5 Steps for Painting Furniture

This week's feature is a handy step by step guide (including links to which products to use) that will help you create your own treats!

5 Steps for Painting Furniture

Hello My Sweets!

I get private messages all the time with questions about how to refinish a project. Each project has it’s own challenges and requires different tools and products. However, there are several steps and items that I use almost every time that I work on a piece. I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of the 5 steps that I follow every time I refinish a piece and links to Amazon (highlighted in pink) to find the exact products that I use in each step.


The very first step is to thoroughly clean the piece. You may think that since you are planning on sanding it, why bother cleaning it? The answer is, if you don’t clean the piece prior to sanding, you will be grinding all of the dirt and grime that has accumulated, into the wood. This can cause your paint to not stick and peel later. Trust me, this is a huge bummer after completing all that work, only to find that the paint comes off at the scratch of a fingernail. Your only choice at that point is to remove the paint and start over. No topcoat in the world will help the paint stay on if there is an adhesion issue. To clean, I will often use warm water, some dawn dish soap, and white vinegar. If I need a little more cleaning power, I will use a deglosser/cleaner. – Krud Kutter Deglosser https://amzn.to/31oYnTj

Once the piece has been thoroughly cleaned and rinsed, it is time to sand it down. Depending on whether you are going to stain the piece, leave the wood bare, or paint it, that determines how much sanding is to be done. If you want to stain the piece or leave the wood bare, you will need to sand off the previous stain or finish. Start with your sander and a medium grit sandpaper such as 120 grit. I like to start with my orbital sander to get off most of the paint or finish and then use my mouse to get into the finer details. I use – Orbital Sander https://amzn.to/3l5mLS0, Mouse Sander https://amzn.to/2Yf42cT. If the 120 grit is not doing the trick, you can go down to a more coarse grit, such as 80, and see if that is better. Be careful not to start with a sandpaper that is too coarse because it can leave swirl marks gauged in the wood. Repeat the process moving up in grit to 220, to smooth out the grain. If you simply want to paint it and the surface is ready for paint, you will just need to scuff sand. You do this by lightly sanding with a 220 grit sandpaper to give some teeth for the new paint to adhere to.


In an ideal world, all pieces are perfect and ready for the fun part – THE PAINT! Unfortunately for me, I can not refuse a neglected piece of furniture that is begging for a second life. I absolutely hate waste, so it brings me such a sense of satisfaction to keep these pieces out of landfills. With that, comes some repairs. Sometimes it is simply holes that need to be filled, other times there are spots of veneer that have chipped and need to be filled. I have found Dixie Belle Mud https://amzn.to/2zfMdRB to be an easy to work with wood filler. It has a consistency of pudding, so it is easy to work with. It dries and sands well, and the repair is inconspicuous when painted over. If there are loose joints or pieces that need to be reattached, TiteBond Wood Glue https://amzn.to/2LLxIHP is my go to for wood glue.

Many types of wood will cause bleed through. That means that the tannins in the wood will bleed through and show up as a pink hue on your paint. This is the biggest bummer of all! You’ve been so careful, painting your piece perfectly, only to see pink streaks come through after it dries! Or worse, after you’ve sealed it! To prevent this headache, if I am painting in a lighter color, I always prime the piece first with shellac based primer – BIN Shellac Primer, Quart https://amzn.to/3g8fuyb, BIN Shellac Primer, Gallon https://amzn.to/3g8f0In. There are other primers that will say they prevent bleed through, but this one is the only one that I have used that actually works. It has a very dry texture and dries fast, which is impossible to clean out of your brush, so be sure to use a disposable brush (unfortunately, this is one time that waste is unavoidable). You may need more than one coat and you will need to lightly sand after application to knock down some of the raised texture.


I mentioned using a disposable brush for the primer. I have found these brushes are cheap and do the job – 3 inch chip brush, 24 pack https://amzn.to/2WNntJf. The only downside is an occasional loose bristle, so be sure to pick them out of the primer if this happens.

For painting, my favorite brushes are Z!bra brand paint brushes (I have no incentive from Z!bra, I just really like and recommend them). They come in different shapes to contour to any job, they are easy to clean, I have never had a bristle come out onto my paint, and they don’t leave brush marks in the paint. For spindles and for chalk paint application, you can’t beat their Round 1 inch https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z. This brush has made the task of painting chair spindles and decorative legs so much easier! For borders and aprons, or small corners, I love the Square 1 inch https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z. For pretty much every other surface, I use the Angled 2 inch Stubby https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z. I actually have several of those on hand, just in case one is dirty or I am working with more than one color.

