We put a glass top on our wooden kitchen table

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table

This summer, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary by getting a new kitchen table and chairs. (Romantic, isn’t it?) We were actually long overdue for upgrading this, as we were still using the table I got in college — an oak table bought on clearance from Wickes Furniture in 1995. Chairs from Sam’s Club purchased a few years later became a “close enough” match to the table.

old table

We never did anything special to protect the old oak table, and the finish lifted and wore with use. Over the years, joints in the Windsor-style chairs loosened, and some broke. We repaired chairs and considered stripping and refinishing the tabletop.  Eventually, talk turned to simply replacing the set with something new, especially a larger table that would give five of us more room to sit around it.

After visiting a few furniture stores in the area, we picked out a dining room set at Carson’s Furniture that the entire family loved. A week later, we were all swooning over the bigger table and sturdy chairs that didn’t creak and squeak! We love the look of this set’s black-and-tan style — our kitchen has black cabinetry, and the new set really brought our entire kitchen together.

Whenever you have something new that you’ve invested some money in, aren’t you inclined to try to keep it as nice and new-looking for as long as possible? It took more than twenty years for my old oak table to really look worn out, but no one wanted to put the first scratch or dent in the wood of this new table either.

We discussed getting a piece of glass cut for the tabletop, and I called around to several local glass shops. The least expensive (Herb’s Glass in Elgin, Illinois) was $181 for annealed glass and $324 for tempered. The glass shop explained that annealed glass was better for a tabletop, and that was more budget-friendly too. The glass shop’s edge-polishing machine was being repaired, and they said to get in touch in a few weeks.

The weeks went by, and everyone in the house was babying our new table. The kids were putting magazines under their homework papers to avoid digging pens and pencils into the wood when writing. We bought washable cotton placemats to put on the table whenever we were eating in order to protect it. Check out this photo from my son’s birthday:

birthday

We were constantly worried about making the first scratch or nick in the table. I remember sitting around the new table with our extended family, all of who were complimenting the new table and chairs. I mentioned we were thinking of putting a glass top on, and my aunt commented that it seemed a shame to cover up such a beautiful wood surface. Indeed, the natural look of wood is part of the reason to get a wood table, isn’t it?

And then, it happened.

tablenick

The crazy thing is, no one in the house knows how this happened. Worse, this little fingernail-size dent is right in front of my seat at the table. I swear I didn’t do it! This little dent looks much worse in the photo than it does in person, but it was the decision point for us — we would order the glass top.

table use

Perhaps it would be different if we had both a kitchen table and a dining room table, but our kitchen table gets used every day. We eat all our meals at it, and occasionally, silverware gets dropped and beverages get spilled. Our children do their homework and art projects on this table. Halloween pumpkins get carved. Pinewood Derby cars get painted. I use it for sewing projects and electronics projects. Life happens at our kitchen table.

We ordered the glass.  Part of the reason this glass shop has the lowest prices in the area is that they do not deliver, and you must pick your orders up. I would guess neither my husband nor I hadn’t driven as slowly and carefully as we did with that giant piece of glass as we did the day we brought our babies home from the hospital..!

I had done some reading about the pros and cons of laying the glass directly on the tabletop versus using clear plastic glass spacers to put some airspace between the wood and the glass. Several woodworking websites I read pointed out the need for air flow under the glass to prevent the wood surface from warping or cracking with seasonal and humidity expansion and contraction. Other links recommended felt spacers over plastic so that the plastic spacers do not bond to the wood’s finish underneath. (There’s another link about the risks of this here.)  

The glass shop gave us enough plastic spacers to use, and we prefer the nearly-invisible clear look of them, so we used them. We are planning to move the glass spacers every few months so they aren’t stuck in exactly the same places indefinitely. 

This brings me to my next, surprising issue. I naively thought that a glass top would keep the wood surface completely clean, but strangely, food crumbs do gather in the space between the wood and the glass:

table crumbs

(How does this happen? Really!) Our new table is beautiful, but crumbs under the edge of the glass are not. While we could move the glass and clean them out, the glass weighs close to a hundred pounds, and it’s not the easiest thing for one person to move alone. Here’s what I’ve been doing to get the crumbs out:

crumb brush

I’ve been using the brush attachment for our vacuum cleaner (it’s very soft, not scratchy) and working the edge of the brush under the glass. It wiggles the crumbs loose and sucks them up. Voila!

