One of the most common questions I get asked is “Do I really have to prep the furniture before I paint it?”  My answer is usually a little involved so I thought it would be helpful to explain how I prep furniture for paint.

I have painted A LOT of furniture and I have made A LOT of mistakes.  There have been pieces I have painted that eventually peeled, flaked, and got scratched up WAY too easy.

I am going to give you some tips on prepping furniture so you can avoid the mistakes that I made.

There are some pieces where you can just jump in and paint right away without doing anything, there are some pieces that require the prep work.


1.  Sanding

There are times that you can get away without sanding a piece.  But more often than not, I sand. When do you sand? If the piece you are painting is chipping, scratched, or damaged….SAND.  I start with a 120 grit sandpaper (here is a great variety pack I like to order.) and I more often than not use my power sander. (I totally like that it is cordless.  Here is the charger I use and here is the battery. ) They are definitely worth the investment. I have this power sander and I like it.  Lightweight and the narrow tip helps get into small spaces.

If you are working with new wood or new construction- then you definitely have to sand.  Being sure to get rid of any rough spots.

After sanding I go over the piece with my mini shop vac.

Then I wipe the entire piece down with a tack cloth.

2.  De-glossing

If the piece does not require sanding, I always degloss.  Deglossing takes off the shine and years of furniture polish build up as well as oils that may have penetrated the piece.  I have a couple of favorites that I use. TSP is one- read the directions thoroughly and wear rubber gloves. My other favorite is Krudcutter.  Either get the job done.

Again follow the directions on the bottle and wear gloves to protect your hands.

3.  Priming

I do not prime my furniture very often.  If you have sanded, cleaned, and de-glossed the piece, most of the time primer is not needed.  Here are the times that I use a primer before I paint…

~If I am going from a dark color to a light color or a light color to a very dark color. Priming it not only helps the paint adhere to the surface it also makes it so you do not have to do layer upon layer of coats.  Basically it saves lots of work.

~If the wood stain has a red tone to it or the piece is painted red. Reds are very hard to paint over without bleeding through. Avoid the bleed through by just priming the piece.

~If the piece was excessively dirty. I have found furniture in old barns, garages, and on the side of the road. Most of these pieces have seen better days. If the piece is excessively dirty, beyond what you can clean, I always start with a primer. I give it a good sanding, clean it with a tack cloth, and then put on a layer of primer.  Sometimes even two if they piece is really bad. Another tip, if there are oil stains on the piece I go ahead and add a layer of shellac over the piece, let it dry, then I prime it. There is nothing worse than painting a beautiful white color only to find a few days later stains coming through the paint. Avoid this by adding a layer of shellac before your primer.

I have two favorite primers Zinnser 1-2-3 is great for any project.  I like to use Kilz Max when the piece of furniture is in terrible shape.

Prepping furniture is my least favorite part.  In fact I hate it. But I have made the mistake of skipping it only to find that I had to start over.  If you found a piece of furniture you are hoping to keep for years and years, take the time to prep. It is well worth it and will add years of use to the piece.

What are some of your favorite ways to prep furniture?