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  • Brass Tacks

Furniture Prepping - Behind The Scenes Look

We've been professionally painting furniture for over 3 years now and have painted 100's if not 1000's pieces of furniture. Everything ranging from picture frames to large buffets to kitchen cabinets.

Painted Dresser in General Finishes Antique White

We often get asked how to paint furniture and we can't stress enough that the prep work you do is key. It will set you up for a beautiful finish and less work in the end. I can't tell you how many times we've done a piece of furniture and we go to put the top coat on just to have that "yellow" or "red" color bleed through. Those are the wood tannins or the pre-existing finish on the furniture and they need to be properly prepped and sealed to avoid them bleeding through your final coat.

Each piece of furniture requires its own prep process based on its current condition, undertones, and the end result you are looking to get. The basics are the same but you may need to add a step or two depending on what you are working on. Without getting to lengthy on this blog post on all the different scenarios you may come across here are the basics that we do for every piece of furniture that we paint.

Prep Basic Steps

JB Weld Kwik Wood

1. Wood fill any damaged spots or fill hardware holes if changing hardware. You may also need to pull any veneer off that is lifting. We often use JB Weld Kwik Wood since it doesn't shrink and crumble when it dries. It can be used to fill hardware holes as well as even out the surface where you may have taken off veneer.

2. Sand your furniture. Just a quick sanding with 120 grit and your mouse sander is enough for most furniture pieces. If you wood filled you may need to go to 80 grit to get the surfaces to even out. Unless you are re-staining a surface you do NOT need to sand off all the existing finish. You just want to "rough" it up a bit so that the paint has something to adhere to. We typically use our

Makita Orbital Sander

Makita orbital sander for all our prep but we do keep a mouse sander on hand for hard to reach areas. (We had to go the orbital sander because Kendall is good at breaking our mouse sanders! I think she's up to 4-5 mouse sander breaks in 2 years, RIP little sanders :) )

3. Prime or Shellac (this is an optional step based on the undertones of your current piece and the end result you want)

-If you are painting your piece a light color you are going to want to prime your piece. This will give you a good base to cover the current wood color and let the paint color you picked be more true to swatch. Without priming it may take you a couple extra coats of using your "good" paint to get good coverage. (Think about painting a wall in your house if it is dark brown to start with and you are going lighter you're going to want to use a couple coats of primer before you put your actually paint color on, same applies to furniture.)

General Finishes Stain Blocker

-Our FAVORITE primer is General Finishes Stain Blocker. You MUST apply 2 coats to get it to block out the wood tannins but is easy to work with and there are no worries about bleed through when we go to put the top coat on.

-If you have a piece of furniture that has an existing finish that is really red or orange in color you may want to Shellac it, even if you are going darker for your paint color. (I've painted a dresser black before and had red bleed through because of the pre-existing finish.)

Zinsser Shellac

Shellac is also great if you have an old furniture smell in the drawers. Generally 2 coats of Shellac will seal the smell or tannins and then you are ready to paint. It does have a strong odor to it so you'll want to apply it outside or in a well vented area.

4. Clean your piece with tsp. We like tsp best for cleaning our pieces after we sand because it is a de-greaser, de-glosser and removes dirt build up. If your furniture has a nice sheen to it to start with it probably has years of Pledge or furniture polish layered on it. Our bucket of water is usually brown after cleaning some pieces and that's how we know our piece is ready to be painted!

5. Paint your piece! Let the fun begin and get your paint on!

I know the prep work may seem daunting but we promise it is worth the extra effort. Not every piece of furniture is going to need all the prep steps, it really depends on your piece and the finish you are going for. Leave us comments or let us know if you have any questions!

disclaimer: All opinions are our own and we currently have no affiliations with any of the products mentioned in this blog.

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