February 29, 2012

The Truth About Painting Furniture

I did A LOT of research before attempting to paint my furniture. I grew up in a house where that was taboo and you did not put color on wood and veneer was absolutely not paintable. I guess that's why I kept waiting for someone to walk in and yell at me while I was doing this whole project! Anyhow, this is what I learned through trial and error and trying a few different things:
First, Zinsser cover stain is your best friend for this project! Note, this is oil based and doesn't just wash right off your hands and brush when you are done. In fact, make it easy on yourself and just buy a cheap pan to toss afterwards and you use cheap brushes for this project too so plan on throwing them away as well. And buy this baby in the gallon size because you will use it a lot once you see how easy this project is!

The other crucial items you need are FOAM brushes... I repeat FOAM!!! Zinsser picks up all and every fiber off a regular rolling brush. I also feel you need a small foam roller, a large foam roller and the giant bag of craft foam brushes for those hard to reach places and cracks. By the way, these are really inexpensive at Walmart. As much as I detest Walmart, it's worth the trip for the pan to throw away to the brushes.

Okay, next item you need is sand paper and wood putty. Here is the truth behind sanding... you don't even need to unless the piece is damaged. I know this because I tested this theory out. The bed I painted had been chewed by a dog and I sanded the crap out of the headboard. But, the foot board I left untouched except where the dog ate it. All I did was fill the holes and sand it after it dried for a smooth look.


Now that you know the basics, one it comes to your final top coat of paint here's another tip. I went to Benjamin Moore and bought the paint all the websites recommended. It was $20 for a pint!!! I flirted with the paint man and that was even an employee discount! (Shhh.. don't tell J!) So I painted one dresser with this special expensive paint and one with the Behr Ultra Premium paint which runs $30 a gallon. You do need two coats of paint so the gallon is what you will end up buying. BUT... as long as you use TWO coats of Zinsser and 2 coats of the top paint... it doesn't matter! I had to use two coats of both types of paint and they look identical. This goes for the furniture I sanded like mad and the ones I was too tired to sand and just said "Eff it"! AS LONG AS YOU YOU A FOAM ROLLER, YOU DON'T NEED EXPENSIVE PAINT!!!! I ONLY USE FOAM ROLLERS!!!!

My last tip before you get started with this entire project is cleaning the furniture before you paint. Many people said to go with TSP. It's waaaay more expensive than my homemade version. I just put equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and wiped it down with that. It took so much crap out of the wood! I did wipe it down before and after sanding too. You will be grossed out by the dirt it pulls out!! For the TSP... this is non toxic and works amazingly!

So here's the run down one more time:
1) clean
2) sand if you must
3) clean if you sand
4) 2 coats primer
5) 2 coats of paint
AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE... wait at least 8 hours between coats so you don't get a tacky piece of furniture. This parts sucks the most!!!

Here are my before and after pictures: (eventually I want to replace the hardware but I'm keeping it as is for now)






  1. I LOVE this blog! So proud of you...and the bed and dresser are amazing! How is E going to reach her stuffed animals above her dresser though? ;) hehe...can't wait to come see it in person!

  2. Thank you! I can't wait to have you! Lol.. if you were picking up stuffed animals on a daily basis, you would hang them over the dresser too!

  3. Awesome! thank you for the help Andie! Can't wait to get painting!

  4. Nice to hear from you and getting really informative and useful tips. Both above pictures of bed and dresser are expressing your thoughts. I would love to try the same cause, I really like white painted furniture and above is shown as white dresser and white bed. Thanks for an inspiring article.

  5. I've always been hesitant about doing this but you make it sound so easy. Does this work on veneer?

  6. I've really had no problem doing this on veneer either! I just make sure that if any area of the veneer is peeling up, I sand it down or glue it down so I have a smooth surface. I painted an old TV console red that was distressed along the edges. It turned out great and you couldn't even tell it wasn't made of solid wood!

  7. I'm going to be painting my bedroom furniture. It is very high gloss. Do you think I can get away with not sanding it? Have you ever used a liquid de-glosser before?

    1. I have used a liquid de-glosser before. I actually used it to paint my sitting room and master bathroom on the cabinets and doors and all the trim. I think it worked great for the look I was trying to achieve. However, for your furniture, I would skip the sanding and just use a primer for quicker less painstaking results. The de-glossser just doesn't give you the nice even high gloss I think you want to achieve. I would even go as far as trying a homemade chalkboard paint and try going high gloss over top. I hope that helps!