Finishing Restaurant Table Tops

A tough finish, and a cure time before cleaning staff are allowed to attack, are the recommendations. April 19, 2011

I have the pleasure of having to apply a durable clear finish on many tabletops on-site for a restaurant renovation. The tops are made of 1-1/2" yellow pine. I would like to use green products but am not married to the idea. Hopefully a waterborne poly. The boards are 10" wide on some of the table tops, so cupping is a concern. Should the underside also be coated?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
There must be an easier way to make a living! At least it was not the dreaded "I have a bar that needs to be refinished, and the only time we are closed is Christmas Day." For my money, I would forget green or conversion varnish. The first time the cleaning crew uses an ammonia based cleaner, they will start to turn soft. I would figure out a way to get them, or some of them, back to your shop for 24 hours. Strip, sand, oxalic, final sand and finish with SW laboratory grade cat vinyl. Yes, also finish the underside. At least the gum will not stick as easy. I have a number of contracts that we offer 24 hour returns and it was hard to convince the floor managers, but they are looking for long term quality and durability, not overnight dust, mess and a sticky table.

From contributor B:
I've seen guys attempt this in the past, and if they didn't allow 4-7 days of cure time, the finish was ruined in a month from all the cleaning the wait staff does. This is with 2 part urethanes, CVs - it didn't matter. I'm curious about Sherwin's laboratory grade vinyl. I'd like to research that. Got a product number?

From contributor M:
That SW product is T77-SH116. We rebuilt and restored the main cafeteria tables at Saint Mary's college a few years back. Twelve feet long, quarter sawn oak and used for 4 meals a day 7 days a week. Stain, waterborne paste fill, and 5 coats of the vinyl is holding up well and it does not get soft from ammonia cleaning.