How To Prep Furniture For Painting

Painting furniture is a great way to give an old piece of furniture a fresh and new look. But, let’s discuss important steps that ensure that the job is done right. Preparing the surface of your furniture correctly will lead to a successful painting project. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to prep furniture for painting so that you can achieve great results with each furniture makeover!

And if you are brand new to painting furniture and would like to learn more, go to Chalk Mineral Paint Basics to get inspired for your furniture makeover journey!

How To Prep Furniture For Painting

What About No Prep Furniture Paint?

You may be wondering why we are talking about how to prep furniture for painting, when most people think chalk mineral and other DIY furniture paint products were created to be “no prep furniture paint”?

No prep furniture paint products are becoming increasingly popular among DIYers and furniture painters alike. Many of these products claim to require no sanding or stripping of old finishes. But, in reality there is still some degree of preparation required before applying the paint.

Although these paints can be used with very little prep work for a shabby distressed look, more prep work will be necessary if you want to achieve a super smooth and sleek finish on your piece.

At a minimum, cleaning the furniture well before painting is essential regardless of which type of paint you use, so that dust particles don’t get trapped under the new layer of paint.

Knowing how much preparation is needed for each project will help determine what kind of results you will get from your makeover!

How To Prep Furniture For Painting – Basic Steps

Firstly, remember that every makeover project DOES NOT require every step to be done. Each makeover is unique.

1. Remove all hardware from the furniture.

2. Clean the surface of the furniture.

3. Fill in any holes or cracks using wood filler (optional)

4. Lightly sand down any rough surfaces or areas that need smoothing out (optional)

5. Wipe off sanding dust with a damp cloth or shop vac

6. Apply primer if desired/needed (optional)

7. Paint your desired color

8. Apply topcoat or sealer if needed and do any embellishments or designs (optional)

As you can see, many of these steps are “optional”. Remember that each furniture piece is different.

When you decide to paint something, look it over and decide what kind of finish you want. That will determine how much prep work you do.

Step 1: Remove Hardware

So, the first step is to remove all hardware from the furniture. This includes knobs, pulls, and other removeable decorative elements.

Consider also that If the furniture has doors, you can decide to remove the hinges or paint over them.

So remove any necessary hardware and screws and set aside. I like to put each set in a separate baggie and label so I keep everything straight.

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Step 2: Clean The Furniture

After you remove the hardware, next clean the furniture. To ensure that your furniture is paint-ready, you should start by wiping down the surface with a mild cleaner.

Options are: dish soap and water, a mixture of one part vinegar with two parts water, a branded product like Dixie Belle White Lightening or a spray cleaner like Krud Kutter.

If I use Dixie Belle White Lightening, I mix it in a bucket with hot water. It is a nice cleaner that works well and dissolves perfectly in the hot water.

After cleaning, wipe down with clean damp cloth to remove any cleaning residue.

Dixie Belle White Lightening cleanser

Step 3: Wood Filler (Optional)

When making over furniture, wood filler is a great product to keep on hand. Wood filler fills in cracks and holes in the furniture surface.

It can also smooth out rough or uneven surfaces.

This allows you to create an even finish when painting your piece of furniture.

A few of the wood fillers I use most:

Before The Round Accent Table Makeover
This table has wood filler applied to repair some scratched, damaged areas

Step 4: Sanding (Optional)

So, this is the part that scares people! What? You mean I need to sand? It is confusing so, if you want more detailed information check out this post: How To Get A Smoother Finish With Chalk Paint

When we talk about how to prep furniture for painting, remember that you don’t have to sand! BUT, a quick sanding will help your paint stick better and leave a smoother final finish!

If you applied wood filler to any areas you want to sand that smooth.

Otherwise you can opt to do a quick “scuff sand”. Many DIY paints call for a scuff sand prior to painting.

A scuff sanding is a very light sanding over the entire surface to be painted. Use 220 grit sanding pad or block for this quick sanding. 220 grit is a fine grit but it is enough to just rough up the surface for the paint.

Choose to either sand by hand with sanding pads or use an electric sander. I have several sanders but the one I use most often is my 3×4 Electric Ray by Surf Prep Sanding.

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    Can You Use A Furniture Stripper Instead Of Sanding?

    Stripping a finish is totally different than scuff sanding.

    You would only want to strip an old finish if you want to take it down to raw wood.

    While stripping is an optional step in the furniture makeover process, I won’t count it as a typical step. I think personally I’ve only stripped furniture a few times.

    Most of the time I prefer to paint over old finishes with the simple scuff sand as described above.

    But If you’d like to learn more about stripping an on old finish I’ve used Citristrip Paint Stripper before with good results. If desired, read more at How To Use Citristrip Paint Stripper.