If I am staining a piece, I like to use this Stain Applicator Pad https://amzn.to/2Xfun9d. It makes staining so easy! You simply wet the end of the pad with the stain, and using the pressure of your fingers, drag the pad from one end to the other. I have tried many different application methods for staining and this method was a game changer for me! No more uneven stain or blotchiness.

The last of my tricks for application is for the sealer (or topcoat). This trick changed my life! I use a slightly damp car detail sponge to apply sealer – Car Detail Sponge https://amzn.to/2ANgY0K! Believe me when I say that I have tried EVERYTHING to get a smooth, streak free finish from my sealer. I paint so meticulously and everything is perfect and beautiful….until I applied the sealer. It was cloudy, or streaky, or dried on the piece mid-swipe. Switching to this method has saved my sanity.


Now the fun part – the transformation! I use several different brands of paint, depending on the color and finish I am looking for. If I choose to use a latex paint, I will often turn it into a homemade chalk paint. I do this by mixing Calcium Carbonate https://amzn.to/3ia8lyt with a little water until it is dissolved. Slowly stir the mixture into the paint. I use 1 part calcium carbonate to 2 parts paint. Roughly 4 tablespoons of the chalk per 1 cup of paint. I just love the way this chalk paint sands to a velvety matte finish that is easily distressed, if desired. I always seal my pieces, and chalk paint needs to be sealed (which I will discuss in the next step).

If I am staining a piece, Minwax Dark Walnut Stain https://amzn.to/3e7D1h8 is one that I use frequently. It goes on dark, but not too dark, and can be made darker with a few coats. I would not recommend the stain that is the poly and stain in one. I have found it to be difficult to work with and can be a sticky mess if you’re not careful. Instead, I choose to seal it separately in the next step, once the stain is dry. On that note, be sure to allow ample time to dry between coats of stain. If you apply the next coat before the one before it is completely dry, it will never dry and will remain tacky to the touch. The only recourse here is to sand it all down and start over.


Sometimes I am happy with the wood the way it is and I just want to enhance the grain, darken the color a bit, and give the wood a nice sheen. In this instance, I love to use Fusion Hemp Oil https://amzn.to/32GBF8G. Apply this generously with a cotton rag. The wood will “drink” it in and become more supple and rich. Wipe any excess after a few minutes. You can apply several coats to get the desired look, after allowing each coat to become absorbed. The hemp oil will cure over 30 days and provide a nice protection to the wood.

If I want to keep a very matte finish, the easiest topcoat that I have found to work with is Rustoleum Chalked Matte Water Based Topcoat https://amzn.to/3e7gtNt. It provides a truly matte finish and is easy to apply without streaking. Just be sure to apply it with the Car Detail Sponge https://amzn.to/2ANgY0K that I talked about in step number 3.

If I want a finish with a little bit of a sheen, I have found Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, Satin https://amzn.to/3g7e7Qw to be the easiest brand to work with. I have tried many different products, including expensive “boutique” brands and have found that this product is the best value and finish. Again, apply with a slightly damp Car Detail Sponge https://amzn.to/2ANgY0K to avoid streaking and brush strokes. This same brand offers semi gloss and glossy finishes too. They also offer a matte finish, but it is not truly matte, so I prefer the Rustoleum Chalked Matte Water Based Topcoat https://amzn.to/3e7gtNt discussed above.

There you have it! The 5 steps to follow every time when refinishing furniture! I have tried MANY different products and methods and have found that the ones above are the most consistent, reliable, and cost effective to get beautiful results every time!

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Krud Kutter Deglosser https://amzn.to/31oYnTj

Orbital Sander https://amzn.to/3l5mLS0

Mouse Sander https://amzn.to/2Yf42cT

Dixie Belle Mud https://amzn.to/2zfMdRB

TiteBond Wood Glue https://amzn.to/2LLxIHP

BIN Shellac Primer, Quart https://amzn.to/3g8fuyb

BIN Shellac Primer, Gallon https://amzn.to/3g8f0In

3 inch chip brush, 24 pack https://amzn.to/2WNntJf

Round 1 inch https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z

Square 1 inch https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z

Angled 2 inch Stubby https://bit.ly/3oI0V9z

Stain Applicator Pad https://amzn.to/2Xfun9d

Car Detail Sponge https://amzn.to/2ANgY0K

Calcium Carbonate https://amzn.to/3ia8lyt

Minwax Dark Walnut Stain https://amzn.to/3e7D1h8

Fusion Hemp Oil https://amzn.to/32GBF8G

Rustoleum Chalked Matte Water Based Topcoat https://amzn.to/3e7gtNt

Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, Satin https://amzn.to/3g7e7Qw

*Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com.

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