How do you protect your dining table?

cambro5September 8, 2008

My parents have downsized and given me their beautiful cherry dining table. My mother has always had a table pad covering this table with a tablecloth over that. This table was the center of activity in our home growing up and it still looks beautiful because she protected it! Now that I have it, I am hesitant to use the table pad because I don't really like tablecloths and the table is so beautiful I want to be able to see it!! Plus, we don't use our dining room as much.

How do you all protect your dining tables? Does anyone use table pads?

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Leave mine open -- and rarely use cloths -- except for decorative "changes" or for parties.

I do use Williamsville Wax on it (very old Scots table made of tiger oak)

Here is a link that might be useful: HF Staples -- Williamsville Wax

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:00AM
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Dining room table has table pads - put on only when eating.
Kitchen table has a glass top - on all the time.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:11AM
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We have Stickley mission oak in our dining room and breakfast room, and while they're very nice pieces I don't worry much about protecting them. I'd much rather enjoy the beauty of the wood than cover them up in an effort to "save" 'em. ;-) And disgustingly enough, my tables usually have a cat or two planted firmly on top of them (I've tried to keep them off, but a person just gets tired of shooing after awhile).

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:11AM
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ROFLMAO, AuntJen!!!!
I use placemats with mine, as we eat there most every night for dinner and for breakfasts on the weekends. I have lots and lots of placemats as I dislike tablecloths (for my table, not anyone else's).

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:18AM
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I also inherited my parent's dining table. I had to have the top refinished and then I had a piece of thick glass made for it. It works out beautifully, because you can throw a tablecloth on for holidays and such without a mat underneath.
I keep a runner UNDER the glass year round and it looks great. We don't have an eat in kitchen, so we use this table for all meals, bill paying, etc. Just some windex after each use and it always looks great.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:24AM
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I do plan to get placemats and maybe a couple of table cloths to use when we do eat in there. But let me clarify, by table mats I mean the custom mats that cover the entire table - felt on one side, vinyl or whatever on top with a heat resistant core.

I am with you, auntjen, I enjoy the beauty of the wood too much to cover it up!(and I don't have to worry about cats....although if you know how to keep a dog off a sofa...!!!)

Thanks for the link, teacat, I'll check it out!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:28AM
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declansmom, I hadn't thought of glass - was it very expensive?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:06PM
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I bought Nathan Hale furniture 15 years ago b4 they went out of business, always kept custom table pad & cloth on it. The trestle showed, chairs and china were enough oak for the room(esp. with light maple floor). But movers took pad off, then used table as a work surface to wrap other things. Why they took the pad off first I'll never know - now I've got scrapes in the lacquer that won't buff out. Don't want to refinish it, so I plan on just keeping pad/cloth on it, when my kids inherit it they can enjoy the "patina" LOL!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:11PM
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My table needs to be better protected.. I use placemats and well, is dust protective??

I don't have cats but the day I adopted Grace, I walked in to find her standing on a chair with front feet on the table... and a big ol grin. Nothing like a 110lb rottweiler at the table (though she was 73lb back then). This was one of two reasons why she was named "Grace".

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:31PM
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We just purchased a new set that came with pads. I too want to see the wood, so I've decided to use the pads only when eating at the table, which is only a handful of times per year. And absolutely table cloths only when eating - that's one of the many reasons we bought new - I hated seeing a tablecloth on a daily basis. No cats here.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 1:40PM
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My cats have also taken over my dining room table. I used to have pads and a tablecloth on it, but I don't bother anymore because they're just fur collectors. I put the pads on when we actually do eat on it.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 1:46PM
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cambro5...This was about 10 years ago. It is a large table (not sure of dimensions), and I recall the glass being just under $100.00.....very good investment as far as I'm concerned.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 1:55PM
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ditto Aunt Jen and Teacats. Basically I don't protect it. I have an old oak table in the dining room with beautiful patina. It does not have the laquered finish. The table is not used daily, but often and I've never used a table pad. I too like the wood to show. I also use a wax on mine (occasionally), but I cannot think of the name. It's something I buy at an antique shop - it may be Howard's brand.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 2:42PM
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Right now, while my teenage son still uses the dining table regularly for projects (including glue guns. . .), the dining table is being protected with a pad and table cloth. (He likes to use the dining room table because the kitchen table often has teenager stuff on it that gets in his way.)

