Furniture Building & Refinishing

How to Protect a Restoration Hardware Dining Table. A.K.A. How to Avoid Massive Disappointment.

 In this post: This is a story all about how to protect a Restoration Hardware Dining Table. Also known as how to avoid massive disappointment.

how to protect a restoration hardware table

You know that feeling when you are so excited about something? You look forward to it and build it up in your head…for years?

Like that thing will mean you’ve arrived. You’re finally an adult. Or something like that.

You’re past your own awkward teenage years, the eating-raman-noodles-for-every-single-meal college years. You have your own place. You work hard. You pinch your pennies (um, nickles if you’re in Canada) and you save your money.

You’ve had your eye on that gorgeous thing for what seems like forever.

The timing was never quite right though. You needed your savings for the dentist or swimming lessons or car repairs. The purchase of that thing was put off time and again.

But finally. Oh finally. There’s enough money in the bank. This is definitely a splurge, no doubt about it. But you’ve waited so long and it will last a long time, so it’s worth it.

You skip off to your favorite store and, with a smile on your face so big you look like the Joker or the Cheshire Cat, you place your order. You are giddy with excitement. Like a kid on Christmas morning.

Delivery day is a couple of weeks away. So you settle in and wait some more.

Finally delivery day arrives. Your thing is ever so carefully carried off the back of the truck and in through your front door. The delivery men unwrap it and ask you to look it over to be sure it’s all good, before having you sign the delivery receipt.

You stare. You can’t believe it’s finally there, in your very own dining room. It’s gorgeous and it’s perfect.

french industrial dining room

You carefully arrange chairs around it. You add a few candles and some flowers as a centerpiece, or maybe a tiered tray. You and your kids sit down to eat lunch. You give them instructions to be ever so careful. It seems the finish is a little um, chalky.

That’s not quite what you expected.

The kids are a little terrified to spill. If you’re honest with yourself, so are you.

And then you do.

It’s just the tiniest little bit of something. But still you rush to wipe it up quickly.

And that’s when it happens. The finish actually IS a little chalky...AND IT WIPES OFF!!?!

(A few curse words may have accidentally spilled from your lips at that moment. But only maybe.)

What a huge disappointment. The finish is practically the whole reason you bought the table.


Well, since you live in 2016 you hop online to see if anyone else has had the same issue. (And you’re not entirely sure why you didn’t think to look that up to begin with.)

Sure enough. Same issue. More than once. More than five times. Hmm. Do the designers of this table expect you NOT to use it? Do they expect you to buy it and then just stare at it from afar? It’s a dining room table, people!

You’ve waited too long. You’ve looked forward to this table for years. It’s darn well going to get used! 

So you do some more looking around online. You’ve DIY’d your own furniture before, so you know there must be some sort of sealer or something that won’t change the finish, but that will protect it.

You’ve used Poly before, but it’s rather shiny. Wax would be more matte, but the process of application would very likely rub off all the existing finish. So you keep looking.

And then.

And then you find it. Something called Dead Flat Varnish. It’s by a company you’ve never heard of before, Saman. It promises to be exactly what it says, dead flat. No shine. No yellowy color. You’re beginning to get excited again. Is it possible? Might you keep the look of the finish you love so much, and yet have it not rub off?

Well, you waste no time in ordering some (because of course it’s not in your local store, so you have to order it online). You cover the table with a thick, ugly vinyl table cloth while you wait. Because you know, it’s actually a dining room table that gets used.

When the varnish arrives  you test it ever so carefully by brushing it on the underside of the table. Just in case.

You wait impatiently as it dries.

The next day (you waited extra long just for good measure) you look carefully on the underside of the table. AND YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL WHERE YOU APPLIED THE VARNISH!

How to protect a Restoration Hardware dining table.

You’ve never been so happy. Okay, perhaps when you got married or had babies. But otherwise.

The table is saved. You will be able to use it for all those family meals you’ve envisioned in your head for so long.

And maybe, just maybe, you can help someone else save their own Restoration Hardware table by sharing your story.

Want to create your own gorgeous makeovers?

Check out our DIY Paint Finishes and Techniques guide.

It includes 12 of our most popular paint finishes and techniques all in one place! Includes photos, supply lists and how to get the looks we feature on our blog Home Made Lovely all the time! 

