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Refinishing a solid birch kitchen dining table set

Q: I own a solid birch kitchen dining table set that has held up over 15 years while I raised two kids. But the tabletop has taken a beating, and the finish in some areas is gone. The manufacturer’s website says the finish is “a catalyzed coating made of synthetic lacquers modified with nitrocellulose.” How do I find someone to refinish the table, and how much might it cost? I am open to a darker stain or the original honey-color stain. -Gaithersburg

A: Many people who restore or refinish furniture are set up to refinish tables, and they can usually match an existing stain or redo the table in a different color. However, you can save considerable money by having only the top refinished, and that would mean sticking with the existing color.

Old-fashioned nitrocellulose lacquer was a finish that cured by having the solvent evaporate. This meant that if someone wanted to add another layer, they could just apply a fresh coat on top of the old and the solvent in the new layer would soften the underlying lacquer, allowing both layers to bond well. Catalyzed lacquer, though, cures because of a chemical process initiated by a catalyst that’s either mixed in at the factory (these finishes are called pre-catalyzed lacquers) or added minutes before the finish is sprayed (post-catalyzed lacquers). Catalyzed lacquer is more durable than old-fashioned lacquer, but new layers won’t meld with old ones; the old finish needs to be either removed or thoroughly scuffed up first to ensure a good mechanical bond.

Rebekka Hudson of Hudson Woodworking & Restoration in Chantilly (703-817-7741; and Bill Shotwell at Restorations Unlimited in Sterling (703-904-9575; both recommended post-catalyzed lacquer as the most durable finish you can get on a dining room table. It’s what both companies use.

Hudson said her company would need measurements to estimate a price. Shotwell said his shop’s prices start at $100 to $150 per foot of the table’s length (meaning $600 to $900 for a six-foot-long table) when the old finish just needs to be sanded and refinished. If the old finish needs to be removed, the price rises to $150 to $200 per linear foot, plus about $50 a linear foot if you want the wood stained. Shotwell said he works with a stain supplier who has a computerized stain-matching program that ensures a perfect match.

Schoenbauer Furniture Service in Charlotte Hall (800-955-7603; lists prices on its website: $30 to $50 a square foot for a tabletop plus $150 to $300 if you want the base or legs refinished as well.

The Washington Post

Excerpted from The Washington Post Home & Garden Section
Article by Jeanne Huber, January 27, 2016


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