Refinished Furniture

Common Questions about Refinishing Furniture


1. Do I use an oil-based paint or a latex-based paint? 

  • I always use latex paint. It is easier to clean up and dries faster than oil-based paint.
  • Oil-based paints are so messy that I won’t even start to hassle with them. Oil-based paints give a really hard, durable finish so the only time I would even consider using oil-based is on a kitchen table or some other piece that would see extreme conditions.
  • With all of my projects I use a latex-based paint and then use a polycrylic or polyurethane top coat. These top coats give the hard, durable finish that I need. 

2. What paint do you usually use? 

  • For my projects I use Behr and sometimes Glidden interior latex paint in a flat finish from Home Depot. I choose a flat finish because my top coat will give me the sheen I want.
  • Oil-based paints have a strong odor that lingers like a dirty diaper in a trash can. Another reason I prefer latex paints because they don’t have a strong, lasting smell.


3. Do I use wax or polycrylic or polyurethane as a topcoat?

  • My go-to topcoat is polycrylic. It is more durable than a wax topcoat. Unlike a polyurethane topcoat polycrylic won’t yellow when used on lighter color paints. Polycrylic also gives me the most options for the look of a piece because it can be bought in gloss, semi-gloss and satin sheen. 
  • Wax is less durable than polycrylic or polyurethane, but still works well for side tables and other pieces of furniture that don’t see a lot of traffic. Wax also gives a softer, matte look that turns out very nice.
  • Polyurethane yellows overtime, so I don’t use it on light-colored furniture and would only consider it for dark painted furniture. It is the most durable of all the topcoats, so I would definitely use it on a kitchen table. 

4. How do I get the smell out of old furniture?

  • Anytime I get a new (old) piece of furniture the first thing I do is vacuum it very, very well. 
  • Then I wipe down the entire piece with a wet cloth.
  • If there is still a musty, old smell I will wipe down the insides of the drawers with vinegar. Many times I’ve seen older dressers have decorative paper glued on the insides of the drawers, that HAS to go. It holds on to that old smell like a chubby kid holds on to junk food.
  • If all else fails do what I would do and sand it all down and repaint. That will leave your piece smelling brand new.​


5. How do I get rid of brushstrokes?

  • The age-old question…how to get rid of brush strokes? This took me a long time and many pieces of furniture to master.
  • I started with small foam rollers. This works okay, but it’s very time-consuming. On the last coat of paint (usually 3 or 4) I start at one end of the piece and then in one long motion paint to the other end, never lifting the roller. I then repeat this process until I finish. 
  • I sand in-between each coat with my orbital sander and a high grit sandpaper (320).
  • When I decided that the foam roller took too much time I figured I’d try spray paint. I love spray paint. This worked great. I bought a 1967 Magnavox Astro-Sonic turntable console from GoodWill for $25. There were a lot of crevasses with this piece so I thought spray paint would be the best way to go. After I was done with ‘that piece of shit’ (those were my dads exact words and my husband agreed with him) I had a master piece.(They were amazed) It sits in our dining room, looks great and still plays music! (Before and After pictures of that to come) **Fun Fact: the same kind of Magnavox I bought for $25 sold for $400 on ebay
  • When I get back to America in a month I will get to use my new Graco True Coat paint sprayer for the first time and I can not wait! No chance of brush strokes there.  

6. Do I have to sand my furniture before painting?

  • Yes! Always! If you want a professional looking piece sanding is a must. My orbital sander is one of the most used tools in my garage. 
  • Don’t trust people who say you don’t have to sand.
  • If I’m bringing an old piece of furniture into my house it will be sanded. I sand before I paint, I sand in-between coats and I finish with a nice sanding.
  • Sanding a piece of furniture or cabinets before painting does more than just give the paint a good surface to stick to.  It evens out surfaces, it removes scratches, dents, and even built-up dirt.
  • Sanding also helps to minimize wood grain. Wood grain becomes more pronounced as it ages.
  • Sanding also shows the areas that need wood filler so I can get smoothest painted surface possible.​

7. Why don’t you use chalk paint?

  • “Why wouldn’t you use chalk paint? There is no prep work or sanding needed and it is so durable”     ….  Umm. NO.
  • There are multiple reasons I don’t use chalk paint, the first is the price. It is expensive. Chalk Paint costs around $40 for a quart… yes a small quart of it.  The price of the wax that you have to finish with is around $30 and the Ultimate Waxing Brush you need is another $37. That’s way more than my latex paint and foam roller or even spray paint.
  • I don’t like the finish or look of chalk paint at all. It looks….chalky. I’ve never seen a piece of furniture painted with chalk paint that isn’t ‘distressed’. People always say, “chalk paint is soooo easy to distress” ….Well, latex is too. Frankly, I am over that shabby-chic distressed look. 
  • That no prep work, just start painting thing doesn’t interest me. Like I said in question 6 sanding does a lot for a piece of furniture and I find it a necessity. 
  • Furniture that has been painted with chalk paint MUST be finished with a wax topcoat. That is the only way chalk paint is durable. So really when people say it is so durable they actually mean the topcoat is so durable. If the piece doesn’t have the wax topcoat then the paint will absorb any liquid dropped on it and ruin the look. 
  • Last but not least, it takes a longer to finish a piece because the paint needs to fully dry overnight and the wax takes about 24 hours to dry.


8. Can you just spray paint a piece of furniture?

  • I love spray paint so I say, “Heck Yes!”  Just make sure it is in a well ventilated area or outdoors.
  • I tried doing it in our unfinished basement on a cold winter day and that was a mistake. I only sprayed a small lamp, but the house stunk for days.
  • It takes quite a few cans of spray paint to finish a medium-sized piece, which can get a little expensive at $3-$5 a can.
  • If you do decide to go the spray paint route I recommend Rust-Oleum. It is the best. Make sure to shake the can for at least 3 minutes the first time you use it. Don’t skimp on the shaking, you won’t like the chalky ball results. 

9. How do I repair small dents or scratches on furniture?

  • I use wood filler from Home Depot, but if I don’t have any at hand and need to fill a dent I grab sawdust that is laying on or around my miter saw mix it with glue and fill in the dent. 
  • Whatever you use it must be dried 100% and then it can be sanded over. Sand the piece until the surface is smooth and then paint! 
  • The imperfection will no longer be visible and it will look like new. ​


10. How do I change the hardware out for a different size?

  • ​This is super easy. Obviously, take out the unwanted hardware. Take wood filler and fill in the unwanted hole, make sure to let that dry completely!
  • Drill the new holes, sand over everything and paint the piece. 
  • Then it is ready for the new hardware. It is amazing how just changing the knobs on a piece of furniture can change the entire look.

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