Painting Wood Furniture: 10 Tips

by Kimba on April 26, 2009

in Furniture Rehab

my dresser makeover

I {heart} painted wood furnture. That’s no secret. Here are 10 tips if you want to give it a shot.
  1. Do what YOU like. I’m not telling you to paint grandma’s priceless armoire, but what good does it do to live with a piece of furniture that you don’t like just because someone says, “But it’s WOOD”?
  2. Start small. Pick something inexpensive and small to practice on. A old wood chair is a perfect first project.
  3. Clean it really well. A good scrubbing with soap and water will do a long way for creating a surface that will hold paint. If it’s really greasy or grimy, there are products you can use to clean it better but I’ve never used them.
  4. Evaluate the surface. If its slick and shiny, you’re going to need to sand or use a liquid deglosser (liquid sandpaper). If not, you can skip the sanding step.
  5. You may not need to prime. I only prime if it’s a piece that will get heavy use. If it’s just going to get looked at vs. sat on, jumped off and banged around, I usually won’t prime.
  6. If you’re using a dark color, get a tinted primer (in black or grey). It makes getting an even finish so much easier.
  7. If you want a really durable finish, you can use an oil-based primer with a latex paint. Just don’t use latex paint over oil-based PAINT. That will make you a big ole mess.
  8. Take care of any drips or streaks when they happen. When I’m spray painting, I keep a foam brush handy to wipe away and runs or drips.
  9. If you miss one, wait for the paint to dry REALLY well and sand it away then repaint.
  10. Be patient! This is the hardest step for me. Letting your piece dry well between coats will go a long way toward avoiding problems in the finish like bubbles and crackling.

I had grand plans to show you my latest project for Edie’s painted wood project party at her blog, Life In Grace. Unfortunately, it was way too windy to spraypaint outside this weekend and The Hubster has had about enough of my spray painting in the basement.

Here are some other painted wood projects. Some are mine…some not.

Detailed tutorial for painting a wooden chair: ASPTL
Dresser makeover: Sanctuary Art at Home
Thrift store desk makeover (It’s amazing. Seriously): Living with Lindsay
Painting porch chairs: This Young House

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1 Michelle@Fromhousetohome April 27, 2009 at 5:09 am

Great post! I love painting furniture. Like you said, there are always those people that gasp because you are painting over natural wood. I say if it makes you happier with paint on it, it’s worth it!

2 emily April 27, 2009 at 5:17 am

Great tips, Kimba. Short and to the point. Love it.

3 edie April 27, 2009 at 5:18 am

Thank you so much for linking up!! I love your list and my painter actually advised to do number 7….but I’m lazy and hate cleaning up oil paint. I’m sure I’ll be touching up from time to time!

I love your blog and appreciate all the helpful tips!

Thanks again for joining the party!

Hugs and love,
Ms. Edie

4 Jenny@ L.O.T.s of Love April 27, 2009 at 6:27 am

Thanks! I’ve been pondering my first project!

5 Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam April 27, 2009 at 6:45 am

Great post, my friend. You are the master in this. 🙂

6 the undomesticated wife April 27, 2009 at 6:57 am

I’m in the middle of a project too. Sanded the piece down last week, the spent all week upset that it was windy and raining and I couldn’t paint. Will be raining all this week too. Arg!

7 Little Lovables April 27, 2009 at 7:06 am

Excellent post! Patience is my hardest thing too. Do you know if you can paint veneer?

Oh, and tack cloth is great for rubbing down after sanding!

8 marty39 April 27, 2009 at 7:25 am

Great advice. I am about to paint two chairs, and I appreciate all the help. I also checked out some of the other posts your suggested, awesome information and inspiration. Thanks. Hugs, Marty

9 Laurel @ Ducks in a Row April 27, 2009 at 7:41 am

Thanks for the tips – Love it

10 Jen r. April 27, 2009 at 7:42 am

Great tips! Thanks for the mention! Jen

11 Cheryl April 27, 2009 at 9:23 am

Thanks for this post. I am wanting to paint my dining chairs black and I wasn’t sure about how to go about it.

12 Songbirdtiff April 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

Hey, lucky lady! You won my poster prints giveaway! You should be hearing from online poster prints shortly. Thanks for entering!

13 Amanda @ Serenity Now April 27, 2009 at 11:06 am

Great tips today, thank you! I’ve been searching forever for the perfect wood desk for my craft stuff, but haven’t found one that’s REAL wood and the right size yet. Being patient is probably harder than the painting part, but this is all good to know. 🙂

14 Remodeling Guy April 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Great tips Kimba! Makes me want to paint something right now!

Have a great week!


15 ST. MICHAEL'S WIFE April 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Kimba, I have a buffet similar to the first picture on this posting, and I want to paint it black, too! Did you use a flat or a glossy black? Thanks for all your posting — you are always inspiring!

