Of all the ways that there are to resurface a piece of furniture, by far one of the easiest is to use contact paper. When a quality brand is used and the surface is properly prepped, you can use contact paper for almost any smooth surface. So, when I wanted to create a faux reclaimed wood table, I knew that I would go with contact paper.
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Faux Reclaimed Wood Table…
Under normal conditions, I prefer to build my furniture from wood. But, building a rustic table top from scratch can take several days. Occasionally, a person may want or need something fast and easy. This was the issue that I was having. I needed a good reclaimed table to use for my studio, but I just didn’t have the time to build one. So, the simplest solution was to use a good contact paper. (FYI – I am covering one side of my tabletop in black and the other in wood, so that I can have a reversible top).
In the past, I have tried out contact paper on everything from countertops to refrigerators. And, I will admit that there is a slight learning curve to getting a perfect finish. But, the good news is that I have already figured out all the tricks, and I am going to share those with you. So, you can be confident in getting your own great results. (FYI – to see a countertop resurfaced from contact paper, you can check out my blogging friend The Handyman’s Daughter).
To start with, I am covering a fiberboard with a good quality contact paper. I don’t generally use those cheap contact papers for anything other than shelves, drawers, or paper crafting. I have found that they can be inconsistent in their performance for decor. So, I stick with the stuff that sticks. ;-) Since fiberboard can sometimes cause issues with adhesion, I have chosen this contact paper* for my faux reclaimed wood table. (But, I will list a few other good papers in a bit.)
DIY an Easy Faux Reclaimed Wood Table – Prepping…
Before you begin applying contact paper to any surface, it is very important to make sure that it is clean of all surface dirt and oils. I always use alcohol and a lint free cloth to clean my surfaces. It is great at cutting through just about anything that may be on the surface. If you try to cover a surface that has any residue at all, your results will be disappointing. So clean, clean, clean!
If you are using fiberboard, and it has a varnished surface, you will also need to rough it up a bit. To do that, just lightly go over the surface with some sandpaper. Be sure to remove all of the residue with a tack cloth and a vacuum. Just wiping it down with a standard cloth will not get all the fine dust particles that are released with sandpaper. I always vacuum first. Then, run the tack cloth over the surface to catch any remaining dust. Then, follow up by washing with the alcohol.
DIY an Easy Faux Reclaimed Wood Table – Applying…
When applying contact paper to a table top, there are two methods that you can choose. You can either do a straight cut surface edge or a rounded over edge. The straight cut edge is the easiest because it doesn’t require you to smooth the paper over and around the corners and sides. So let’s start with that method, first.
Straight Edge Method:
For the straight cut edge, you will want to begin with a perfectly straight edge on your paper. Don’t rely on the paper coming to you with the strip already straight and square. Check by looking at the guides on the back. If it hasn’t been cut perfectly along one of the guide lines, make a new cut. I do that by laying a ruler or any straight edge along one of the guide lines and cutting with a nice sharp blade. (You can use a utility knife or an x-acto knife. However, an x-acto knife* will be much easier to use for contact paper).
Next, measure the surface area to be covered and transfer those measurements to the contact paper, adding about 1-2 inches for adjustments. begin, by pulling one corner of the backing off the paper and laying it down against the corner of the table top. Make sure that you have it aligned perfectly along both edges, before continuing.
Now, one of the most common problems with applying contact paper is bubbles. To prevent bubbles I use a paper smoothing tool* (or an old credit card). Then, I pull the backing loose in 3-4 inch increments, working all the air pockets out as I go. As long as you keep smoothing the paper in the direction of the backing, and you remove all the bubbles in each section before moving on, you should have no problems. Trying to work too large of an area at once is usually what causes those dreaded air bubble.
When you get all the way to the end, use the x-acto knife to remove the overhang. (image showing a rounded over method, but the cutting method is the same). Hold the knife at a 45 degree angle to the table top and slice right along the edge. You should make sure that your blade is new and sharp to get a perfect edge. A worn blade will cause tears and a rough finish. (This image is shown magnified for your convenience. The reveal left is actually very small and will appear to be no larger than a normal seam in a laminate top).
Rounded over Method:
The rounded over method is a bit more difficult for beginners, but there are ways to get a perfect finish. For starters, when doing this method you want to cut your paper long enough to allow several inches of excess. You will also begin by applying the paper to one side edge of the table and smoothing this first edge before moving to the top surface.
Once you have moved to the top surface, continue working you way across the top (don’t worry about the edges yet). After all of the top surface is smoothed down, you will want to work the ends smooth, working you way towards the corners. Make sure that you have smoothed the paper over the edges in a nice crisp seam before trying to smooth down the sides. Air can get trapped right at the fold if you do pay extra attention to smoothing it out, and will cause problems.
On the front corner of the table, you should cut the paper straight up toward the table top, so that you have formed a perfectly straight line. Fold the excess from the end under the under the front section and smooth it with your tool. Repeat this for the back edge.
Faux Reclaimed Wood Table – Tricks…
If you discover that you are having problems getting the edges to go down smoothly, or you have an issue with an air bubble, the best thing that you can do is use heat. I prefer to use my Wagner heat gun* set on the lowest setting. But, a hair dryer will work in a pinch. (FYI – if you plan to do a large area or several smaller ones, you may want to invest in a heat gun).
With the heat on low, apply a small amount of heat to the problem area. The heat will allow you to stretch the paper to get a smooth edge. It will also cause an air bubble to become flexible so that you can work it smooth. When I have a hard time getting my corners smooth, I use the heat gun to apply heat while I pull and smooth with my hands. If this is your first time applying contact paper over corners, you may want to practice on a scrap piece of wood to get a feel for using the heat method. Too much heat and you will ruin your paper.
Once you have everything smoothed on the top and sides, turn the table top over and smooth the excess down on the underside. Then, use your straight edge to make a clean cut, leaving about 1″ for a professional finish.
My faux reclaimed wood table turned out great. This particular contact paper* was very forgiving and has a lot of sticking power. As you can see, I was able to get a perfectly smooth finish with no bubbles. Plus, it only took one roll to do this job. (But you should determine the amount needed based on the surface area needed to be covered).
Besides the contact paper used for this project, I have found that DC Fix brand* is a good quality paper. This is my go to brand when I want to cover something like furniture or something that needs to be durable. When I am looking for something pretty for decor, I like Simple Life 4 U.* Both brands make quality paper. It just depends on my mood and what I am covering.
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