DIY Paint Finishes and Techniques pages for blog

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored. We really did dream of our Restoration Hardware table for years and were shocked when the rather pricey table’s finish rubbed right off. But we were thrilled that the Saman Dead Flat Varnish did not change the finish and absolutely protects the table now. See, some stories really do have happy endings!

shannon sign off

home made lovely book on table with get it now text button

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  1. I am about to purchase the salvage wood table at RH, I have 3 boys ages 6, 3 and 2…wondering if this tip would hold up thru their future table abuse? How is your table doing and how often do you apply the dead flat varnish?

    1. So, our table was fine after the varnish. I don’t know if it would be fine for three boys though. We actually got a different table and I’m much more relaxed about it as it’s more durable. Depends how much you like the distressed look, I guess!

  2. How much did you need to cover your table? Thanks for the great information since I’ve been searching for a while to find a solution for our RH dining table.

    1. It made it ever so slightly darker. But by like the smallest bit. I tested it underneath first and recommend that everyone else do the same before doing the whole table. Since RH tables are reclaimed wood, another table may react differently than ours.

  3. I have the same problem with my RH coffee table, I could just cry. My actually licked crumbs off the dog and you would die if you saw the marks it left. Did you sand the water mark spots before applying the Saman dead flat.

    thanks for sharing, really enjoy your blog


    1. oops I meant to say, my dog licked crumbs….kids were asking questions while I was typing, they too are probably spilling something on the table as we speak.


    2. Ugh. I’m so sorry. Yeah, there definitely should be more of a buyer beware with these finishes from RH! I only had the smallest mark from wiping our table, so no I didn’t sand or do anything like that. You may have to try wiping the table to see if you can get the marks to even out. I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for that specifically. Let us know how it turns out though!

  4. Have had our reclaimed table for like 48 hours and Peanut butter has done me in. Big greasy stain. Tried to clean it wish dish soap …you know cut the grease. Did not work….yet. Ordering the varnish STAT hoping the whole thing will blend…maybe I should smear peanut butter all over it first!?!

    Either way the table is SO pretty…still in love, blotch and all. Aaaaannnnd I have three boys (9,6,2) and a dog that finds a way ON to my tables so we’ll see how this all goes. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  5. Update: I use General Finishes Flat out Flat on my round trestle table and it turned out amazing! Didnt change the color at all

  6. I’m thinking of having a piece of glass made for our RH table until the kids get old enough (10, 8, 5) to understand the significance of using a coaster at all times. A piece of glass may not be the prettiest, but at least I know it will protect the table and won’t change the color of the finish 🙂

  7. Hello – I just purchased a RH Salvaged Grey Farmhouse Table and want to seal my table like you did! Would you still recommend he Saman Mat Flat varnish you used? And how did you apply each of the coats / wait in between each one? Did you just let it dry completely after or did you need to wipe anything off? Any information on the application would be great – I currently have the saman on its way.

    Thank you!

  8. I bought Restoration Hardware’s Salvaged Wood Island. I’m using it as a bar height table in my kitchen and it’s BEAUTIFUL! Currently, it’s covered in an ugly, white, thick, plastic table cloth. I’ve been reading and reading about how people are protecting these tables and there are so many conflicting solutions. I’ve read about 100% tung oil, but a furniture maker told me NEVER! He said it would not hold up, and to use Modern Masters water based matte finish poly. I bagan reading about the Dead Flat product you used, and thought I’d found a better solution. However, I called Modern Masters yesterday to ask about the product. They said the Dead Flat product is meant to cover imperfections and sheen in their paint products. He cautioned me that it’s not designed as a table top finish, and again referred me back to the water-based poly. Honestly, I’m terrified of everything right now! Can you tell me if you have any knowledge to compare the Dead Flat to their poly product? I REALLY want to maintain the look and lack of sheen that you achieved with Dead Flat, but I was told the product wouldn’t hold up over time. Can you tell me your experience? How long ago did you use it and is it holding up??? I’m dying to pitch the table cloth, but so confused as to how to protect it!

  9. Count yourself lucky that you went with a different table! We had one that was “salvaged brown” so we didn’t deal with the same issue. But four years down the road, and hardly ever using it, there is a huge crack right down the middle. Apparently this is not unheard of with these salvaged wood tables.

  10. After to es of research, I settle on Monocoat by Rubio. This stuff is amazing and so easy to apply. It was designed as a hardwood floor finish in Europe. I love the matte finish, and it’s waterproof for everyday use. It’s been 4 years si ce I finished my table and it looks as good as the day I applied it!