Our kitchen table, on the other hand, is protected only by placemats. If you turn your head just so, you can see every check we have written at home-- engraved into the wood.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:10PM
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My dining room table top was marred, but I wanted to new finsh anyway so I did a faux quartz finish on it then had a thick glass top cut, with beveled edges, have those disc spacers under glass top, here's a pic. oh and mine cost $200 about
10 yrs. ago..

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:13PM
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I've got the same problem cambro. I have a older table with parquet inlay on top. I used it once with just a tablecloth & there were a couple of places that got wet and left white marks on the wood. So I have been experimenting with covers since then.

My mother had table pads on her Duncan Phyffe for over 50 years & then had glass made for it. I never cared for the pads when I was growing up, but liked the glass even less. I didn't like the noise of silverware & china clinking on it when there were a lot of people eating.

I have tried vinyl tablecloths under my fabric cloth & it is ok but is hard to line up so it doesn't show on one edge or the other.

I'll be reading this thread with interest.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:13PM
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I guess I'm in a different camp. I think tables are to be used and don't find a few scratches in the surface to be difficult to look at. My Duncan Phyffe is gorgeous, and I love the look of the wood, but I wouldn't put a glass top on it (too much like eating at a restaurant and yes...I don't like that noise). It has had the top cleaned and a new layer of varnish added (I know because I did it) but I didn't try to take the total finish off. Its an antique and looks loved, but not abused. If your guests aren't carving their initials into it, why cover it?

I use placemats when we're eating, but I'd never use a cloth and I'd certainly not want my pretty table covered with a pad when not in use, because I want to see it.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:22PM
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My dining room table? You mean the one with the word "Titanic" etched into it? No, it didn't survive the wreck. DS did a school report a few years back, without a pad underneath the paper, and now we have a permanent reminder. Since DS left for college, it's a nice little memory I see every time I dust, and it actually makes me smile. Count me in with the "tables are to be used" group.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:49PM
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happytobehome, my kitchen table has my dd's name partially carved into it. I don't remember now if she was writing too hard without a pad, or if she did it on purpose. That table is well used and needs to be refinished, but I'll never use a cover on it.

I would do the same with the dining table if it weren't for those dad-burned water marks. I can live with little scratches, but a big white ring bugs me, and it takes several rounds of mayo to get them out.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:57PM
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I don't cover mine either. I do have a runner but that is just for decorative purposes. I like to see the wood.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 4:35PM
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I'm with igloochic, my dining table has never had any protection, not even place mats. Of course I made it myself, so maybe I can be more cavalier with it than someone who bought theirs for $2000.

It's got a few dents and several deep scratches. I remember DD, then about 3, pounding on the table with a fork or pen or something and leaving those scratches. I just smiled at the time and thought to myself "that's going to leave a mark". And it did, and I still enjoy seeing those marks 9 years later.

Here's a photo in case you're thinking I made it for $50 from home depot 2x4's. It's all maple with ribbon inlay around the border and inlaid olive ash and walnut burls in the center. It's unfortunately going to be retired this year for one that better suits the new house.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 4:49PM
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Oh, I agree that a table is to be used! The oak table we had prior to this (which I bought cheap and never really liked) was never covered and we have rarely used placemat/tablecloth - and the top isn't pristine but it is in pretty good shape! (Coming to NH Craig's list soon... LOL). But my mom's table is different just because I know it is worth a lot more and because my mom has kept it so well! For now, I have a runner and candles, etc., for decoration. When we eat on it I will figure out what to do - in the summer we tend to eat on the old table in the sunroom! So the table is safe for now....!! :-)

So many great responses.

I hadn't thought about the sounds a glass cover would make. I don't think I would like that...

