Painting Furniture a Dicey Proposition


Every day, numerous people attempt to transform the appearance of drab chairs, dressers and shelves by adding a coat of paint. Unfortunately, all too often, these do-it-yourselfers end up with significant finish failure in the form of chipping and peeling. Before you attempt this type of home improvement project, learn why painting furniture can be a dicey proposition.

Adhesion Problems

Many people end up with finish failure, because they don’t know how to encourage adhesion. According to do-it-yourself expert and professional contractor RJ Lawrence, proper preparation is the key to a beautiful, lasting painted finish.

“It doesn’t matter if the furniture is made of wood, plastic or metal; if you want the new finish to last, you have to properly prepare the surface,” he said. “This means cleaning it thoroughly to eliminate dust, dirt and unseen oils. Depending on the surface composition, it may mean abrading with sandpaper. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means adding a base coat of primer to promote good coverage and better adhesion.”

Lawrence, who authored the eBook “Painting Furniture, Professional Tutorials,” says many people get too excited about the application process and fail to roll up their sleeves and do the less glamorous prep work.

“No one likes prep work,” he said. “But it really is the key to everything. It may be unpleasant, but preparation is the fundamental key to beautiful paint jobs.”

Promoting Adhesion

According to Lawrence, do-it-yourselfers should use the following prep strategy based on the composition of the furniture they are working on.

  • Varnished wood furniture: Sand the varnished topcoat until it appears dull; wipe down the wood using a rag, which has been moistened with mineral spirits; add a coat of water-based primer.
  • Bare wood furniture: No need to sand this; however, you do need to wipe down and prime the wood.
  • Metal furniture: Clean this using a water-based degreaser; then add a coat of metal-etching primer.
  • Plastic furniture: Scour the plastic using 180-grit sandpaper; keep sanding until the plastic is slightly rough; wash the furniture; add a coat of water-based primer.
By Nathaniel Hutchinson (27 Posts)

Nathaniel Hutchinson is's Business and Financial Expert .

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