Hey ya’ll! If you follow this blog regularly, you know how often I talk about all the projects that I haven’t shared. When posting before and after images of painted furniture projects, it seems a little rude to just post the images and not share the process, which I admit I’ve totally done out of laziness. This is a DIY blog and it only makes sense to post the process so that you can truly do it yourself. Since my process is the same almost every time, I would be posting almost the same process for each project. This totally annoys me so I just choose not to post at all and then complain to you guys about what a terrible blogger I am. In an effort to end this cycle, I’d like to share with you my process so that all future before and after painted furniture projects can be linked back to this post for those who not only want to see the before and after but for those who want to get out there and DO IT.
Please note: I use an HVLP paint sprayer, not a brush/roller. The process will be the same otherwise – unless you’re using chalk paint, in that case, I am not the person to talk to. I hate chalk paint.
Here we go.
Let’s start with this piece:
This piece was actually done twice, which is a long story for another day (or not). I’m sure you recognize this style of furniture. Generic office. The assignment on this one was to paint it white (the first time) and replace the hardware.
Start by sanding the piece. You can use either an electric sander or go the manual route, it’s up to you. On large surfaces, like the top of this piece, I use an orbital sander. On the drawer fronts, I typically just use sand paper and go the manual route. You don’t have to sand off the entire finish if you are simply painting it (staining is a whole other story), you just want to remove the shine and rough up the surface enough to get the new finish to stick. If you’ve ever gotten your nails done, you’ll notice that the nail techs will rough up the surface of your fingernails prior to painting them – same concept. You can use either 150 grit or 220 – I usually use 220 grit, but go for the 150 if the surface is a little uneven. If you go for the 150 grit first, make sure you go back over it with 220 grit afterwards to smooth it out. If you aren’t familiar with sandpaper, the lower the number, the higher and more abrasive the grit will be – 80 is super gritty and typically used for stripping – 600 grit is super extra fine and used for finishing. Experts say not to skip more than one or two grits at a time – for example, don’t skip from 80 grit to 220 – the smaller grit of the 220 will not be able to smooth out the gouges made by the 80. Always sand with the grain, never against. Cross-grain gouges are harder to fix.
If you are replacing hardware and the new hardware doesn’t fit the piece, you’ll have to patch those old holes and drill new ones for the new hardware. I like to use a wood filler that changes color when dry; purple when wet, white when dry. I put a piece of Frog tape over the holes on the inside of the drawer so that the filler has a stop. I’ve found that if the entire hole is not filled, the filler has room to sink, making the old holes more obvious when the piece is finished. Follow the instructions on the product you are using and make sure to sand it smooth. Don’t trust your eyes on this one, run your hand over it to see if you feel any uneven spots and sand accordingly.
Once your holes are filled, measure for your new hardware and go ahead and drill your new holes. The best way to do this is make a jig or a pattern for your new hardware. You can even use a piece of paper – cut a piece of paper the same size as your drawer front, mark the new holes on the paper, lay the paper on the drawer front making sure all the sides line up, transfer your marks and drill – this will ensure uniform placement on all drawers. If your piece of furniture is newer and the drawer fronts can be removed from the drawer, you can use that as a template as well. Measure twice. Drilling your holes while your piece is still in it’s prep phase will keep you from messing up your paint job later, or heaven forbid, messing up your holes and having to re-sand, re-patch and re-paint after the piece is almost done. You know what that feels like?
This. It feels like this:
After everything is sanded, smooth and ready to be primed, it’s time to wipe it down. I tend to go a little overboard here, but it ensures a better finish. I wipe off all sanding dust with a clean dry cloth, then go back over it with a damp cloth followed by a quick once over with the shop vac, finishing with a tack cloth. Tack cloth is a tacky cheesecloth that you can usually find near the stains at HD. It’s extra tacky and picks up any stubborn dust particles hanging out on your furniture. It will also make your hand slightly sticky so if that bothers you, grab some gloves. Once your piece is particle-free, it’s prime time.
(he’s scowling at a mid-century, chalk-painted piece, no doubt)
I alllllllways prime. Always. I use Zinsser 1-2-3 in the spray can.
I feel very strongly about this primer. Zinsser 1-2-3 is my quarterback.
I use the one in the spray can because it’s oil based and it has always worked like a dream for me. It says it will adhere to any surface without sanding or deglossing – I’ve tested that with the waster-based version of the Zinsser and it was a disaster, but the oil based (in the spray can) is great. It’s especially dreamy on pieces that have a tiny crevices or ornate designs; wipe ’em down and prime it up. The cans are around 4 bucks each, which gets a little pricey on larger projects but I think it’s so worth it. I only spray water-based paint and completely refuse to use anything oil based in my sprayer, which is why i use the cans – I like an easy clean up and oil-based is the complete opposite of easy clean-up. If you don’t feel like prepping or priming a piece of furniture, then you should probably just slap some chalk paint on it, overly distress it and mark it up four or five times what you paid for it even though you did zero labor prepping the piece. I hope the snark is coming through here, I feel a chalk paint rant coming on…
Tip: If you aren’t sure if a paint is oil-based or water-based and can’t find it on the can, check the clean up method. Oil-based paints call for mineral spirits or paint thinner for clean up, water-based paints call for soap and water. Spray paints are always oil based.
Some darker/red woods will bleed red through the primer, like these end tables did. I hit these with one more light coat of Zinsser and the topped them with a dark color with zero bleed.
