Contact paper on desks and tables

I know I have mentioned covering my tables with contact paper before, but I've had some more questions about this and wanted to share a bit about what works and what doesn' case you'd like to try it out. :)

I've been covering my desks and tables with various shades of contact paper for about 3 or 4 years now. I wanted a way to make the different pieces of furniture in my room a bit more uniform. What I didn't realize at the time was what a huge impact it would make on the overall look of the room!

Here's a before picture from early this summer...

And an after picture (this was right after the tables were covered)...

My lovely bff sister helps me do this each summer.

Actually, let me rephrase that in case she reads this tonight.

My sister does the bulk of the contact-papering while I'm running around like a nut hot gluing labels, making lists, and what not.

Perhaps she should be writing this post to you! Hang on. Nope, I just asked her, but she politely declined (she's a teacher, but not really into blogging. I'm trying to persuade her!).

But she does want me to tell you the following things are important, should you attempt the contact paper:
  • No jewelry (especially rings)
  • Shorter fingernails are easier than long (she's into nails big-time).
  • Smooth the paper down lightly...makes it easier to lift it up again if you don't like how it's coming out.
  • Smooth the paper down with a side-to-side motion (like your hands are meeting in the middle and moving away from each other...that's totally clear I'm sure, haha!).

We've (she's) also learned over the years that smaller sections are easier to work with than larger ones. So if you are covering a long table, it is easier to place multiple sections overlapping one another in the short direction...rather than a huge long piece running the length of the table.

So you will have some seams and they might not look perfectly straight. We (um, she) goes nuts about this and likes them to look perfect (you see, the type-A-ness runs deep in our family) but I really don't mind the overlap...

You can never see it once everything is covered and the room is done anyways.

Here are some other questions I've been asked about the contact paper:

How do you get it to go on smoothly?

The best way we've found is what my sister said above (to press lightly and smooth side to side). I also learned this summer that you can use a little thumbtack to push holes and smooth out any air under the paper. I only do this on the big wrinkles, I promise...even I have my limits of patience for this project.

Does the contact paper stay on well?

Once it's down, it stays on great on the overall surface. It's the edges you'll have to be careful of. We've been using electrical tape for the edges for years now. The upside? It looks really slick and finishes off the contact paper edge nicely. The downside? It can be very pickable...sigh

Which leads us to the next question...

Do the kids pick at the paper?

So, I do model how to take care of our beautiful desks and tables and the importance of not picking at that enticing tape, but kids are kids...

To curb the picking this year, we decided not to have the tape so overlappy on the desk/table edge (you can see a big black border on the blue contact paper above).

Instead, we thought if the contact paper itself wrapped under the desk edge, and the electrical tape was flush with the desk/tabletop, it would prevent this from happening.

And it has!!! You can kind of see what I mean here...the tape does not go onto the top of the table, just meets the top edge...

Maybe you can see it better here...

I'm happy to say my tables are in fabulous shape this year! Not one scrap of electrical tape has been picked at so far (knock on wood...or contact paper!).

Where do you get the contact paper?

Ok, here's where you'll think I'm really strange. Or perhaps not, those of you who have known me for awhile. I've searched all over and have tried a bunch of different shades of paper over the years--and I've only used actual contact paper for the royal blue and black colors you've seen above.

The blue and black (and some other primary shades) can be found for a great price at Discount School Supply. They come in these really large rolls too.

The shades of blue I used a few years back (sorry, I can't find any pics of those without students in them) were vinyl paper, rather than contact paper. I found this really cool site that has a zillion different shades of vinyl...Sign Warehouse. This store is great and the paper was gorgeous, but it was a bit harder to clean off than the typical contact paper.

This year, I used vinyl that is meant for kitchen or bathroom countertops. I found it in a little hardware store and loved how it looked nice and bright, but had some texture. It looks almost just like those really nice desks and tables you see in classroom furniture stores online (you can see a closeup here):

Do you peel the contact paper off each year?

Usually I do, since I like to switch color schemes and the paper has kind of had it by the end of the year. I'm not too sure if I will replace my current paper this year has held up so nicely and I love it. But who knows, I love to try new things!

