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DIY Project: How to save a water-damaged table top with decoupage!

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I’m sure we’ve all done it…put a plant pot on a table without a proper drip bowl, watered it with vigour and love and all the while, not realising the damage it’s causing. Then, a few months later when you’re changing things up in the home décor department, you move the plant and to your horror, your table is left with a large area of unsightly water damage!

I’m imagining that’s exactly what happened with this once-gorgeous mid-century G-Plan Long John nesting table. As you can see, the veneer has been completely destroyed and the particle board underneath is showing. The two smaller tables that nest underneath it were still in great shape, so for the asking price of £30, we thought this was still a great deal. This is also a top tip we have for sourcing furniture at knockdown prices, or even better, for freedon’t be afraid of damage!

G-Plan Astro Long John coffee table with water damaged veneer
G-Plan Astro Long John coffee table with water damaged veneer


Preparation of your pieces is a key step. Without the proper preparation, you are just making things harder for yourself further down the line.

We started by giving the tables a thorough clean. Our cleaner of choice is Method Kitchen Cleaner – it’s a non-toxic degreasing cleaner that smells amazing! It will do the job of removing most of the dirt and grime you would expect to find on a vintage piece of furniture. Use it with a non-abrasive sponge and cleaning will be a quick and easy task!

A bottle of Method Daily Kitchen Cleaner

After giving the tables a good scrub, we sprayed the tables down with water in a misting bottle and wiped away all the dirt and any residue left by the Method Kitchen Cleaner.

Luckily there were no major repairs needed on the tables, so we were ready to move on to stripping and sanding.

Stripping & Sanding

As we mentioned earlier, the two smaller tables were in overall great condition. However, there were some scratches in the finish on top and we wanted to give it a clean, refreshed look. So, the tops of the two smaller tables were stripped using XXXX, which is a chemical stripper.

G Plan Astro nesting tables

To get ready for stripping, make sure to use all the recommended PPE and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the stripper that you are using. We always make sure to wear gloves and a mask as a minimum.

We spread the stripper over the table tops using a cheap chip brush and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once the stripper had worked its magic, we took a metal scraper and scraped the stripper back from the surface. You may prefer to use a plastic scraper if you are worried about scratching the surface of the table. However, we find that if you position the metal scraper at an angle close to the table top and put most of the force at the back of the scraper, rather than the front, then you avoid scratching the surface.

G Plan Astro nesting tables with chemical stripper

Once all the chemical stripper has been scraped away, you MUST neutralise it using mineral spirits. This stops the chemical reaction of the stripper and cleans away any residue so you don’t have any issues when applying your new finish or paint. We normally use fine grade 0000 steel wool with mineral spirits as this is very fine steel wool that won’t scratch the surface of your furniture.

Give everything one final wipe down with a damp cloth and then let it dry thoroughly.

All the stripper residue is set aside and disposed of at our local waste site. Please ensure that you dispose of your stripper properly as it is chemical waste and does negatively affect the environment and water supply if disposed of incorrectly.

Knowing that we were decoupaging the larger table, we didn’t bother stripping it.

The next step was sanding all the tables. With these G-Plan tables, the outer frame is made of solid teak but the inner part is a thin wood veneer over particle board. On the smaller tables, we used 240 grit sandpaper as we didn’t want to damage the veneer and we just wanted to smooth out the surface. After we had gone over with 240 grit sandpaper, we did one more pass with 320-grit sandpaper.

G-Plan Astro Long John coffee table showing veneer part and solid teak part

On the larger table, we started the sanding process with 180 grit sandpaper, then moved on to 240 grit and finally onto 320 grit sandpaper.

G-Plan Astro Long John coffee table with water damaged veneer, being sanded with Festool RO150 sander

Once we had finished all our sanding, we wiped the tables back with a damp cloth to get rid of any sanding dust.


To finish the smaller tables, we applied 3 coats of Osmo Polyx-Oil in Satin using a high-density foam roller, waiting 12 hours between each coat. Osmo Polyx-Oil is one of our absolute favourite products as it makes the wood look absolutely gorgeous and gives it a superior amount of protection and durability.

For the larger table, we taped off the edges, as we only wanted to paint the veneer portion of the table. To ensure the paint wouldn’t bleed underneath the tape, we sprayed the table with a coat of Plastikote Clear Matt sealer. This also seals in the exposed particle board, so that it doesn’t swell once you paint over it with a water-based product.

Once the sealer had dried, we applied a coat of Cornish Milk Mineral Paint in the shade Black Rock using the amazing Cling On B12 Block Brush. We bought this whilst on holiday in California, so I’m not sure if you can buy this in the UK, but if you get the chance to, then do!

With this piece, I knew I wanted to find inspiration from my Zimbabwean heritage and lean into that so the decoupage paper we used was from Its So Chic Interiors – it’s called Shattered Leopard. It’s no longer stocked on the site. However, if you absolutely love this decoupage paper and HAVE to have one, contact Cindy at Its So Chic Interiors, and she may be able to do a one-off print.

Before we did anything, we positioned the paper on the table to see where we wanted it to sit. Once you have a good idea of how you want the decoupage paper to lie, then you can go ahead and roughly tear the edges. This just helps to blend in the decoupage paper, rather than it just being a rectangular/square piece of flat paper stuck on a piece of furniture.

To adhere the decoupage paper to the tabletop, we used Bunty’s Decoupage Glue & Finish in generous quantities. This was applied to the table with a cheap chip brush and once the decoupage paper was glued in place, we then went over the top of it with another coat of Bunty’s Decoupage Glue to seal it in place.

Once the decoupage glue was well and truly dry, we went in with a Dixie Belle Mini brush and some Cornish Milk Mineral Paint in Black Rock and stippled paint all-round the edges of the decoupage paper to blend it in and to add texture. Once we had stippled some paint on, we then dabbed the paint with a crumpled piece of tissue to add even more texture and randomly dabbed the tissue all over the decoupage paper. We applied two layers of paint using this technique. Not completely happy with this and thinking it looked “lacking” and “unfinished”, we decided to add some gold leaf using a leopard print stencil we had on hand.

We placed the stencil randomly over the surface and using a foam brush, pounced some PEBEO Gedeo Gilding Paste on the stencil. Once all the glue was stencilled on, we let it dry slightly to a tacky finish (it goes from milky to clear) and then applied the gold leaf sheets over the glue. These are gold leaf sheets we bought on Amazon and have been great on all our projects!

Using our trusty chip brush, we gently brushed away the gold leaf and touched up anywhere it hadn’t adhered fully. Make sure to collect the gold leaf flakes you brush off, as you can reuse these for touch-ups or other projects! If we were to do this again, we definitely should have the paint dry more thoroughly. But, being impatient, we just couldn’t wait to get the gold leaf on! That meant that the gold leaf also stuck to the paint, not just the glue, in the areas the paint hadn’t dried fully. However, it still looked amazing and was the final touch we were looking for.

We then left the table to dry thoroughly for a couple of days and applied 3 coats of No Nonsense Interior Varnish in Satin to seal everything in and to give it a good amount of protection.

All the table legs got a once-over with Howard Restor-A-Finish Cherry to bring them back to life. They were all in really good condition, so there was absolutely no need to sand them down and refinish them.

We are really pleased with how they turned out, and they sold on Etsy within a couple of weeks for £355 (including courier fees).

What do you think of this project? Would you have just taken the table to the dump if it was damaged? Have we inspired you to give decoupage a go?

You can watch our full YouTube video here:

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See you on the next flip!

Brenda & Stu x

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