Painting Furniture 101

Apr 13th, 2010

Painting furniture seems to be one of most favorite topics of a lot of questions, so today I’d like to teach you some “tricks of the trade” if you will about painting furniture.

First of all, the brand of spray paint that you buy makes an ENORMOUS difference. And, yes to those of you who are wondering i did mean to say “SPRAY” paint. I’ll go into more detail about that in a minute. Do not buy the crappy $1.00 a can spray paint. In my experience, you need at least five cans of the crappy stuff to do one or two cans of the good stuff. I recommend Krylon brand. It is pretty darn cheap at Wal-Mart and it has a great spray nozzle to help even out your spraying.

What sheen should I buy? I buy “GLOSS” sheen because I want to be able to wipe off the furniture when it is done, and if you prime it first, the furniture will not look too glossy. For some reason, the priming makes it look more like a satin finish when all is said and done.

Another famous question that I see a lot is “Do you sand your furniture first?” This one depends on the furniture. I rarely sand my furniture first because I like the scratches nicks and dents. I especially like my furniture to have these dents and deformities when I am glazing a piece of furniture; however, I do sand down a piece of furniture of the existing paint or finish is chipping off badly OR if I want to stain the wood. If you are going to re-stain the wood, then you will need to sand it down to the wood so that the new stain will be even.

Do you prime it first? YES, Prime it! Believe me using primer makes an enormous difference when painting furniture. I recommend using KILZ spray to prime your furniture. (One can costs around $4.00 at Wal-Mart and I promise it is worth it). I have used Krylon brand primer and it seems to work also, but I have only used that brand when I didn’t want to prime something white. KILZ only comes in white. So, for example, the RED BARSTOOLS that I painted, I used Krylon brand primer that was a redish brown color instead of white. Sidenote: you may be tempted to buy the cheaper brand primer…don’t do it. It does NOT do as good of a job as KILZ.

Do you polyurethane over the furniture afterward? This depends on the item. You need to be careful about using polyurethane on white items because over time the polyurethane will turn yellow. But, if your item is something that is used a lot, like for example your dining room table, then I would suggest to use a sealer such as polyurethane to project the top. Generally though, I rarely use polyurethane. 
 Update (as of 4/24/10) If you have an item that is used a lot for example bar stools, dining rooms table, or side tables, a good friend suggested using polyacrylic to seal and project the surface. I have never used it, but I trust her 100%.  She said, “Polyacrylic won’t bubble, you do not have to prepare your brush with mineral spirits before you brush, it won’t turn yellow like polyurethane does, and it does not put off an odor like polyurethane, its great, and it dries fast.” UPDATE use POLYACRYLIC if you need to protect the surface of your project.

Does it need to be warm to paint? Yes it should be at least 50 degrees to paint furniture. I use my garage year round because I live in a climate that rarely freezes. But, for most people this is not possible without some sort of heat source to ensure that the environment for painting stays above 50 degrees or so. I use a heater in my garage during the winter, and even in colder climates it would work as long as you keep the space above 50 degrees. If you try to paint when it is colder, your paint will freeze and crack.

I also get a lot of questions about Glazing furniture. Please check out our glazing 101 post for detailed instructions on how to glaze. Glazing is a great way to bring out the details in the furniture like the furniture below. For more details on the yellow furniture, goHERE to see that post. :)

Good luck on all your painting projects in the future! Don’t be afraid to give your furniture a new look and a new life by painting it!

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