Do you have a large piece of wood furniture you want to refinish, but just the thought of sanding it makes your hand and arm ache? Don’t let the mess and stress of sanding stop you from painting your furniture.

You can paint wood furniture without sanding it first! There are 4 easy steps to prep your wood furniture for paint without needing to sand it. All you need is deglosser, primer, and paint. This simple method will take less time and make less mess. 

With high-quality cleaners, primers, and paint, your DIY wood furniture remodel can be fast, easy, and sandpaper-free.

Why Should You Sand Wood Furniture Before Painting It?

Sanding roughs up the top surface of the wood. Paint adheres better to a scoured surface than a smooth one. Sanding will help the paint stick better and last longer. It prevents premature cracking and peeling of the paint.

If your furniture is damaged, sanding the blemished spot will prevent it from breaking or cracking further. By sanding down any jagged edges or chips, it lessens the chance of splintering. It will also help the paint apply smoother and more evenly.

Sanding is also a good way to remove the original finish on a piece of wood furniture. If you have a dining chair that is black and you want to paint it white, sanding the chair before painting will help remove the black paint. This lessens the chance of the black bleeding through your brand-new white paint.

Wood is porous. If you are painting raw wood that hasn’t been treated with anything before, it is going to absorb a lot of the new paint. Sanding will scuff up the surface and the wood won’t absorb as much paint. You will be able to do fewer coats and save paint.

Can You Not Sand Wood Before Painting?

Sanding is not the only way to prepare wood furniture for paint. 

Sanding furniture is a lot of work. You do not want to sand furniture in your house. It creates a huge mess and the dust will get everywhere. Large pieces of furniture aren’t moved easily. If you are short on time and space, you might want to refinish the furniture right where it is. There are several ways to get your wood furniture painted that don’t involve sandpaper or having to remove the furniture from your house.

Sanding is very time-consuming and can extend your DIY project into days or even weeks. There are four ways you prepare wood furniture for paint without sanding it first.

How To Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding It

To get your furniture ready for paint without sanding it, you will need the following materials:

  • Painter’s rags
  • Protective wear – gloves, painter’s mask, and eyeglasses
  • Dish soap and water
  • Grease cleaner
  • Deglosser
  • Primer

Choose Furniture Without Blemishes

Furniture that already has cracks or chips in the wood needs to be sanded. Items with lots of blemishes are not good candidates for a no-sanding paint application. Chips in wood will continue to crack and break apart. Any paint you apply over it will crack and chip too.

If you do not want to sand your wood furniture before painting it, choose furniture with as few imperfections as possible. It is also best to avoid wood with a lot of knots in it. Knots will create bumps in your paint. They also respond to painting differently. You will have an uneven (and bumpy) top coat if you paint over knots without filling or sanding them first. 

Clean the Wood Very Thoroughly

Before you start the refinishing process, make sure your furniture is squeaky clean. Dust, dirt, and grime will affect how evenly the paint adheres to the wood. If there isn’t a lot of dust on the wood, you can wipe it down with dish soap and water. Let the furniture dry before moving on to another step.

Degreasers like Krud Cutter are a good choice for wood furniture that is very dirty. Chemical cleaners will cut through grime quickly. Simply spray the cleaner and let it sit for several minutes. This will soften up built-on dirt. 

Use Deglosser

Deglosser is a chemical that dulls paint, varnish, and stain. It is often referred to as “liquid sandpaper”. The chemical agents in deglossers break down old paint. It gives similar results as sandpaper without the mess.

Deglossers are sold as liquids in cans just like paint. They can also be found in spray form. Apply deglosser evenly to your wood furniture. If you buy a liquid deglosser, put some on a rag or sponge and rub it over the furniture. If you buy the spray deglosser, mist evenly and generously. It is okay to overlap while applying the deglosser. Just make sure the coating is even. 

Once you are done, wipe away any excess deglosser. Double-check that you have covered every spot of the wood. Let the deglosser dry completely.