I thought I’d share our experience with my readers, as this is exactly the kind of information I was looking for when we were deciding whether or not to glass-top our wood table. If I had it to do over again, I would consider having the glass cut 1/4″ wider than the tabletop to help keep the crumb-collection to a minimum. As it is now, though, the tabletop is cut exactly to match the dimensions of the table, and we’re really happy with it.

our table

I also love being able to wash the table, something I rarely did with our old wood table. Water is no friend to a wood finish, but I can wipe the glass down after meals with a dishcloth, hot water and dish detergent. A little Windex makes it spotless! Beverage spills don’t run into the cracks between the table’s leaves. 

I don’t expect the glass to continue to look perfect — glass can easily be scratched too, but at least the wood has more protection now. We do still use the cotton placemats with meals as it helps reduce the sound of plates, glasses and silverware clinking on the glass.

Our college-age daughter is also happy. After claiming dibs on our old couch earlier this year for her future apartment, guess who’s claimed a “new” (old!) kitchen table and chairs for her place too? 

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Comments

  1. Mandy says

    I’ve had a glass top on our kitchen table for nearly 40 years. They told me not to use spacers, so I didn’t. I’ve never had a problem and the glass is cut to size and the tabletop is veneer. The top looks as pretty today as it did the day they delivered it. They did tell me to be careful about hot and cold, as it could cause sweat to trap between the glass. When I serve hot soup, or very cold dishes, I use insulated trivets at each place setting when I serve. I’m using the same set of trivets I bought at Kmart almost 40 years ago too. My only problem after all these years is that the chairs are starting to need repair in the glue joints. Your set is really beautiful. I just really wanted to warn you about the temperature problems and let you know how our glass top worked for us.

    • says

      Mandy, 40 years is impressive! That is really great to know, as I am just not sure, long-term, which way would be better (spacers or none.) For now, ours are in, but I’m thinking of taking them out. This table is solid wood – it’s a butcher-block style construction of many pieces blocked together. We do still use potholders or trivets on top of the glass as I know about the danger of extreme temperature changes with it. Thanks for the compliments on the set too — we love it. So much that I didn’t bother posting a photo of the shape the old set was in :)

  2. hammars says

    You could probably use a straw to push the crumbs out too. I use a straw to push the tiny bugs out between my glass patio table and its frame. It was the only thing I could think of that would flatten out and be flexible.

  3. DJ says

    Gorgeous table! I love the idea of protecting your investment. Considering that keys or other hard objects might bump that glass top eventually, as well as the cost involved, what are your thoughts on Plexiglass? Not sure it’d look nearly as nice as the glass though.

    • says

      The biggest issue with Plexiglas, I think, is that it scratches SO easily. Even sliding papers across it can create little swirl marks. I think setting hot items on it would be an issue too because it could melt. We still use trivets and potholders on the glass top, but the glass is also thicker than Plexiglas would be.

      On the upside, Plexiglas is a lot lighter in weight than glass, and I think it would cost less. It also bends, so putting spacers under it likely wouldn’t keep the Plexiglas entirely off the surface of the table, as the rest of it would bow down.

  4. shirley says

    I bought a 1/2 ” thick table pad to put over our dinning table. I hesitated not to get one at the beginning because it costs over $200 for it but it is totally worth it. My chairs on the other hand did not have a cover on it and they all have scratch marks.

  5. Aileen says

    What about pone of those little craft pipe cleaners for getting the crumbs out? I have a coffee and end tables that we recently purchased and we have been rolling these thoughts around. Leaning more towards putting glass on all tables but now the question is to space or not to space? lol lol
    Thanks enjoyed your posting.

  6. Chris says

    The problem I have is after a few months of having glass on the table you can see old rings from dishes. I took the glass off and the wood table is fine but the other side of the glass has rings.

  7. Dan says

    Hi Jill, great article! I’m about to add glass to my kitchen table and a desk and had a question, did you go with regular glass or tempered glass? I’ve done some research and have seen pros and cons of each. My local glass guy has recommended 1/4″ regular glass but gave tempered glass as an option. What did you end up going with?

