Hey guys! During the past week I heard from quite a few people telling me they were ready to tackle a paint project, but they didn’t know where to start. So I decided to give a quick run down on how I prep for any kind of paint project whether it’s latex or chalk paint. For all of you chalk painters out there I can hear you now…
“What do you mean prep for chalk painting??? It says: ‘No Prepping, No Sanding, and No Priming’, so why should I waste my time prepping?”
Yes, I get it! Chalk paint is suppose to stick to anything and everything, right? And that means saving money and time on prep. Well friends, the truth is that chalk paint, or any other kind of paint for that matter, will not adhere to all surfaces and this is something you don’t want to find out after you finish! I’ve tried the “No Prep” thing which made me want to sit down and cry when my paint didn’t stick. That was a lesson learned the hard way. In case you try to to test out the No Prep Necessary theory, keep in mind that paint has a hard time adhering to modern furniture with a slick finish. It may work fine on older furniture that no longer has a good seal to the finish, but you’re taking a gamble with the newer stuff.
On the flipside of this, your paint may stick well, but then the stain, color, or wood grain underneath bleeds through the fresh paint…which could happen immediately or days or even weeks later. If you’re using a light color of paint on a dark piece of wood, then I suggest going with the notion that “everything is a bleeder”. It will save you time and frustration in the long run if you prime that sucker right off the bat.
I’m going to give you tips I have learned from painting furniture on and off for the last twenty years. I’ve used latex, oil-based, spray paint, homemade chalk paint, and the expensive chalk paints, and they all had the same thing in common. If the prep wasn’t done right, then the finished piece didn’t turn out right no matter what kind of paint I used.
Prep isn’t necessarily long or difficult. Whew! Isn’t that good news? It really depends on what you plan to do with the piece and what shape it is in to begin with. If you need to make repairs to the veneer or wood then that would come first of course and is a topic for another day. Today is all about the basic prep.
Here’s my normal prep routine:
For a dresser, I remove the drawers and then the hardware from the drawers. On the end of each drawer I label where it belongs. This is especially important in older pieces of furniture. If you have a dresser where one drawer looks like it doesn’t fit properly, then try sliding it into different holes to see if it fits better in a different slot. I leave the doors attached although some people remove them. If you decide to remove them, then proceed with caution. Sometimes the hinges can be tricky when you are putting the doors back on. I place the hardware in a Ziploc baggie and label it. There’s nothing like coming up one screw short when you’re all finished and ready to list your item for sale…
…but you can’t list it…
…until you go to the hardware store…
…for one little screw…
I might have some recent experience with this if you want to know the truth.
If I plan on staining any parts of the furniture, then I will sand those parts all the way down to bare wood making sure there’s not any sealer or stain left in any area. I usually start with 60 or 80 grit (coarse) sandpaper and work my way up to 220 grit (fine). In the past, I hand sanded everything. What the heck was I thinking? I now use an electrical sander when I’m sanding down to the natural wood.
For areas that will be painted (not stained), then I do a light scruff sand with a sanding sponge. I like to think of it as wiping down kitchen countertops. Sand in the direction of the wood grain while applying light pressure. I’ll run my hand over the entire area to make sure everything feels smooth and even.
- Always wear a mask that’s designed for paint projects! Some finishes are toxic and you don’t want to be breathing in those particles as you sand.
- Always sand in the same direction as the wood grain.
- When using an electrical sander make sure you don’t gouge the wood.
- Start with coarse sandpaper and gradually go up to 220 grit to get the smoothest finish prior to painting or staining.
- Wrap sandpaper around a sanding block so pressure is applied evenly.
I have found vacuuming to be the best thing ever. I use the brush attachment on our house vacuum cleaner and run the vacuum all over the inside and outside of the piece. It’s quick, easy, and the best way I have found to get rid of all of the gritty dust from sanding.
Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
Using a damp sponge (I squeeze out as much water from the sponge as I can) I do a very quick wipe down using a little dawn dishwashing liquid mixed with water. I then use clean water to rinse the soapy residue off. You don’t need to saturate the piece when doing this step. This helps remove any leftover dust or grease. Allow to dry thoroughly before painting!
- Mineral Spirits would be an alternative to using Dawn. It will evaporate from the surface of the wood so there’s no need to rinse.
By now I’m sure you’re thinking “overkill”, but keep in mind this comes from my personal experience. In the past, I had times when I thought I had removed all of the dust and grit from sanding and any lint that might have been clinging to the wood, but once I started painting I quickly figured out that wasn’t the case. I would rather spend an extra 2-3 minutes doing a thorough prep than have to sand down a piece because of grit.
- Sometimes lint-free cloths really aren’t lint-free so don’t skip the tack cloth!
If you are painting over a dark surface with a light colored paint or if you are afraid of bleed through from previous stains, then you’ll need to use a primer that say “blocks severe stains and tannin bleed”. Follow the instructions on the can for application and drying times.
So that covers the prep part, then it’s all fun from there!
So, I have to admit the sanding for this table (and the two leafs) was loooonnnnnggggg, but I love how it turned out and the new paint job brightened up that end of the kitchen! It was well worth the effort and time I put into it.
Have questions or comments? Leave them below and I’ll get back to you.