Thrifty DIY: Sanding and Staining Your Own Furniture

As both a cat lover and an indoor plant enthusiast, one of my biggest challenges has been protecting my plants from my cat. She’s a more ferocious pest than aphids or gnats; she’ll nibble on anything green, quickly destroying my beloved, defenseless plants.

My solution has been elevation: I hang plants, place them on plant stands, keep them on my bookshelf, and everything in between. However, plant stands can be super expensive, and I also craved more versatility with my plant displays. I recently acquired a new monstera deliciosa and zz plant, so I began browsing online for new ideas to elevate my new babies.

I decided to purchase a couple of unfinished wooden crates from Target (super affordable, around $8 each). I super-glued them together and stained them so that they matched the rest of my furniture. 

In this quick, step-by-step DIY, learn how to sand down and stain wood so that you can make any thrifty find match your home color scheme.

Step 1: Sand down your furniture.

Items required: Sandpaper of different grits (coarse, medium and fine) and a sanding block and/or dowel

If you have a piece of furniture that already has a stain on it, you can easily remove it with sandpaper and a sanding block. It’s recommended to use a sanding block because if you use your hands, the pressure will not be consistent, and you may end up with an uneven surface.

Cut a piece of coarse sandpaper that is slightly bigger than the surface of the sanding block. Wrap it around the sanding block. Rub the sandpaper back and forth along the grain with even pressure, avoiding a side-to-side or circular motion. Brush off the accumulated dust. If you’re sanding down a curved surface, you can follow the same method with a dowel, rather than a sanding block.

Follow this step with medium sandpaper, and finally fine sandpaper. After sanding, your wood should be smooth to the touch. 

Step 2: Stain your furniture.

Items required: Wood conditioner (optional), stain/finish, brush or cloth

Next, apply stain to your furniture. To ensure that the stain doesn’t leave blotches on the wood, you may opt to brush on a thin layer of wood conditioner first. Allow this to dry for 15 minutes.

Then, apply your stain with a brush or a cloth. Work both with the grain and against it, applying a nice, even, liberal coat over the wood. For a light tone, immediately wipe the stain off in the direction of the grain with a clean cloth. For a deeper tone, wait ten minutes and then wipe the stain off.

If you’d like your stain to be darker, wait for your first coat to completely dry (this time frame depends on the type of stain; some take a full 24 hours). Then, you can follow this step again to apply a second coat. 

Tip: Stain only provides color, not finish. Opt for a product that combines both stain and finish in a single coat.

Step 3: Allow your wood to dry.

Items required: None

Next, allow your wood to dry. You can handle your furniture within a few hours, but the wood will not be completely dry until around 24 hours.

Step 4: Sand your wood down again (optional).

Items required: Fine grit sandpaper

If you used a water-based stain, you’ll need to sand your wood down again with fine grated sandpaper. Do this after your wood has completely dried. If you used an oil-based stain, disregard this step.

Step 5: Seal your wood to protect it from water (optional).

Items required: Polyurethane, high-quality silicon brush or cloth

After your wood is completely dry, you may opt to seal your wood with polyurethane. This will protect your finished piece from water, and give it a nice and shiny finish. You can apply this either with a cloth or a high-quality silicon brush, depending on the polyurethane product you choose. Spread a thin, even layer of polyurethane on your wood, following the grain. Finally, allow your wood to dry for about 24 to 48 hours. Enjoy your new piece!

Tip: Hang on to your old stains and finishes to apply to new pieces of furniture. This will save you lots of money in the long run.



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Hannah Menslage

Hannah Menslage is the assistant publisher and editor of Katy and Fort Bend Christian Magazines. She also writes a lifestyle column and manages the social media accounts for these publications. Hannah is a journalism/communications student in the Valenti school at the University of Houston. In her free time, Hannah enjoys gardening, cooking and baking, hanging out with her dog and cat, writing and completing fun DIY projects. Contact her with any questions at