How to upgrade an old table

Follow these 6 steps and it'll be good as new

By Catherine DohertyCatherine Doherty


Photo by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

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Every cottage needs a functional table: one that can be cozied up to on a quiet morning to do a crossword puzzle, used for euchre on a rainy afternoon, then loaded with food for an impromptu dinner with neighbours—a table that works as easily outdoors as it does in a screened porch. That table (or at least the guts of it) may be under your nose. Wrought-iron furniture from the ’70s, usually featuring a glass tabletop and uncomfortable upholstered chairs, can be salvaged anywhere from garage sales to roadsides. We found ours in a cottager’s basement and, with a little elbow grease and some deck and fence boards, it was updated to low-maintenance seating that looks great. Adapt our instructions to the size and design of your table.

Step 1

Clean and sand the iron bases of the table and chairs, then evenly coat with rust paint. (You may need two coats to cover the old colour.) We painted ours with Tremclad Rust Paint in Brown, a rich, chocolate colour.

Step 2: Cut the pieces for the tabletop

a) Measure the length and width of your table frame and cut the tabletop boards to length. You’ll want to create a 2″ overhang on each side, including a small space between each board (use regular pencils as spacers). Depending on the size of your table frame, you may need a different number of boards than shown here, or rip them to fit properly.

b) Rip 2″-wide pieces from your deck boards for the breadboard ends.

Step 3: Assemble tabletop

a) Lay out the tabletop boards and breadboard ends as in photos.

b) With a 3⁄8″ bit, drill ½”-deep countersink holes in the outside face of the breadboard pieces, allowing 2 screws per board. (Cedar is so soft, you don’t need to drill pilot holes through the ends into the boards.) Glue and screw with 3″ deck screws, and let dry. Coat the wood plugs with glue and tap them in place. When the glue has dried, cut them flush.

c) Sand tabletop.

Step 4: Cut the pieces for the chairs

a) Measure the inside of the chair seats. Most have a metal lip to support the seat.

b) Cut the fence boards to match the width. We also ripped ours to about 2½” to make narrower slats.

c) From your fence boards, rip two 1″ battens for the underside of each seat. Space out the seat slats, bottom side up, using same size of spacer as your tabletop and align the batten along each side. Glue and screw the battens to the seat bottom using ½” deck screws. Allow glue to dry.

d) Sand chair tops.

Step 5

Apply weatherproof stain. We used Sikkens Cetol 1 in Natural, a warm orange.

Step 6

Screw tabletop and chair tops to the wrought-iron bases using original holes in the frame.

Iron table and chairs

Photo by Yvonne Duivenvoorden


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Catherine Doherty