board
So I just trimmed the edges to fit to the bottom of the outer edge of the table.

step 7 trim edges
This table needed two lengths of the contact paper. Once the first length was in place and stuck down, I repeated the same on the second length.

step 8 repeat with second strip
I did the corners the same way, and finished by trimming the edges of the paper to the edges of the table.

step 9 trim edges
It took a total of about 30 minutes to turn this beat-up, not-so-pretty table into a functional, not-so-ugly workspace. And I have plenty of contact paper left over!

table after
Here’s the before and after again.

table before-after
Add back my laptop, frequently used books, planner, and a lamp, and I was back at work!

office space after
Contact paper comes in plenty of colors and designs. I wanted a white work space, and will decorate with color around the room. But I did think about zebra stripes! These kinds of patterns would be great for a kids table, or for a smaller piece.

And the best thing about the contact paper? If it starts to peel, or you get finished doodling on it, or you just want to change it again, all you need to do it peel it off and stick a new design on!

Where can you use contact paper to dress up something old?

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