    How To Use Citristrip
    How To Use Citristrip

    Step 5: Remove Sanding Dust

    Finally, it is important to remove any dust from the surface of your furniture before beginning to paint.

    If there is a great deal of sanding dust use a shop vac to get up the bulk of it.

    Otherwise use a damp cloth or tack cloth to make sure that no dust particles remain on the surface of your furniture.

    I personally like to follow dust removal with a tack cloth. These are great for getting off any fine particles of dust or pet hair that you don’t see until you paint!

    Step 6: Consider Primer (Optional)

    Whether or not to use a primer before the painting furniture can be confusing.

    To learn more, check out this post, When To Prime Before Painting and review of my top primer choices.

    So, to help narrow down the decision on primer versus no primer, here are a few questions to help you decide.

    • Am I painting this furniture white or a light color? if yes, a primer is best.
    • Is this furniture a vintage or dark stain like cherry or mahogany? if so, it may likely bleed through your paint finish. If you clean the furniture with a white cloth and see pink, red, or tan stains on the white cleaning rag, it is a “bleeder”.
    • Does this furniture have an odor? Or any stains or spots that persist after cleaning? If yes, then it should have a primer.
    • Is the surface slick, like a shiny slick veneer or laminate? if so, a bonding primer is needed. I talk more about bonding primers in my post, Laminate Hutch Makeover.

    And finally, it is often a good idea to apply a primer just to help your paint go on smooth and stick well.

    A primer will go a long way to improving the look and the life of your painted finish.

    Therefore, if in doubt use a primer!

    Best Primers For Refinishing Furniture

    Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer

    Either dispose of soiled brushes, cloths or rollers, or clean with paint thinner. This primer comes in spray and roll or brush-on formula.

    Shellac-Based Primer

    • Shellac-Based Primer (clear) – brush, roll on or spray – also oil-based so follow same precautions as above. Always wear a mask with spray primers or paints.

    Wise Owl Stain-Eliminating Primer

    • And Wise Owl Stain-Eliminating Primer – I love this primer, its water-based, and it comes in several colors. It’s low odor, non-toxic and easy clean up with soap and water. This primer goes on like a dream.

    Step 7: Paint Your Desired Color

    Finally, you get to paint your color! You may be thinking “wow! All that work before I can paint!”

    As mentioned many of the above steps are optional and how to prep your furniture for painting depends on your project.

    The painting is the fun part for sure and seeing that gorgeous color go on! It’s so amazing to see furniture transform with just a can of paint.

    And with today’s paints there are so many colors to choose from too!

    Best Brushes For Painting Furniture

    And many painters know that one key to a successful furniture makeover is to use a good quality brush!

    To learn more about my favorite paint brushes, read my recent post: Best Brushes For Painting Furniture & for help with other handy dandy recommended supplies, go to Furniture Painting Supplies for helpful information and lists.

    A few of my favorite brushes are:

    Step 8: Protect And Seal Painted Furniture (Optional)

    Lastly, Do you need a topcoat or sealer for your painted finish?

    Again, this step is optional depending on the paint you used. Some paints recommend a topcoat to add a layer of protection from scratches, water stains, and general wear and tear.

    Waxes or clear coat poly finishes are the most commonly used topcoats.

    Here is a helpful post for more information, Chalk Paint Topcoat, to help you decide between the options.

    And finally, I’ll say that I generally choose a brush on topcoat and my most used are:

    All-In-One Furniture Paint: Primer, Paint & Topcoat All-In-One

    However, if you prefer to avoid primers and topcoats and keep your furniture painting projects super simple, look at using an All-In-One Paint. I discussed the Best All-In-One Paint in the linked post, but I’ll mention my favorite next.

    I absolutely love Dixie Belle Silk All-In-One Mineral Paint. It’s my typical go-to for most projects. The paint finish, coverage and durability is perfect! And so many colors to choose from!

    Best All-One-Paint for Furniture Makeovers

    Here is a link to my Dixie Belle Silk Paint Review Post.

    And lastly, here are a few Silk paint makeovers to share:

    Summary: How To Prep Furniture For Painting

    When prepping furniture for painting, it’s important to take the time to do the job correctly.

    Ultimately, prepping furniture for painting isn’t always easy, but it is an essential step to achieving great results.

    With the right supplies, tools and research into different types of paints, you can be sure that your furniture painting project will come out looking professional.

    And by following these steps, you can ensure that your furniture painting project is a successful one.

    In summary, a little preparation and extra care when it comes to prepping the piece of furniture you’re working on will help make sure the finished product looks amazing and lasts for years to come!

    Have What You Need To Paint Furniture Like
    A Pro


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