*UPDATE- Check out our segment on Fox 13 ‘The Place’ HERE where we talk about some Do’s and Don’t of painting furniture.*
How many times have you looked at a piece of furniture and thought about refinishing it? Maybe something you own already, or something you spotted at a yard sale? It’s probably safe to say, most of us have felt the urge at one time or another to give a piece of furniture some new life. But where do you start? What do you use? How hard will it be? There can be lots of doubts and fears around such a big project and today we’re excited to talk about a few realities of refinishing furniture!
The first reality is-you just have to do it! Getting over the fear is the very first step to bringing an amazing piece of furniture back to life. Steffany and I are hoping that with the information we share here, you’ll be able to overcome some fear and hesitation. Learning from other people’s trial and error is so very valuable when getting up the guts to do something new. So let us share what we have learned from our trial and errors!
First, let’s talk about one of our favorites: chalk paint. You have most likely heard of chalk paint, but maybe you’re still unfamiliar with what it really is and when to use it. Let’s go over the basics.
WHAT IS CHALK PAINT?
To clarify right up front, chalk paint is NOT the same thing as chalkboard paint. Chalk paint is a type of paint that gives a matte, chalky finish. It distresses easily and is perfect for painting many types of furniture to get a shabby chic look. Chalkboard paint is just used for making chalkboards. Chalk paint was originally developed by the paint brand Annie Sloan, but many other companies now have their own versions. Our favorite chalk paint however, is homemade! Yep! DIY chalk paint. Before we dive too deep into that though, let’s talk about when to use chalk paint.(Refinished Cedar Chest click HERE)
WHEN CAN I USE CHALK PAINT?
The first determining factor for chalk paint is the type of material the furniture is made of. Chalk paint is for WOOD furniture. It won’t adhere well to laminate or fake wood. The next factor for chalk paint is the finished look you want. Like I mentioned earlier, chalk paint is ideal for creating a distressed, shabby chic look- if that’s the look you want, chalk paint is a great option! One of the best perks of chalk paint is that there is no need to sand the furniture first. Okay, that might be our favorite perk of chalk paint! It also dries super quick and is easy to seal with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax (all kinds of details HERE). Steffany and I painted my piano using our DIY chalk paint recipe. In fact, we painted it right where it sat in my living room! That leads us to the next question….
HOW DO I MAKE CHALK PAINT?
Making your own chalk paint is easier than you might think! It’s just 3 ingredients: Paint, water, and Plaster of Paris. Find the entire recipe with step by step instructions in THIS post. (Plus how to seal your chalk paint furniture using the Finishing Wax.) What is the benefit to making your own chalk paint? It will save you money- it costs significantly less to make your own. You are also not limited with color choices-you can make it in any color want. We have used this chalk paint recipe on dozens of projects and still LOVE it! Full chalk paint tutorial HERE.
As you might imagine, the most popular piece of furniture we have done with DIY Chalk paint is most definitely my piano. See our complete tutorial for How to Paint a Piano HERE.
Quick review-pro’s of chalk paint:
- No sanding necessary
- Dries fast
- Gives a perfect shabby chic look
- Easy to DIY to save money
- Works perfectly with Paste Finishing Wax, which has basically no dry time
- Can use a simple foam brush
For even more info. check out THIS post - Favorite Tools, Tips, and Tricks for refinishing furniture to help answer any other questions you might have.
Okay-are you on information overload yet?! I hope not 🙂 We still want to cover a couple other options when refinishing furniture. When chalk paint won’t work or simply isn’t what you want the answer may be to PRIME, PAINT, and SEAL. So let’s talk about how, what, and when you should go this route.
We’re going to get right to the most important point here, which is- which primer to use. The best primer we have come across and used multiple times is Zinsser BIN Primer. This stuff is amazing! It has adhered to every surface we’ve tried it on from straight laminate to real wood. This stuff if legit! We have also always been happy with Behr paint (from the Home Depot). We love to buy the sample sizes for smaller projects. It’s plenty of paint for smaller pieces of furniture. Our sealer of choice is Minwax Polycrylic. It is water based, which makes clean up easier, and it won’t yellow over time like Polyurethane. These three are our favorite GO-TO products for refinishing success!
So how do you know if you should prime and paint a project instead of chalk paint? There are a couple sure fire ways to know-If your piece of furniture is not wood, use primer and paint. If you don’t want a shabby chic/distressed look, use primer and paint. You can’t achieve a glossy look using chalk paint. This pretty green table we painted for a client was solid wood, but she wanted a high gloss finish. We used Zinsser primer, Behr paint, and sealed it with glossy Polycrylic.
Check out the glossy green table post HERE
Primer and paint can basically cover everything. Anything you can paint with chalk paint, you can also use primer and paint on PLUS all the other stuff. Steffany and I try to avoid sanding furniture any time we can, which is another reason we love the Zinsser primer. It sticks to all surfaces! Here is a dresser we painted without any sanding. Prime, paint, and seal.
Here is a laminate coffee table from Ikea. Zinsser primer, paint, and glossy Polycrylic. It might be good to mention when refinishing laminate furniture, you DO NOT want to sand the surface. It will scratch and the scratches will show through the paint-not a good thing. Just trust the Zinsser. 🙂
Another useful tip with paint is to water it down a little. We water down our paint almost every single time. It will go on smoother, dry quicker and give you more paint for your dollar.
Last, let’s not forget the power of spray paint! We refinished this entire dining set up with spray paint (except the stained table top.) See this full tutorial HERE. We really like Rustoleum spray paint. It’s a primer and paint in one. Follow it up with a spray sealer and you’ve got a quick furniture makeover. These chair backs are metal, so spray paint was a great option!
While spray paint can be a great choice on some projects, there are a couple downsides to using it for all furniture. It can get expensive really quick when going through cans of spray paint, it’s better for smaller projects. There is also limited choices of colors and sheens. Spray paint is perfect for refinishing smaller home decor items, like picture frames, but chalk paint or primer and paint is typically a better option for large furniture pieces.
Wow!! I think that’s enough info for now-are you confused, enlightened? Ha ha! Hopefully you are feeling better about the realities of refinishing furniture and totally equipped to tackle a project. Remember, the first step is overcoming the fear!
Have a wonderful day!