    1. Did you get a certain color or is it just clear oil with matte finish? We had a piece of glass made for our table to protect. And while I love the look, it reflects our chandelier and drives me more insane than a little stain would, I think!!

  11. After purchasing a RH salvaged trestle table in the natural, we as well realized we had a challenge on our hands with protecting it. We initially thought we had the answer with the 100% tung oil we read about online. We applied it to the bottom of one of the table leaves and excitedly thought our problem was solved. Then we applied the Tung Oil to the top side of the leaf. Yikes! The wood looked charred! So back to the drawing board. We ordered a sample swatch of the wood from RH. We then ordered three products we had read about online: General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat (GF), Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish (MM), and Saman Flat Mat waterbed varnish. We tried all three products on the wood swatch. The Saman product had more of a sheen than the other two, so we ruled that one out as we were wanting the table to look as close to the way it looked when we received it from RH. The GF and MM looked really close. We decided to try the MM on the bottom of the second table leaf. So far so good, so we then applied it to the top of the leaf…this is where things went terribly wrong with the Tung Oil, so our expectations were low. But it looked great! It did darken the table ever so slightly, but we were pleased with the results so we decided to go for it. We applied three coats of the MM to the top of the actual table, and at this point we are so relieved…we think we’ve found a way to protect the table while still keeping the look we loved. We’ve tested it by pouring water and hot sauce on it…both easily wiped up with no change to the table. Phew! What a relief!

  12. Did this method protect your table from spills? What about frequent wiping and daily use? Crayons and play doh? We have an infant and toddler and want to make our RH table our main table but I’m terrified of ruining this expensive piece. We are moving and I do not want to get rid of this piece.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      This treatment offers protection from spills and daily wiping. BUT you still have to catch the spills quickly because it’s a water based sealer. Our table was fine that way. But a sweating glass of cold water that sat on the table while we played cards left a visible ring that wouldn’t come out. Since our kids were teenagers when we bought the table, we haven’t test it with crayons or play doh.

      Truthfully, if our kids were still little, I would have:

      1. Not ordered the table until they were older
      2. Bought it but covered it with a vinyl tablecloth or
      3. Protected it with a more durable finish like polycrylic (which unfortunately will likely leave a bit of a shine).

      I would be hesitant to make this your main table for those activities. I’m sorry. 🙁

      xo, Shannon

  13. Hi. Im late to the game with the RH salvaged wood table, Im still scared to death to seal it for fear that I will ruin it. Has anyone heard there is some sort of antique look powder on the table? Im wondering if they used this on older versions of the table or if it is something new they are doing to make it look old. I want to use Rubiomonocat but heard it can’t be used if that is the case. Does anyone know what this antique powder is???? Also, how are everyone’s tables holding up with flat varnishes. Im worried about wine spills.

    1. Yes, there is a powder on the table. That is originally why I decided to protect it with a clear matte coating. We mistakenly thought a table was for using, used it, wiped it and removed part of the finish. It was craziness! Unfortunately, I can’t speak to wine spills. The water-based varnish we used was good, but if you let a sweating glass on it, there was still a mark. If you wipe things up quickly it seemed okay. Sorry I don’t have better news. RH tables sure are pretty – but they’re not so practical!

  14. I had a piece of glass cut to go over the top. It looks awesome. The glass gives it a cool modern vibe. It makes it flat so we can do homework, puzzles, etc. It’s protected, but you can still see the wood.

  15. Do you happen to know what that antiquing powder is? Im wondering if I should try to buy some. Also Danielle, Id love to see a picture with your glass top on your table if you don’t mind sharing. My email is Thanks for your responses! I really appreciate it!

  16. I would also love to see how the glass looks. I am debating getting a RH Boulangerie table which is unsealed, but I want it to be protected from daily use (especially my 2 year old son). My email is Thanks!

  17. Just bought the Saman flat mat varnish to apply to my natural color RH trestle table. It appears to be for floors. Any application tips?

    1. Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought to use it on floors! Use a quality brush, stir to avoid bubbles that shaking would cause, and apply in a small section at a time. 🙂

  18. Hi Laura, do you still feel like the MM Dead Flat is the best choice to keep the look close to the original? Does it stand up to sweating glasses, spills, warm plates, or keys being dropped on the table? Looking forward to your answers because I’m at a loss with my RH table.

    1. I still like that one, yes. But keep in mind with any water-based sealer, things like sweating glasses will still leave a mark. You would need an oil-based sealer to avoid that completely. Most of which will leave at least a bit of shine.