Painting furniture is so much fun! Well, it can be. Sometimes it’s quite stressful, if things don’t go well. There are several mistakes that beginners typically make when painting furniture that can add to the stress. By taking care to be prepared and follow some simple rules, things will go much more smoothly.
FURNITURE PAINTING MISTAKE #1: Judging a book by its cover.
I know it’s tempting to just walk away from a piece of furniture because it looks ugly. Or toss a piece to the curb if you're tired of looking at it or want something new. But a well-made piece of furniture is a treasure. And when the piece is also a functional addition to your home, all the better!
Some of today’s furniture found in stores is made of a composite material, like particleboard or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a laminate or veneer finish. Others have parts made of plywood. You can still paint those materials, but they won’t last like a good ol’ solid wood piece of furniture.
Don’t worry if it’s scratched up, stained, chipped, has nail polish on it, or is just finished in a way that doesn’t appeal to you. All of that can be fixed, and when you’re finished with it, it will have a completely fresh look. And keep an open mind. Just because it was created for a certain purpose, it doesn't mean that it can't be used in another capacity.
FURNITURE PAINTING MISTAKE #2: Waiting to make repairs.
If your item has a loose leg, a drawer that doesn’t quite close properly, or has a few dings or holes, fix it before you get started on refinishing. Most times, repairs are easier to do before painting. Sometimes the repairs require more work than you expect. I highly recommend making larger repairs, like fixing broken legs or drawers, before you begin painting or you risk chipping or otherwise damaging your freshly-painted finish.
FURNITURE PAINTING MISTAKE #3: Skipping the prep.
Prepping your piece isn’t the most fun you’ll ever have, but it is sooooooo worth it. And you will likely save yourself some aggravation, money, and/or time. By taking care to prep properly, it will set you up to have the best possible final result.
The first thing you want to do is to clean the furniture thoroughly. You want to have a surface clean of all dirt and oils. If you plan to use chalk paint, this is typically the only prep you’ll need. Chalk paint is able to adhere to and cover most surfaces without sanding and priming. Not always, but most times.
When using a latex paint, you’ll need to spend some time sanding and priming the surface so that it accepts and holds the paint. Some latex paints include primer right in the paint. Personally, I still like to use a separate coat of primer. And, don’t forget, you can get primer tinted for better coverage if you’re using a dark paint color.
FURNITURE PAINTING MISTAKE #4: Not allowing time to dry.
I know that it’s exciting to finally start to paint your piece, but slow your roll. Allowing each coat of primer or paint to dry thoroughly is so important. If you attempt to touch up or apply another coat too soon, the finish will still be tacky and you’ll give yourself more work to fix the patches or uneven coat.
Chalk paint tends to dry a lot faster than latex paint, which can be a good or a bad thing. You can apply multiple coats in less time than it takes for latex to dry. But it is less forgiving and you have to work more quickly.
FURNITURE PAINTING MISTAKE #5: Not protecting your piece.
Adding a layer or two of a protective coating over your paint finish will help protect your piece against any wear and tear. There are lots of different products and finishes that you can choose, depending upon your piece and the look you desire.
Chalk paint has a flat finish and needs some sort of a top coat or finish to protect the piece against damage to the paint. When chalk paint was first introduced, wax was the only option for a top coat. But today, there are many other options that aren’t as labor-intensive to apply.
Some paints have a topcoat built right into the paint. And you have your choice of several types of finish, from a low sheen to a very glossy look. If you’re painting a piece that will have lots of use, like a kitchen table, you may want to add another coat or two of a sealer on top of the paint.
Note: Top coats can sometimes take a couple of weeks to cure. Although the surface may feel dry, you may want to let it cure for several weeks before putting any items on top of it.