Safety Notice: There are strong chemicals in deglossers. Make sure to put on protective equipment before using it. This includes wearing gloves, a painter’s mask, and protective eyewear. Avoid getting deglosser on your skin.

Remember, deglosser breaks down ANY finish. Be careful to protect anything that is near your project. Use masking tape or drop clothes to cover your floors and nearby furniture. 

Prime Your Wood

Adding a coat of primer to your wood furniture will help the paint adhere better. It will also make sure that none of the original finish on the furniture bleeds through your new paint. It is very important to use a primer if:

  • You are painting a light color over a darker color
  • The wood furniture is mahogany or cherry 
  • The original paint or varnish color is red
  • You are refinishing a piece of furniture that is used a lot
  • The wood furniture is old and has a musty or mildew smell

Wood that has red undertones is the most difficult to cover. This includes natural mahogany and cherry but also applies to varnishes dyed to look red. The red will bleed through your new paint if you paint before priming. Priming over red-colored wood will prevent those red tones from staining your new paint.

Primer makes your paint more durable. The paint sticks well to the primer. This strong bond will help prevent scratches and dings. You definitely want to use primer on furniture like dining room tables, credenzas in entryways, and kitchen cabinets. It will make your paint last longer and keep your furniture looking like new. 

Primer also covers up musty smells in wood furniture. Sometimes no matter how much you clean a piece of furniture, it will still have a moldy smell. This is especially true for wood furniture that is very old or has been kept in storage for a long time. One coat of primer will eliminate any funky smells and get your furniture ready for new paint!

Certain types of primer will even prevent mildew and mold from growing on your wood furniture. 

What Type of Primer Should You Use?

Bonding primers are the best types of primers to use on wood furniture that you haven’t sanded. These stick to almost any surface and adhere to most paint types. Primers are usually water or oil-based. Oil-based primers adhere best to wood.

The 2 most highly recommended wood furniture primers are Kilz and Zinsser. This chart compares the price, use, and qualities of both 1-quart primers so that you can pick the best one for your project.

Brand/TypeDry TimeStain ResistantMildew ResistantInterior/ Exterior UsePrice
Kilz “Premium 3”30-minutesYesYesYes$15.98
Zinsser “Bulls Eye 1-2-3” 35-minutesYesYesYes$17.99

Primer can be applied with brushes or rollers. You only need to apply one coat of primer. Let the primer dry completely before painting over it. 

What Type of Paint Should You Use?

If you use a high-quality primer, most paints will adhere well. However, some paint brands have formulas that are designed to be applied to wood that hasn’t been sanded. The top 3 choices for DIY wood furniture painting are Beyond Paint, Rustoleum, and Heirloom Traditions. All of these paint brands are easily found online and in hardware stores. 

Check out the chart below for comprehensive side-by-side comparisons!

Brand & TypeDry TimeScratch ResistantWater ResistantInterior/ Exterior UsePriceColor Options
Beyond Paint2-4 hoursYesYesYes$42.4515+
Heirloom Traditions48-hoursYesNoYes$41.9940+

You can apply your paint with a brush or roller. Paint in fast strokes to make even coats. Painting quickly and methodically hides brushstrokes. As long as you choose high-quality paint, you should only need one coat. If you want the extra color coverage or durability of the second coat of paint, make sure you let the first layer dry all the way before starting on the second. 

You do not have to sand your wood furniture before painting it. Sanding is a time-consuming and messy process that doesn’t make sense for every project. Instead of sanding choose quality cleaners, primers, and restoration paint. Your DIY furniture makeover will look just as good and take half the time!

Hot Tip: If you want to go right from cleaning your furniture to painting it, use chalk paint. Chalk paint is lightly textured and adheres to ANYTHING. The texture of the paint will hide any minor imperfections in the furniture. It is the fastest and easiest way to refinish a wood furniture piece!

Resources & Related Articles

How To Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding – A Place Called Home GA

5 Ways to Paint Furniture WITHOUT Sanding

Trick to Painting Wood Furniture without Sanding

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