Painting wooden furniture is a way to give new life to an older chair or other type of wood piece. The process itself is relatively simple, requiring a few basic tools and some time. This is an ideal weekend project, and it is possible to paint wood furniture and adapt the piece to just about any color scheme.
Sanding. The first order of business when updating wood furniture is sanding. Don’t be tempted to skip this step… proper sanding will ensure an even, smooth finish that is not prone to chipping. I use an orbital sander, but other small sanders would work just fine too. Usually start out using 80- or 100-grit sandpaper, especially if there’s a durable lacquer finish on the piece.
Dust Removal. When you’ve finished sanding, it’s important to remove all the dust, as residual dust will not only mess up the new finish, but also keep the paint and primer from sticking. Use a damp cloth, or sometimes a dry cloth followed by a thorough vacuuming.
Priming. Once your piece is sanded and dust-free, you’re going to need to prime it. I prefer to use a spray primer, as it usually gives a neater, thinner coat than a brush-on. The brand I use is Painter’s Touch, which comes in gray and white. Obviously, gray is best to use under dark paint colors, and white is best for light colors. When you prime, you want to do several very thin coats. In fact, when you do the first coat, it should barely look like you’ve even primed. Let the primer dry for ten minutes or so (depending on the weather and manufacturer recommendations), then do another coat. Let that coat dry before doing one or two more. The goal is to have the piece completely covered in a thin, even coat of primer.Depending on the wood type, I sometimes sand before the last coat of primer goes on, as the primer can raise the grain of the wood. If the surface doesn’t feel smooth to the touch, I run the orbital sander lightly across, using fine-grit sandpaper. I wipe it down again, apply one more coat of primer, and I’m finally ready to paint.
Painting. My favorite paint for wood furniture is Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Semi-Gloss, available at The Home Depot. This paint is thinner than ordinary paint, which makes it easier to achieve a smooth finish. Painter’s Touch comes in several different sheens, but I like to use the semi-gloss. (One can goes incredibly far. Just to give you an idea, the 2-1/4 cans I’ve used so far have covered two dressers, three nightstands, a chair, a desk and a file cabinet.)Mix the paint well and using a clean paint brush (I use a regular, bristled brush, not a foam brush), brush on a very thin first coat.Just as with the primer, it’s very important to do a number of thin coats. I don’t think I can overstress this: applying five thin coats is much, much better than one thick coat. The thin coats look better, and they will be more durable.I have also found that when you’re painting a large, flat section (like the top of a dresser), it’s best to use long strokes that cover the entire length of the piece. This will help to ensure a smooth finish with an even gloss.This paint dries very quickly, so by the time you’ve put a coat of paint on the entire piece of furniture (unless you’re painting in very humid conditions), the area you first painted should be dry again. If it’s not, wait ten minutes or so, then apply another very thin coat. Repeat this process until the furniture is painted to your satisfaction.If you sand down to the wood, are careful to apply thin coats of paint, and your piece of furniture is made of nice wood, then you should be able to turn out a smooth, durable finish while still being able to see some wood grain through the paint.And if you’re anything like me, once you see what an enormous difference paint can make, you’ll start looking around for more stuff to paint.