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 4:57PM
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I am with the use it and enjoy it camp.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 5:26PM
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Since we're in the glue, crayon and marker stage, I would not get much "enjoyment" out of the "use" of my dining room table if I didn't leave it covered with something I could scrub with a scratchy pad and spray with the occasional household solvent. :) So, I leave the table pads on at all times. Hoping when the kids get older to finally see the lovely table underneath once again, but I'm not holding my breath for that moment. :)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 6:38PM
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I am curious if you are referring to a formal dining room table or a kitchen "everyday" dining table. Our formal cherry dining room table I only cover when we are having a holiday and using it. 12 years ago, DH ruined the top when we were moving, he decided to dismantle the grandfather clock because he didnt trust the professional movers. He laid the pendilum on the dining table. He put a towel down but somehow a 8 inch scratch ended up on my beautiful table. I have never gotten around to getting it involves having the whole table refinished:( Our kitchen table is solid stained oak, passed down from his family. 9 years ago we had it refinished. I wanted to get a piece of glass made for it and let the refinisher talk me out of it. Now, the top is all scratched from the DH sliding his dish out of the way. He has a habit of ruining things!!! I wish I had a glass top made for the kitchen table. The refinisher had told me not to because heat would be trapped under the glass and ruin the wood. Or, a drink spill could get under it. Why did I listen to him, I would have removed the glass if a spill ended up under it.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 9:28PM
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IMO, if you cover it with anything, it's like having plastic furniture covers. When my MIL died, we discarded huge amounts of stuff with tags still on it, that she was "saving for good". She didn't enjoy any of it while she was alive, and we donated it to charity when she was gone. Use the table. What are you saving it for? So what if it shows signs of living. Life is good.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 8:13AM
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I had to have this discussion with DH when we bought our table. It is cherry, very pretty and we use it all day, every day. He said we should cover it to protect it. I said that then we'd never get to see it at all, in any condition.

I do use placemats (the Pimpernel ones) and try to get a trivet under hot dishes. But, the tiny impressions of homework assignments past do remain. Happytobehome, that is a very sweet story. My DD started high school yesterday and she is away about 12 hours a day. I am already feeling college looming. I will embrace whatever dings and dents she creates in the next few years!

Chiefneil that is simply amazing. Would be a crime to cover that work of art!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 9:32AM
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valzone, your story hits home!! When my brother brought the table (he helped my parents with their move and loaded up a trailer with stuff for himself, me, and my sister!) he went on and on about protecting it, but I told him it is such a shame to hide it.

It is a very simple table, not the typical type of cherry table you imagine, no Queen Ann legs, ultra formal. And I do want to be able to see it!

One of the reasons I took the table when my parents offered it to me was the memories I have of all the time we spent at that table - and there was a lot. But it was always covered and I don't need scratches and dings to remind me!

I have really enjoyed everyone's stories and advice!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 10:48AM
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We're in the "don't cover it up" camp. We've had our mission style dining room table for about 10 years and its survived through many projects and meals. Up until a week ago, it was our primary table. I just ordered a second smaller table for our new nook. Based on my experience with the first table, we went with quartersawn white oak again. I won't be covering it either. As long as the wood is nice (not a veneer), I think the patina is wonderful.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 10:56AM
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I try not to cook, and if they don't have anything to eat, then they can't hurt it.

Seriously, I have an antique Shaker table and I use it everyday, every meal, with a liner and a cloth.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 1:27PM
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GK5040, you might try some Restore a finish on your table to remove the scratches. That has to be frustrating, to pay to have it refinihsed, then have it messed up so soon. Sounds like time to take a hard line with the DH and tell him to pick up his plate!

I have had a couple of antique tables (from the 20's) over the last 10 or so years, so the tables came after the kids were teens. Also, like many, we use the dining table for social meals and the kitchen set at all other times, includeing when they had homework. But while I do a tablecloth for dinners, all the rest of the time there is nothing on it except whatever centerpiece I am using. Right now, it's a mercury glass tray with a couple of little African Violets in pots on the tray.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 4:50PM
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my distressed chestnut table is protected by a thick layer of the sunday papers,mail,magazines and a cat or two. works perfectly!!!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 7:16PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

We bought a new table this year. I considered it expensive. We use it all the time. The 4 kids are generally required to use their placemats for eating and anything that involves markers. I would like to get some of the custom table pads for times when I use my nice vintage tablecloths (not often). I have scratches on it from the 1 1/2-year-old pounding on it with some utensil. I really wanted an antique but I have to say that I love this lacquer finish on it because so far I have been able to remove dry erase marker (normally lethal to everything except white boards) and crayon from it's surface. We do have scratches in the surface but I figure that within another couple of years the 4 kiddoes will see to it that they are distributed evenly.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 12:05AM
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We have a gorgeous cherry formal dining table that is always covered with a pad and tablecloth because -- like others, my cat thinks it is his. and yes, I wash the tablecloth before eating there!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 9:15AM
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