The generic office piece above also had some bleed through, but I used a paint with primer and the bleed didn’t come through, even with a white paint. Here it is after being painted (the first time).
As I said earlier, I use a sprayer – Wagner Flexio 570. I’ve used one other sprayer, the Homeright Finish Max. I hated it and do not recommend it. The paint has to be thinned so much that it ends up being more like water than paint. Zero thinning with the Flexio. ZERO.
This is my usual set up:
I set up two buckets, one with super hot water, the other with super hot soapy water. I also ordered an extra cup for the sprayer to ease the clean up process and fill that up with hot soapy as well.
I start by shaking my paint can like a crazy person. My hands are small, so the best way for me to do this is to grab the can with both hands near the bottom and then I hook my thumb up under the paint bucket handle so I’ve got a good grip. Shake it like you’re getting paid. Then pop it open and go at it with a stir stick. Like my paint guy always says “For a job done well, shake like hell.”
Tip: Store your paint buckets upside down. The pigments will settle at the bottom (top) so that when you turn it over, your mixing job is made a little easier.
Strain. I use an old kitchen strainer that has holes larger than the disposable paint strainers you can get at Home Depot but I haven’t had any problems with it so far. For a while I was using the disposable ones and dipping them in the hot water to clean them off. I would set them aside to dry and then re-use them.
After the paint is strained, I toss the strainer in the hot water bucket, mix the paint in the cup one more time with a stir stick and then attach my cup to the sprayer.
Then I turn on my suction fan and drop the sides on the paint booth.
The actual in-the-booth process varies every time depending on what I am painting. I will usually set everything up and get in the booth with the sprayer sans paint and do a “pretend” spray – this is just so I can make sure that I am doing every thing in an order where my sprayer cord doesn’t drag over something or to prevent my gigantic arse from backing into a freshly painted surface. For me, taking this extra step keeps me from serious do-overs. In the furniture painting biz, time is money, baby. Christine at Phoenix Restoration just posted some great tips for using an HVLP sprayer that you can find here.
After I’ve painted everything in the booth, I unplug the sprayer, loosen the paint cup and pull the trigger to back the paint out of the system and back into the cup.
Then I switch the cups and screw on the one full of hot soapy, plug it back in and head to the side yard to spray out all the hot water. I shake the sprayer around a bit to loosen any stubborn paint globs. Then I unplug the sprayer, loosen the cup and pull the trigger to back the water out of the system and back into the cup. Then I take the sprayer apart and throw the pieces into the hot soapy. At this point, the cup filled with paint can either be covered with plastic and saved for round two or poured back into the can. If all the paint in the cup was used, you can let it dry and the paint film can be easily peeled off when dry. I almost always fill the cup with more paint than I anticipate using simply because running out of paint mid-spray just creates a mess – the sprayer will spit and sputter and just generally jack everything up. I dump the paint from the cup back into the can and then toss the paint cup into the hot water bucket. Done. I usually leave my stuff sitting in water for a while. Like, a day or two. Not because I should but because I hate the clean up process. Since it’s all sitting in water and is water based paint, it all comes off really easily anyway. I use a wire brush, hot soapy and a bottle brush cleaner to clean the sprayer – sometimes a toothpick is needed.
One more quick hardware tip: If you have a piece with, say, black screws and you are painting the piece white, you can simply push your screws through some foil and, using very light dusting strokes, hit it with the quarterback of primers, Zinsser 1-2-3.
You don’t want so much paint in there that it will fill the screw head and you don’t want paint on your screw threads. After they’re primed, you can either paint the screw heads with a coordinating or matching spray paint (again, light dusting strokes) or you can lightly paint the screw heads with a small brush. Just don’t fill the screw head with paint.
If your piece needs a second coat of paint, go over it lightly with a higher grit sand paper, 320 grit, so that the next layer of paint has something to hang on to. Make sure to read the paint can to determine cure/dry time. Sanding paint that hasn’t fully dried will cause your sandpaper to get all gummy and you won’t really be doing anything productive.
The DIY Spray Booth I put together has been such a game changer but adding a diy’ed furniture dolly has seriously upped my efficiency.
When using the dolly, I’m able to raise the sides of the booth and roll out pieces that aren’t totally dry and throw something else in the booth right away.
Here’s that generic piece of office furniture, now living it’s green life in the living room of the Nandina Home – Dwell with Dignity Install a few months ago.
This child’s secretary was a hot mess…
… but now lives in the same living room as the office piece:
And this bamboo cabinet is just around the corner:
The Zinsser 1-2-3 works wonders on pieces like this. Look at allllll of those tiny pieces that need sanding! The Zinsser oil-based primer in a can will turn that nightmare into a dream. Wipe ’em down and spray the primer. Hours of your life saved.
This Henry Link Bali Hai sideboard got some good lovin’ with Sherwin Williams’s Shamrock in high gloss.
This nursery-bound dated dresser got the lightly distressed treatment with a custom mixed light mint…
Here are the thrifted end tables from above:
After, in SW Hale Navy in high gloss
Last tip: I learned this one the hard way. When closing up your paint can, put a cloth over the can prior to sealing it up. See all of that paint in the little groove on the edge? When you hit it with a mallet to close the can, it will splatter up into your face, onto your clothes and probably onto a freshly painted piece you thought was done.
Cover it with a cloth before going at it with your mallet.
That may be the most obvious tip ever, but I’ve made so many messes by skipping that.
Okay y’all. Happy painting!!