    • says

      We went with annealed glass. The glass shop we used said they typically use annealed for tabletop glass. They also had tempered, but the tempered was about $150 more than the price of the annealed piece we purchased.

  8. Rita Lombardi says

    Thank you for such a great informative article. It has helped me in making my decision to protect my dining room table.

  9. LINda says

    Wondering if you ever considered plexiglass? Was trying to cover my table as well to keep the kids from damaging it.

    • says

      I never really considered it — plexiglas scratches SO easily. Plus, it bends easily, and I was concerned about the plastic surface bonding to and damaging the finish of the wood underneath if plastic was in constant contact with it.

      Grab a sample of it and beat it up in your kitchen, normal-style — drop silverware, dishes, keys on it, write on top of it with pen and markers, spill nail polish on it — do all of the things that might happen to it when it’s on the table (with kids!) See how durable it is under normal wear & tear.

      Glass scratches too, but it’s a lot more durable and scratch-resistant than plexiglas. It’s been about a year since we put the glass on top of our table, and we have a few scratches on the surface of the glass now, but they’re not terrible — and if whatever made these marks scratched the glass, they certainly would have scratched the wood too:

  10. says

    An obvious solution to a common problem! I too love the look of a wood table and didn’t want to have to baby it. I also never wanted a glass table again, but I bought one anyway! I sure wish I had read your article before making that purchase!

  11. MoMo Rodriguez says

    Excellent article! Thank you so much for your valuable information. I am in the planning stages of buying a glass table top cover and this article helped tremendously!

  12. VM says

    Thanks for the detail your table looks nice, I was looking online for ideas to put a glass top on my dining table, I am considering using 3 M double sided transparent tape on the edges to avoid having any gap between glass and the wood and to give the glass and wood some separation. Wonder if its a good idea.

    • says

      I would worry about the tape lifting the finish off the wood.

      We move the glass about once a month on our table to clean it — I don’t take it off entirely, just slide it to one side, then the other. We are still using the little clear dots to separate the glass from the table, and I just move the positions of the dots each time we move the glass.

      • VM says

        Thank you for your feedback, we got the glass top and had it 1/4 inch wider than the table and have transparent silicon buttons places under. I was worried that the glass would slide, however with the weight of glass it does not slide easily. with the glass the wood grains also look awesome. Its looking great thanks to you )

        • says

          Glad to hear it’s working out for you! Getting the glass slightly larger than the tabletop is the one thing, in retrospect, that I’d have done differently to avoid getting so many crumbs under the glass. Good luck with it :)

  13. v clark says

    thank you so much for this article you answered all my questions through the article and the comments. i know exactly what i will do now

  14. Glenda says

    Getting a glass top for a pub style kitchen table (wood)…..are the spacers recommended? I was not thinking I needed them…….is there ever an issue of that glass cleaner somehow seeping under glass?
    I know that a a silly question….but curious.

    • says

      I did so much reading about this, and the jury really seems to be out on whether or not it is necessary. As I noted above, we did decide to use the spacers.

      We never get glass cleaner seeping under the glass, but I spray it in the middle and then wipe with a paper towel. If someone spills a beverage near the edge of the table, it CAN seep under the glass. With the spacers in, it’s pretty easy to slip the edge of a paper towel into that space though and “suck” the spill out from the gap.

  15. Jill says

    Is there a problem if one was to bevel edge the glass and do so if the glass was a quarter inch larger than table top?

    • says

      I myself would be concerned about chipping the edge if it was a full bevel that hung over the edge a bit, but it’s up to you. Do you have children who might accidentally push their chairs into the table with force? (We do :)

  16. Jill says

    It doesn’t take children to push chairs into the edge, grown ups are good at it too!!! Maybe just the correct size and forget the extension. The looks of Bevel Glass is just so classy. I don’t know, would have to think on it. Has anyone done a beveled edge on a dining room table ?

  17. Lauri says

    We have a great oak table that we covered with glass last year because the finish was getting ruined. I wish I had know about spacers because we have areas where it looks like there is moisture, the wood looks whitish. I’m going to have to get spacers and try to move this huge piece of glass😩 Thanks for the information!

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