Monday, June 13, 2011

How To: Painting Furniture

I have gotten a lot of questions, both here, on STUFF's Facebook page, and in my "real life" about how to paint furniture (this happens when your hands and forearms are constantly covered in paint splatters!)  I thought I'd take a few minutes to share some "how-to's" and some of my favorite products with you.

A chest revitalized with paint via Isabella and Max Rooms

The first thing to do when you bring something home is to clean, clean, clean it.  I wipe things down with baby wipes (I wipe EVERYTHING down with baby wipes-- my painted hardwoods, my potty, my sons...)  I take out all the drawers, pull out any little bits of paper that are wedged back behind them, and sometimes vaccume out the space.  If you find something amazing that has mildew on it, don't despair-- I spray a bleach-based cleaning spray, like Clorox Clean-up, on it, and wipe and wipe and wipe.  Use a junky towel-- I use my old cloth prefold diapers.  It sounds disgusting, but some things are completely salvagable, just really, really dirty to begin with.

After cleaning, use wood filler to fill in any nicks or chips in the finish.  I just gob it on there, smooth it down, and sand lightly when dry.
After everything is clean and dry, it's time to prime.  I skip the sanding step, and just use a really great primer.  Zinzer is the best-- if you want to monkey with oil-based paint cleanup, get the shellac based kind.  Ever since my neighbor's kid spilled a gallon of white oil-based paint on my living room floor, I only use latex products.  I use Bull's Eye 1-2-3 primer.  I like to apply at least 2 coats of primer, using a good brush.  I like Purdy brushes-- more expensive, but it's worth it to use a good-quality brush. 

After your piece is primed and dry, it's time to decide how to finish it up.   For most pieces, regular latex paint will work just fine.  I love to add a product called Floterol (available at hardware stores for about $8 a bottle) to minimize the appearance of brush strokes.  Professionally painted furniture is often sprayed, but with Floterol and a good brush, you can approximate a sprayed finish.  I actually really like to use flat paint, and get the shine from my clear-coat finish. The most important part of painting is to go slow and steady-- thick coats=brushstrokes=not as professional looking.   2-3 light coats are far better than 1 heavy coat.

And finally-- nothing beats good, old spray paint.  It approximates laquer (which is a sprayed oil-based finish) and it makes for a lovely, mirror-like finish.  My favorite brand (and I've tried them all!) is Valpar, Lowe's store brand.  My new buffet-- with it's lovely, glossy finish-- is actually 3 coats of primer followed by many, many coats of spray paint, applied very, very thinly! 

The last step to a quality paint job is to finish your piece with a good-quality clear-coat.  The only two products I will use for this are wipe-on Polyurithane, or what I use 99% of the time-- a product called Varathane.  It comes in a matte or gloss finish, and although it's pricey, a gallon will last FOREVER.  (I have sealed two rooms of painted hardwood floors and dozens and dozens of furniture pieces, and my gallon is still 3/4 full)  Apply the Verithane with a good brush.  1-2 coats-- applied VERY thinly-- will do for everything except really high-traffic pieces, like a coffee table. 

For a step-by-step on painting furniture, check out this blog post from Eddie Ross (My Hero) about painting a flea market table for a Southern Living feature called "Treasure Hunt." 

There are many other ways to finish pieces-- chalk paint and wax finishes are two other popular methods-- if you have a particular look in mind, google it-- you'll have a million explainations at your fingertips! 

Happy painting!

1 comment:

Rene said...

This is great information! I totally agree with you on Valspar spray paint. I like the Valspar primer too.