How to paint furniture to last!

Dresser updated with black paint and light distressing (handles are coming)

We’ve all seen the posts claiming that you don’t have to prep furniture before you paint it. The truth is, you can, but you may be disappointed in how the finish lasts. Knots can bleed through, it may chip or peel, or it may discolor over time.

I’m a firm believer that prep work is key. I’m not suggesting you sand for hours to remove the original finish, but instead use the proper products to work smarter, not harder.

Supplies to paint furniture and cabinets
***Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.***

To get started, you will need:

Once you have your materials, it’s time to get painting! Actually, it is time for the dreaded prep work that I mentioned, but I promise it won’t be too painful.

The honey oak dresser was in need of a new finish

Step 1) – Clean

To get started, take any doors, drawers, and hardware off. Next use your TSP and a clean rag to wipe all the pieces down. Make sure to follow the directions on your bottle of TSP (there is no rinse TSP and TSP that you need to rinse). Allow the pieces to dry.

Prepping for paint by removing the doors, drawers, and hardware

Step 2) – Degloss

After the grease and grime is off of your piece, it is time to tackle the finish. You do not need to sand the entire finish off, instead you can use the liquid sandpaper or deglosser to break down the finish.

Step 3) – Repair

Now that the piece is clean and the finish is not shiny or slippery, you can see if there are any knicks, scratches, or imperfections that need to be repaired. Apply the wood fill to any imperfections and slightly overfill it. Allow the wood fill to dry and then sand smooth using your sandpaper. If you notice any rough patches, sand with your 120 grit sandpaper and then finish sanding with 220 grit until smooth. You may need to do a second coat and resand if it shrinks a little when it dries.

After cleaning and deglossing, it is time to prime the furniture

Step 4) – Prime

At this point, your piece should be clean, deglossed, and repaired. It is finally time to bust out your paint brush, roller, tray, and primer. When you’re applying primer, it doesn’t need to be perfect and 100% solid coverage. Instead, the piece just needs to be fully covered with a thin smooth layer.

To achieve a smooth finish, work in sections using the brush to get into corners, crevices, etc. Then follow with the roller to smooth out the finish. Allow to fully dry.

**If you are painting over a knotty wood, you may want to seal the knots with shellac before you prime to prevent bleed through. Follow with a stainblocking primer like Kilz 3.**

Step 5) – Sand

If you want a professional finish, do not skip this step. Use your 220 grit sand paper to lightly sand any brushstrokes or raised primer on your furniture piece. After sanding, use a shop vac, air blower, or tack cloth to make sure you have all of the dust and debris off.

Reminder: The primer doesn’t need to look pretty, it just needs to be covering the existing finish and it needs to be smooth.

First coat of paint

Step 6) – Paint your furniture!

Let’s paint! You will use the same process as Step 4. Use your paint brush to cut it, get in grooves and crevices, then immediately follow with your roller to smooth out any brushstrokes. A high quality cabinet/furniture paint like Benjamin Moore Advance is slow drying so that the brushstokes will self-level and smooth out. Allow the first coat to completely dry according to the paint instructions.

If you have any drips or brushstrokes, lightly sand them with the 220 grit sandpaper and clean up the debris before adding your next coat. Apply the second coat the same way as the first coat. Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours. Two coats of paint is always required, however, if you are painting white or a really dark color, you may want to apply a third coat to make sure the color is consistent.

Benjamin Moore Advance is an alkyd paint so it will dry to a hard, durable finish, so no top coat required.

The final coat of paint is on the drawers and are drying

You did it!!! You just refinished a piece of furniture and the finish will be durable and last a long time! This process can also be used on cabinets, furniture, and other items.

Here are some of the other paint projects we’ve done:

Kitchen painted with this same method and products
Nightstands updated with primer and paint
Makeover using paint and wallpaper

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