Prep Furniture for Painting

Furniture can be painted different colors to create a new look or change the décor of your home. Most furniture can be painted, but needs to be properly prepared if the paint is going to stay on the surface and look good.

Unfinished Furniture

New unfinished wood furniture is the easiest to paint because little to no prep work is required. It's sold in the store or delivered to your door ready for staining, varnishing or priming and painting. This is the same with metal unfinished furniture. If you've had an unfinished piece of wood furniture sitting around your home for a while before painting it, you may need to clean it and allow it to fully dry before painting it. Furniture that has been used may have scratches or chips. If you're creating an antique look, these scratches and chips can add to the aged design. If they're big scratches or chips, you can fill them in with wood filler that matches the color of wood as closely as possible. Let the filler completely dry and then sand it smooth in the direction of the wood grain with 220 grit paper.

Old unfinished wood furniture is furniture that has been stripped of its finish and is now in its original raw wood state. The category of old unfinished furniture also applies to metal furniture that has been stripped down. Not much preparation work is required for this type of furniture other than fixing any breaks or chips. Wood furniture can be repaired with wood filler as described in the above paragraph. Larger broken areas like a loose arm on an armchair can be fixed by clamping and gluing the pieces together. Loose areas and dings in metal can usually be repaired with Bondo. Use a tack cloth or clean lint free cloth to remove any excess dirt.

Stained, Varnished, Painted or Waxed Furniture

Stain, varnish or paint must be removed before the piece can be refinished. Clean it. Allow it to dry. If working with wood, sand it in the direction of the grain to create a slightly rough surface, called a tooth surface. This surface will make it easier for the new layer of primer, stain, varnish or wax to adhere properly. Furniture needs to be primed before painting. A base color is then applied for decorative technique. Only a one coat application, usually with a paint roller, is required for a single finishing coat of paint.

Even if the furniture is only treated with wax, the wax needs to be completely stripped by sanding in the direction of the grain or through chemical treatments. Chemical treatments are not suggested since they're not always safe to use and tend to be environmentally unfriendly. If using a chemical treatment, carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Always make sure to remove all sanding residue and other dirt before applying new stain, varnish, paint or wax.