Well, I think that's everything my sister and I know about contact paper on desks and tables! Have you ever tried this? Would you ever try it? Thanks for reading! :)


  1. Kristen, it looks so good!!! You're sister is soooooooooo good!
    I wish I had someone helping me out!!!

    ❤ Mor Zrihen ❤
    A Teacher's Treasure

  2. Yes, I would totally try this but I'd like to enlist your sister for help. Or maybe YOUR sister could have a tutorial with MY sister so that I could run around making lists and hot gluing things, too.
    Your classroom is BEAUTIFUL. I am always in awe of it. I have some of my whiteboards stored in a magazine file holder that way, too, but it's cardboard and brown. Now I'd like a blue wire one. Thank you for that. :)
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  3. That's a cool idea! I have done it with my old desk years ago and some other odd and end furniture hand-me-downs...but yours looks WAY better! I have desks (not tables), so I don't know what the old principal would say to that! lol
    First Grade Blue SKies

  4. Great idea! I make sure to cover my pencil boxes with contact paper each year, but never thought to cover the tables. Food for thought for sure!


  5. Your room is so neat, clean, and organized! I need to get it together!

  6. I love it! Thanks very very much for the directions, Kristen. I'm nervous about trying it out, but I'm going to suck it up like a big girl and give it a whirl.
    Grade ONEderful

  7. I have never tried using contact paper. It actually kind of scares me to be honest. I think I need to hire your sister to come to Kansas and do my tables!! :)

  8. This is absolutely fantastic! It really makes those "U-G-L-Y" brown, depressing tables look clean and happy:) I so wish I knew of this idea when I was in the classroom! But then again...I am still having way too much trouble putting that contact paper in my own kitchen drawers. I try so hard to put in on perfect, so I think a table would overwhelm me! My husband gets tired of my perfectionist side and just slaps it on...bubbles and on. Sorry about the babbling...this idea is way cool! I MAY try this when I go back to the classroom. Your tidy! LOVE it!

  9. This is so great! When I first started teaching I used to contact paper the large "airplane" desks that I had. Does anyone remember those? They seated two students with a shelf in between. Man, they just dont' make things like they used to...oh well.

    Thanks for reminding me of how great this looks. I think I'll look into your vinyl, though. It looks so professional!

    Also, thanks for all of the inspiration for the last year. You are one of the reasons that I have started blogging myself.


    Fun in Room 4B

  10. It also works on the walls! I put some contact paper on the cinder blocks (after weekends of trying all types of tape to hold up the bulletin board paper that kept falling down), and my word wall looks great! I also haven't had to climb up on the counter to keep the word wall up!

    :) Kaitlyn

  11. You make me laugh with every post. :) Very informative.

    Ms. M
    Ms.M's Blog
    A Teacher's Plan

  12. WOW. That is awesome. Never would have thought of that! I was lucky enough for my desks this year to have all the same tops (color of brown, I guess), but even so, this would look so great! Except it would take me forever. Wonder what my room mom helpers would think if I asked them to contact paper all the surfaces in my room? HA!

  13. Before I try it I have to ask...does it peel off at the end of the year easily??? :)

  14. Do you know about how many rolls you used? I have 6 tables to cover?

  15. When you peel it off, does it leave a sticky residue that you have to clean like a maniac to get off??? That would be the ONE thing to deter me from trying this. Otherwise, I'd LOVE to give it a try! :)

    WILD About First Grade!

  16. Great idea! I covered my kidney table with shower board and have thought about doing the same thing with the ugly brown student tables, but this sounds a lot more affordable! How does it hold up to crayon and pencil marks? I can see how my kindergarten kids would destroy the contact paper with all of their supplies. Thanks for the great idea!

  17. I love this! I have a depressingly miss matched classroom that will now get a much needed face lift! Do you stick things to the tops of the table? I replace name tags every 6 weeks (attached with clear contact paper) and I am wondering how that would hold up on top of the covered table tops.
    Here's hoping I don't go nuts covering everything! Thanks!!!

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  19. You inspired me and I have been adding some contact covered pieces throughout the school year. So much thanks!