16 Kimba April 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm

St. Michaels Wife – Thanks for asking. I used satin spray paint on that buffet.

Here’s a link with a tutorial from when I did it…


17 Rachel April 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Those are some great tips. I tried my first spray painting adventure this last week. I can definitely tell I’ve never been in a gang. It didn’t go so well. But I’m sure I’ll be up for more… I’m a glutton for punishment.

18 My First Kitchen April 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

You’re so good at lists. Did I tell you I tried to paint an old solid wood desk I bought from a neighbor? I lugged the whole thing (this puppy was hea-vy) upstairs BY MYSELF and felt like Wonderwoman. I think my biceps doubled in size. Then I assembled the whole thing by myself and got all ready to paint it. Then? The desk, already a little loved by its previous owners, totally. fell. apart. I might have cried a little. Then I just went to IKEA and bought a new desk. That tends to be how my painting jobs turn out. 🙂

19 bec4 April 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I love painting furniture–and black is my favorite right now! Also–you give us the best links–I have found many wonderful blogs through yours–thanks!

20 Myrna April 27, 2009 at 4:57 pm

HI Kimba!
I’ve stumbled upon your blog when doing decorating research..I’m speaking at a women’s group at our church and was wondering if I could use your hints on garage sale finds (Furniture Rehab)? I will give you credit for it along with your blog address…
Thanks for your consideration–I LOVE your blog and will be back!!

21 amybluestar April 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Thank you for the tips! I too have problems waiting for the paint to dry between coats. . I just want it to be done . .

22 Myrna April 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Thanks for responding so quickly, Kimba!..and your sweet comments!
I have to tell you something…this is what I emailed my girlfriend after viewing your blog and became gripped with fear and insecurities about talking in front of a group:

I am battling a full-blown melt down. I’m thinking “Who the heck do I think I am to give a slide-show and talk on Wed?” I made the mistake at looking at some new decorating blogs and they have WAY better pictures, ideas, insight, etc, than I do. I feel so inept and mediocre in comparison. I feel like I’m gonna be a bumbling idiot up there. I’ll slink out afterwards, never to be seen there again. We’ll have to find a new church. We’ll have to MOVE! Oh this is agonizing!!!!!!

Blessedly, my friend wrote back and talked me down from the ledge! 😉
Hope you got a chuckle out of this!;-D
Thanks again for you help!!

23 Anonymous April 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I’ve done a few pieces in the past and would love to paint my piano (from wood, to black). Have you ever attempted anything like this?

24 Kelli April 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

I love paint, anywhere, any time!! I would spray paint in a box, with a fox, in a house upside down… wait, sorry… This is not Dr. Seus!!!

25 Kimm at Reinvented April 27, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Great tips, thanks for sharing. I have a LITTLE problem with the patience part too. 🙂

26 Kimba April 27, 2009 at 7:48 pm

I KNOW I’ve seen a post about someone painting a piano before. I can’t remember where though.

Anyone? Help?


27 Sarah @ Thrifty Decor Chick April 27, 2009 at 9:14 pm

See, I hardly ever sand but ALWAYS prime. I’m glad to hear it works OK when you don’t. I’m too sceered not to. But I am ALWAYS so impatient too. UGH, it’s like waiting for paint to dry! Wait…

28 HeathahLee April 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Why did I not realize in the makeover post that this dresser is the one that goes with my Kiddo’s chest of drawers? Same hardware and everything! Sound Man redid the chest (it had layers and layers of paint on it from my sister’s childhood on!) and I LOVE it!

I’m about to paint a couple of side tables in my bedroom, and you can be sure I’ll be following your steps!

29 Kasey Hunt April 28, 2009 at 8:08 am

Thanks for the great tips. I’ll be thinking about this the next time I’ll be painting. Although, I’m in love with spray paint right now!!

30 Ashley @ Domestic Fashionista April 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I hate it when people complain I am painting wood…ugh, so annoying! Well it is MY wood and I am going to paint it! 😉

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33 DakerMom October 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

I know this is a really old post to comment on, bit it's related, promise! And I hope you have the time to answer, because I'm new to refinishing and transforming and need some help to get started on a particular project! I got this little wooden toy chest at a consignment store, it's painted white and the wood is really rough (I think it's kinda like a plywood maybe, that kind of texture) and the paint job is horrible! It seems really rough and dry. I know the stuff that normally needs to be sanded is the shiny stuff but I'm guessing to get a smooth surface I need to sand. I already sprayed on a coat of the paint I wanted to use, but it wasn't looking good, so now I'm sanding (hopefully that's right). Should I use primer before I attempt to paint again? Basically now I'm sanding off the paint I sprayed on as well as some of the original. Help please!! Thanks!!

34 DakerMom October 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

Just to clarify though, it's not plywood, it was just a rough wood, hard to paint over, but now I've sanded it to smooth, but still don't think that texture will cover easily with paint because it seems to just absorb it or something..? Again… help!!

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