Refinishing Furniture 101

I have been refinishing furniture and other various home decor since I was in elementary school. So when a good friend asked me recently the steps that it takes to get a good finish, I thought it might be a good idea to do a really short and to-the-point blog tutorial on it.

No matter what piece you are refinishing, follow these simple steps.  (A little side note if you’re refinishing a piece with drawers like I did in this case: prime with knobs off and drawers in, after the primer dries, remove the drawers to complete the final steps)

1) Get a good spray primer (white for light colors, gray for dark). One can for smaller pieces with little detail, two or more for larger, more intricate items. If you want to save money, shop your local hardware stores for any “oops” paints in eggshell.  I like eggshell because it gives a nice creamy finish and the matte finish tends to hide imperfections you’re surely to find. I don’t like flat because it tends to “chalk”.

2) Go outside. With the item of course.

3) Lay down an old sheet or tarp in the driveway or yard.

4) Remove any hardware.  Lightly scuff up finishes with a sanding block (I skip this step on really old pieces with little-to-no finish left).

5) Wipe entire piece down with a damp cloth to make sure it’s free of debris and let dry fully.

6) Shake the cans of primer (don’t skip this step if you want a nice and smooth finish–with my instant gratification personality, I learned this the hard way.

7) Spray entire surface. It does not need a thick coat, just make sure no original finish shows through. It dries super fast, so if you need to flip it and do the underside just give it ten minutes or so and flip it.

8) Let the primer dry to the touch (no tackiness) and begin panting a light base coat. To make it look professional, the key is several light coats (this is the part that is SO hard for me). If you’re wondering what brush to use, I ALWAYS use a foam brush on refinishing projects because I like that they leave no brush strokes. You can pick them up for $1 at Lowes and Home Depot…if you go the cheap route, pick up a few, they don’t last more than one or two coats.  I personally spend a couple extra dollars and get the Wooster brand because they last through a few projects.

Tips and tricks:

I prefer to use latex based paint because I’m a messy painter and I don’t have the patience to wait on oil to dry. If you are painting something that will be heavily used, try an oil based paint.

Dressers and other items with drawers will need extra time to dry so don’t put the drawers in for several hours.


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