    I also wanted to share an idea that was a spin off of the blue contact paper. Each nine weeks, I get to pick one boy and one girl to be my Good Citizen. I wanted my students who were picked to have some reward in the room. So I found silver contact paper at Lowe's (the kind used to cover old appliances to look stainless steel) and covered their desks calling them platinum for their platinum behavior. Everyone who walks into my room asks about them and the kids LOVE them. Quite the motivation to be a good citizen to get your desk transformed to platinum.

    So thanks for inspiring me!

  20. I am going to try this in my craft room to make a folding table look great. My only concern is cutting the corners. I don't want the fabric to catch on it

  21. I ran with your idea and covered my UGLY cabinets. I can say that they are turning out nicely. Thank you for the wonderful idea!!!!!

  22. Just revisiting this post for some inspiration . . . you know. Because of my table situation.
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  23. Can you tell me what the stuff was that you covered your tables with was called? I've seen one that you paint on by Rustoleum, but it sounds like you stuck it on like contact paper. I have searched online and can't seem to find anything that you don't paint on. I would love to do this, I have the same brown tables you do and was thinking I'd have to paint them, this sounds like a way better option.

  24. You are very students want to pick at their name tags constantly. I am not sure if I would try the contact paper, despite how very nice yours lo0ks! Great job!!

  25. Thank you for the inspiration! I now have spiffy looking tables that I've gotten lots of compliments on. Check out my blog post on the transformation.

    Upper Grades Are Awesome

  26. I can say that they are turning out nicely. Thank you for the wonderful idea!!!!!
    Hotel furniture

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  28. What a brilliant idea! I am moving to a new room next year, which has horribly mismatched furniture and grimy grey desks. That just will not do with my spangly new colour scheme! Just a quick question, do you know if the paper (if I get white) could also function as a drywipe board? That would be amazing!

    Sorry About The Mess But...

    1. Hi Claire, I think it should work, my sister used smaller pieces of white contact paper for that reason this year, she's at and can give you more info if you'd like :)

  29. This is a great idea! I have mismatched tables also because I just got moved to a different grade level and they had to open this classroom and had to pull a bunch of leftover furniture for me. :( But anyways can you please help me find contact paper like yours?? This is the closest I've found online but I don't think it's quite like yours... Please let me know if there is a link to something like what you have. thanks!

  30. Kristin - I read your blog for the first time while sitting in my classroom this summer, anticipating another 100 8th graders in language arts classes in the 2013-14 season. Some place on you blog I read about using panel board from Home Depot as whiteboards. Well, I used them to cover my nine 30" X 60" student tables, securing them with black Duct Tape and black contact paper. Now, students can write DOL, sentence frames, positive notes or quotes on their desks without getting into trouble! I decided to go with a Gothic shabby chic look of black & white, since I love Edgar Allan Poe ( I even have a Poe action figure). Resin planters hold table supplies, and black glittery foam board chandeliers hang from the ceiling. I found the chandeliers on Oriental Trading Co for $6.25 each. My students love the eye-appealing room and are ready to write! Thanks, for all the great ideas. Amy

  31. Reading this blog has been very helpful. I teach threes at a day care that has been in business for 45years. The tables are made of natural wood that is chipping. I was considering using contact paper to cover so that we could finger paint without staining the table. Thanks for the advice.

  32. I saw a picture on a blog from a school in Georgia where the kids where writing on the table itself with white board markers, and it looks like they were papered. Have you tried that, because I thought that would be nice my group table for math workshop? (I scanned thru your past comments to see if anyone asked a similar question, but if this is a repeat, mea culpa.)

    1. Hi Bobbie,

      I actually haven't tried that before, though I've seen people who have. I hope it works out for you if you try it! :)

  33. Does the Contact Paper come off fairly easily? I just got my first classroom today and it's dreary and depressing. My desk is from the 60's and in bad shape. I'd love to cover it, but it has to be able to come off - not sure why, anything I'd do to it is bound to be an improvement...

  34. I'd like to echo others -- can you tell me about how well / easily / cleanly it comes off? I work for the government and want to cover my ugly fake-wood-topped desk, but I also don't want to get in big trouble for destroying government property! Thanks!

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