Chances are good that somewhere in your house is an aging card table — in the garage, under the bed or tucked in the basement, only to be seen at holidays or family reunions, perhaps functioning as a kids’ table. Or maybe it comes out more often and is shrouded for an occasional game of bunco, bridge or pinochle. The paint might be chipped or peeling, the top scuffed, torn or worn through.

But you can bring it back to life with a little ingenuity.

Checking first

Look under the tabletop to be sure that it’s attached with a few screws that can be easily loosened.

If the tabletop is riveted on, then these rejuvenation methods won’t work.

If you want to redo the chairs to match, follow the same guidelines, as most chair seats and back can be easily removed by undoing the screws holding them in place.

Elegant options

There are three ways to recover the card tabletop, and all involve stripping the current cover and any padding below it.

The new top can be made from fabric — any home decor material provides a durable surface and prints or solids abound at the fabric store. Most decorator fabrics are 54 inches wide and some are pretreated with stain-resistant finishes; a few are laminated with a lightweight vinyl covering.

If you need more protection, consider covering the new fabric topper with clear vinyl for easy-wipe cleaning. Vinyl comes in several weights and a 4- or 6-gauge weight molds easily around tabletop corners; heavier weights tend to form pleats at any curved edges, especially if your table is round. When purchasing vinyl at the fabric store, ask that it be rolled (not folded) to avoid permanent wrinkles.

Protective vinyl can also be purchased as an iron-on application, but the narrower width and cost make it a less than desirable option for tabletop purposes.

The third way to update your tabletop is to cover it with a ready-made vinyl tablecloth. Often less expensive than buying yardage and vinyl separately, these toppers offer a light fleece backing for a little built-in padding (though you can add another layer if desired). They’re easy to wipe clean and come in myriad decorator patterns.

Easy add-ons

If you recover your table with only fabric, it’s good to add some extra protection by spraying the new surface with Scotchgard or another stain-resistant spray. The spray should be applied after the table is redone but before its first use.

Most tables offer a light padding below the actual covering, both for comfort and durability. Look for lightweight cotton batting at the fabric store to put under the new decorator topper.

What you’ll need

• Fabric and/or vinyl to fit the top, plus 3 inches all around

• Lightweight batting or foam padding

• Screwdriver

• Staple gun and staples shorter than the thickness of the table top

• Scissors

• Temporary spray adhesive

• Iron (for fabric topper only)

• Hot glue gun and glue (optional)

Getting started

Remove the original table top and stow the screws in a safe place for reuse.

Pull off the original topper and any padding below it and discard.

Measure the tabletop and purchase the new covering and padding.

Covering up

Press any fold lines or wrinkles in the new topper material if it’s fabric. Do not press vinyl as it will melt.

Lay the new padding flat on a large work surface. Place the table top on the padding and trace around it. Trim even with the table edges.

Spray the tabletop with temporary adhesive and smooth the padding into place.

Lay the new covering material face down on the work surface.

Spray the padding surface with temporary adhesive and place it face down on the wrong side of the covering material.

Trim the new cover about 3 inches beyond the perimeter of the padded top. If your covering is a geometric print, align the patterning with the table edges to avoid having things look askew.

Working from opposite sides, staple (or glue) the new covering to the tabletop underside, pulling it tautly over the padded surface. Ease the topper around any curves and/or corners to avoid making pleats.

Continue working your way around the entire tabletop, securing the covering tautly over the base. Trim any extra covering material on the underside, close to the staples or glue line.

If you’re covering the tabletop with vinyl, attach the base fabric first, then repeat the process with the vinyl.

Reattach the tabletop to the frame using the original screws.


If your table frame needs a bit of sprucing up to go with the new topper, follow these simple steps to repaint it before reinstalling the table top.

Thoroughly wash the frame to remove any dirt or loose paint. Remove any rubber leg tips.

Use steel wool or fine sandpaper to prime the surface and remove any rust.

Select a spray paint designed for use on metal.

Outside, or on a protected surface, spray the entire frame and allow it to dry. Apply a second coat if needed, being careful to avoid drip marks.

For added protection, apply a clear spray finish over the new paint.

On chairs, where the screws are visible, spray the screw heads to match the new color.

— Reporter: