A new coat of paint can do wonders to breathe life into an old piece of furniture. But most of the time, we don’t have furniture paint lying around in the garage. If you don’t want to invest a lot of extra time and money into a simple DIY project, you may be wondering if there’s an alternative option.
The last thing you want to do is create more work by using paint that doesn’t turn out the way you wanted. So, can you use wall paint on furniture, and is it a good idea?
You can use wall paint on furniture whether you have latex, acrylic, or oil-based paint. However, the adhesion and durability may vary depending on the furniture. For example, wood furniture may need to be sanded first if it already has a coat of paint on it. Prepping the surface, using a primer, and using the right materials will ensure the best result.
What paint works best on furniture?
Furniture paint is available as either spray paint or standard brush-on paint. Furniture paint might be oil-based or water-based (latex or acrylic). For example, Valspar makes a product specially formulated for use on cabinets and furniture. It’s an oil-based enamel, meaning it creates a good seal and is easy to clean.
Other furniture paint products are designed with a specific look or purpose in mind. So, your finished product might have a chalkboard finish. Or you may want to go with Rust-Oleum Milk Paint if you want a powdery look.
Furniture paint is typically more expensive than standard paint because it’s more specialized. Buying small cans of these products will add up fast if you have to do a large project of multiple pieces.
Latex wall paint
Standard wall paint is readily available at many different retailers and you may already have some on hand. If so, great! You can definitely save some money on your next DIY project by using latex wall paint to give your furniture a new look.
Latex wall paint is typically cheaper to buy, especially if you don’t need much. Even for larger projects, though, latex paint is less expensive than specialized furniture paint.
Organize your tools and materials
Here’s what you’ll need for a successful furniture paint job:
You can use any color painter’s tape you like. Remember, the light purple kind is normally for more delicate surfaces and will peel off without causing damage. You’ll want enough tape to cover any areas that you don’t want painted.
So, if you’re doing more than one color or you want to protect any surfaces from overspray or bleeding, tape them off.
Preparing the surface is critical for a good result. If you need to remove old paint, use a coarse sandpaper (like 60 grit). If there are any cracks or holes, now is the time to patch with wood putty. For light sanding, use a fine sandpaper like 220 or 320 grit.
Krud Kutter is a cleaner and degreaser that will remove any dirt, residue, and grease from the surfaces. This is especially important for furniture that has hardware like hinges, knobs, or handles.
Calcium carbonate powder is typically used to improve your paint’s durability, make the colors more intense, and enhance lustre. Paint goes on smoother and adheres better when you mix in calcium carbonate. You’ll need 2-8 tablespoons per gallon of paint.
Shellac is great for adding a protective coating to wood furniture if you want to add a natural wood color. You can also use shellac on non-wood furniture to add a protective coating and keep your paint job looking fresh.
Polyurethane is essentially liquid plastic. There are several finish options from satin to glossy, and it does a good job of protecting your furniture and paint from damage (as long as it’s not exposed to heat).
Choose a spray painter or brush (which is best?)
Before you start painting your furniture, you’ll have to decide whether you want to use a sprayer or a brush. Choosing the right tool depends on the furniture’s type and material and what desired look you’re trying to achieve.
Using a sprayer is best for large projects or if you’re doing multiple pieces. Paint sprayers are more efficient and result in less waste, which is important with big projects or when cost is factor. It’s also a lot faster to spray.
Some people prefer the look and finish when using a sprayer because its smoother, more even, and highly precise for small nooks and crannies. Still, you should keep in mind that you’ll have to be mindful of overspray when using a paint sprayer.
However, you may want to use a brush for a very large item like a table, because keeping your sprays even all the way across on each pass may be a challenge. A bucket of paint and a paint brush is also simple, requires no special equipment, and you can buy whatever type or color paint you want.
Plus, many people have extra paint, paint brushes, and rollers already on hand. So there’s less for you to have to buy when you start your project.
Choose the paint color
Selecting the color for your furniture is the fun part. To make the best choice, there are some things to consider.
First, think about what kind of furniture and what its purpose will be. For example, a dresser for a kid’s room might be a fun, bright color. However, a night table for your guest room might be better suited in a dark or neutral tone.
If the piece is something that might get dirty like a table, chair, or stool, you may want to go with a darker color versus a light color.
Another consideration is where the piece will live once the paint job is complete. For example, if you’re going to put a new chair or table front and center in your living room, you’ll probably want it to match the rest of your furniture. However, a piece of patio furniture for outside your home may look great if the color contrasts your home’s paint scheme.
Ultimately, choosing a color is completely up to you and there’s nothing that’s “off limits.” We recommend looking at some different paint swatches in bold colors you may not normally consider. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results!
Prep the furniture
The first step to painting your furniture is to remove any of the exiting hardware. That would include any hinges, knobs, or handles. If you’re able to remove any screws or bolts without taking the piece apart, you can do that too.
Keep all the hardware together and set it aside so it doesn’t get lost. It’s a good idea to keep items from the right side together and items from the left side together so it’s easier to put back on.
Clean the piece of furniture using Krud Kutter
Before painting, it’s critical to remove all dirt, debris, and grease from the surfaces. Krud Kutter is a really efficient household cleaner that will get the job done quickly and easily.
Simply spray all the surfaces with the cleaner and wipe it off with a sponge or cloth. Repeat if necessary.
Tape off areas where you don’t want paint
Mo make clean lines and edges, use painter’s tape to tape off the areas you don’t want painted. For example, if you’re using two different colors, use tape for your dividing line. Or, you may want to tape off the undersides of the furniture to keep the paint from bleeding over and looking sloppy.
It’s also a good idea to tape over any hardware you didn’t (or couldn’t) remove. So, nuts, bolts, door tracks, and other components can be protected from paint with a little tape. Just be sure it gets a firm seal and you lay it down straight.
If the piece has a glossy finish, you may need to remove the existing paint before you recoat. In other cases you may just need to give it a rougher finish so the paint will adhere.
Sanding furniture is easiest by hand with sheets of sandpaper or a sanding block. Use 60-80 grit sandpaper for stripping. To just level out the surface or smooth it down, go with 100-150 grit sandpaper. For light sanding or sanding between paint coats, use a fine sandpaper that’s between 180 and 240 grit.
Six painting steps for a beautiful piece
Mix paint with calcium carbonate
Making your wall paint into chalk paint is easy to do at home and will ensure you get a soft finish that looks great on furniture pieces or cabinets. To turn your latex wall paint into the perfect furniture paint, pour one cup of paint into a quart-sized container.
Then, add 4 tablespoons of calcium carbonate (one at a time), mixing in between each scoop. Once the calcium carbonate is dissolved, add water one tablespoon at a time until the consistency is where you want it. Remember, chalk paint should be much thicker than regular paint.
Brush or spray on the first coat and let it dry
When you’re ready to start, apply your first coat of paint. You can use a roller, brush, or foam (or sprayer), just be sure to get even coverage as best you can. Try to reduce lines and don’t apply the paint too heavy to prevent drip marks.
Let the first coat dry according the manufacturer’s instructions. Most of the time, you’ll need to wait at least one hour.
Brush or spray on the second coat and let it dry
Lightly brush your finger over the surface to check that it’s dry to the touch. If it still feels moist, sticky, or tacky, wait a little longer. Then, repeat the earlier steps to apply the second coat. You may want to lightly sand in between coats for a smoother finish.
Coat with polyurethane
If you used teh chalk paint recipe, you’ll need to seal the piece with polyurethane. Any paint job that’s likely to get heavy use will benefit from this sealant. It will keep the surface protected, keeping moisture out and creating a cleanable surface. Water-based polyurethane is best.
Once the paint is completely dry (wait at least 24 hours), use a foam brush to apply the polyurethane using light, long strokes. Be sure to stir the polyurethane first (don’t shake the can), and follow the instructions for recoating and drying time.
Sand the sealed surface lightly using a very fine sandpaper. Don’t go too hard or you’ll scratch the sealant.
Spray again if needed
If you’re not happy with the coverage or you notice slight imperfections, you can recoat the surface again if you choose.
Remove painter’s tape
When the paint and polyurethane is completely dry, you can carefully remove the painter’s tape. Try to pull the tape up straight, applying constant and even pressure. In other words, don’t rip it or try to pull it off too quickly.
If removing the tape causes damage, you may have to retouch the edges.
Reattach the hardware you removed earlier, putting it back in the same locations. Take care to put hinges and door track on the correct way so you don’t have to redo it later.
When the job is complete, give the piece another wipedown with a soft, microfiber cloth. This will remove any dust from sanding or reattaching the hardware. Wiping the surface will also help buff it out so you can see the finished product and tell if you need to do any touch-ups.
Our team includes many home improvement professionals such as painters interior decorators and architects. Collectively, we have over 30 years of experience.