Checklist for Painting Wooden Furniture

Just about anything is easy to transform with a few coats of paint and easy-to-understand instructions. Below is a simple, 4-step tutorial on the best and easiest way to paint wooden pieces or furniture.

Step 1: Sanding

The first step before painting wooden furniture involves sanding. It is not a good idea to miss out on this step. Sanding your wood will make the surface even and smooth, and less likely to chip. I suggest using an orbital sander for the best results, but other sanders also work fine too.

( I would not suggest hand-sanding unless you have patience and strength. It will take a lot of effort to remove old stains and paint, and I find that manual sanding is an exhausting task. I get tired even when I use an orbital sander).

I usually begin with 80- or 100-grit sandpaper (which you can purchase here), particularly when the piece already has a lacquer finish.

Once the majority of the paint or stain is removed, I change over to 150-grit or even higher to smooth the surface and remove any finish that remains.

Once I have sanded everywhere that I possibly can with my orbital sander, I move onto hard-to-reach spots manually with plain sandpaper or a sanding block. This allows me to fold and bend the sandpaper to reach hard-to-reach spots. Just make sure you have removed enough of the sheen and the paint and primer should stick.

Step 2: Dust Removal

After sanding, it is vital to make sure you remove any dust since any residual dust is going to mess up your new finish. It will also stop or make it very difficult for the primer and paint to adhere to the surface. I first use either a dry or damp cloth and then a vacuum cleaner.

Step 3: Priming

Once the piece is thoroughly sanded and you have removed all the dust, the next step involves priming. I prefer a spray primer since it gives a thinner and neater coat compared to a brush-on. A white primer, that I purchase from Lost & Found paint supplies is better for a light color, while gray is more suitable under a darker paint color.

When priming, you want to go for several thin coats. The coats should be thin enough that once you have applied the initial coat, it shouldn’t look like you have primed. Allow each coat to dry for at least 10 minutes (or follow the recommendations of the manufacturer) before you apply the next coat. If you are painting in a humid climate, you may have to wait longer for the primer to dry. Allow the second coat to dry completely before you apply another 2 or 3. The aim is to cover the piece completely with even coats of primer.

Depending on the type of wood, you may need to sand the piece before you apply the final primer coat since primer can raise the wood’s grain. If your surface does not feel smooth, run your sander very lightly across the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper. After this step, wipe the surface down completely before applying your last primer coat.

STEP 4: Painting

I prefer using Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Semi-Gloss (find it on Amazon available in various shades and sheens) to paint wooden furniture. This is a thinner paint that makes it much easier to guarantee smoother surfaces. Painter’s Touch is also available in a variety of different sheens. (One can of this paint goes very far. To give you an idea a 2-1/4 can that I used covered a file cabinet, a desk, a chair, 3 nightstands, and 2 dressers.

Make sure the paintbrush is clean and the paint is mixed well (I use regular bristle brushes and not foam brushes). Your first coat should be very thin.

Similar to primer, the aim is to paint on several thin coats. Applying 4 to 5 thin coats will be far better than a single thick coat. Thin coats are more durable and look better.

I have also discovered that when painting flat and large sections (such as the top of a dressing table), it is better to paint in long strokes making sure you cover the piece lengthwise. This ensures a smoother finish and a more even gloss.

This type of paint dries quickly, which means the once you have completed your first coat (unless you are painting in humid conditions), the areas where you started painting first will usually be dry. If not, wait for around 10 minutes before you apply the next coat. Repeat the process until your piece is covered evenly.

If you have sanded down the wooden piece and have applied primer and paint in very thin coats, and the piece is made from good quality wood, the finish should be durable and smooth, and you should still be able to see a bit of the wood grain coming through the paint.

Once you notice the significant difference a bit of paint can achieve, you will probably start looking for other pieces to paint.

Happy painting!