Your complete guide to painting wood furniture, from sanding to sealing
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Whether it’s a dresser you’ve owned for years or a unique chair you found at an antique store, there are a handful of creative ways to breathe new life into worn-out furniture. One of the most common materials you’ll come across when refreshing old rooms is wood, which can quickly be turned into something beautiful with nothing more than a coat of paint.
“Painting or repainting your furniture isn’t just a cost-effective way to personalize your home, refresh tired furniture, or conceal cosmetic damage,” says Annie Sloan, paint and color expert and creator of Chalk Paint Annie Sloan. “It’s a way of life, rejecting the buy more, buy new, buy now culture, and embrace creative, practical, do-it-yourself expressionism.”
The best part? The process for painting wood furniture is the same across the board, which means you can use the materials required for more than one project, whether it’s a desk, chair, furniture. dresser or vanity, the same steps apply.
Related: How to refinish wooden furniture
The materials you will need
You will need a few basic tools and materials to complete this project:
The type of wood you are working with will determine the type of primer you use. Wood that isn’t stained needs a high-quality latex or oil-based primer, while wood that’s stained needs a stain-blocking primer (like redwood and cedar) . Also, furniture that has exposed wood, chalking, or peeling paint needs an oil-based primer. Sloan also notes that you should use a water-based primer if using water-based paints and varnish-based products if using varnish-based paints.
Kind of paint
Experts recommend using chalk paint, also known as chalk finish or chalk paint. It’s a simple and elegant way to upgrade and transform your furniture, says Gary McCoy, manager of the Lowe’s store that serves the Charlotte, North Carolina market. “Different from chalkboard paint, it’s a latex paint that has a fine powder added to the mix to create a unique matte finish,” he says. “The brushstroke and blemishes are part of the unique look.”
The type of brush you use depends on the type of finish you want. “Flat brushes with smooth bristles will even out the paint as you apply it and give a smooth, flat, modern finish,” says Sloan. The variety of paint you use will also dictate the type of brush you choose. “Use a synthetic bristle paintbrush for latex paint and a natural bristle paintbrush for oil paint,” says McCoy.
How to prepare furniture for painting
Before you dip your paintbrush into the paint, there are a few steps you need to take to make sure your wood furniture is ready for the job.
Remove drawers and hardware
First, start by removing drawers, shelves and hardware from your furniture. If you want to paint the inside, now is also the time to remove the back of your piece, if possible. “If you see screws inside the front of a drawer box, the drawer may have a removable front piece that will be easier to paint than the entire drawer,” says McCoy. “So remove the screws to see if the front can be lifted freely. If you have more than one drawer with a removable front, be sure to label the fronts and drawers for easy reassembly.“
Sand your wooden furniture
Place furniture on a tarp or drop cloth to catch debris and paint while you work. Now it’s time to sand. If you’re working with a surface that has an existing finish that’s already smooth, McCoy says to sand with a 220-grit sanding sponge, then wipe with a damp cloth. For slightly rough surfaces, sand with 180- and 220-grit abrasive sponges. “Always wipe sanded furniture with a damp cloth to collect dust,” says Sloan. “Otherwise the particles will accumulate and show through the paint.”
Add a primer
Once your piece is sanded and wiped clean, block off any areas you don’t want painted with painter’s tape, such as hardware and hinges that you can’t easily remove. Then put on a face mask to protect yourself from fumes and add your primer. “Whether or not you need to prime depends on the type and condition of the surface. Always prime and sand bare wood or damaged surfaces that have been patched,” says McCoy.
To prep your furniture, brush in the direction of the grain and let dry. “An angled frame brush is handy for getting into corners,” says McCoy. Once it has the first coat of primer, sand the surface with a 220 grit abrasive sponge and wipe clean. Then apply a second coat of primer, if needed, to ensure a smooth base for your paint.
Related: How to strip paint from wooden furniture
How to paint wooden furniture
At this point, your piece should be sanded, primed, and laid on a drop cloth, which means you’re finally ready to paint. Wait to remove your protective mask until the project is complete.
Dip your brush into your paint and begin by brushing back and forth just enough to spread the paint and always in the direction of the grain of the wood or along the length of an already painted surface. “Hold the brush loosely in your hand and move from your armpit rather than your wrist or elbow to allow for big, wide strokes,” says Sloan. “The number of coats needed will depend on the surface you’re painting, how thick you apply the paint, and the color you’ve chosen.”
Repair all faults
After applying the first coat of paint, McCoy says to check for drips and drips. “If you find one after the paint has completely dried, be sure to sand it down carefully,” he says. “If you see paint building up on your sandpaper, stop immediately to prevent the paint from scratching the surface.” When the surface is dry and you’ve sanded the flaws, add another thin coat to conceal the repairs. “A painted surface that feels dry to the touch may not be ready for sanding or recoating, so carefully follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dry times,” says McCoy.
Seal the paint
Although adding sealant is an optional step, Sloan recommends sealing the paint with chalk after it dries, as it is a water-based product and could transfer if applied. is not protected. “Use clear chalk paint wax, matte or gloss chalk paint lacquer and apply it over the entire painted surface,” she says. Once dry, you can replace the removed drawers and hardware.