Although there are quite a few ways to paint furniture, there are a few tools and supplies that you will need for just about every one of your furniture painting endeavors. After painting more pieces of furniture than I could possibly count, I’ve come to rely on certain products that help me get the job done faster and easier every time. These are those tried and true products.
Anytime I have to strip, sand or spray paint anything, I always wear a mask. I typically use this kind of respirator. Once you start painting a piece, you can usually take the mask off as long as you aren’t using spray paint. While we’re on the topic of safety, check to make sure it doesn’t contain lead anytime you are dealing with an old piece of furniture. You can do this with a lead test. If it does contain lead, do not sand it. Paint directly over it or get rid of the piece. Masks do wear out over time. Once I see mine getting pretty dirty, I switch it out.
Heat gun and scraper
If you have to remove paint or want to strip a piece down to the bare wood, I suggest using a heat gun. Using a heat gun to strip furniture is by far much less messy than using a liquid stripper. Here’s a tutorial on how I stripped and restained my buffet. I personally use and love my HomeRight heat gun. It also came with a good scraper and other shaped scrapers to get in nooks and crannies.
Sandpaper and/or power sander
If you do strip furniture, you are going to have to sand it lightly before painting or staining it to give it a smooth surface. You can do this with plain old sandpaper, a sanding block or with a power sander. I usually use my power sander for this task. I have a DeWalt sander, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Here’s a tutorial on how to use a power sander and what kind of sandpaper to use when. If you aren’t putting any kind of primer on your piece before painting it, it’s a good idea to give it a light sanding first to rough up the finish. This helps the paint better adhere to the piece.
If you need to cover up old hardware holes, dings or scratches in your furniture, you are going to need wood filler. My personal favorite is Elmer’s wood filler. There is a full tutorial here on how to cover old hardware holes.
Tack cloths are sticky pieces of cheesecloth that pick up any dust or dirt on the furniture before painting. Before painting, always, always, always wipe down your piece with a tack cloth. This keeps any dust and dirt from messing up your finish. It’s also a good idea to wipe your piece down with a tack cloth between coats.
If you are using a regular latex-based paint and don’t want to sand your furniture beforehand, I highly suggest using a good primer before applying your paint. Using a good primer will allow your paint to get good adherence to your furniture. My go-to primers are Zinnser and Ready. Anytime you are painting over a piece of furniture that has a glossy sheen, use a primer. Painting directly over a glossy sheen can cause your paint to adhere improperly.
If you plan to make any sort of pattern or design, or want to avoid getting paint on certain parts of the piece you are painting, be sure to use a good painter’s tape to block off that area. FrogTape is my go-to painter’s tape. They have a delicate surface version that can be used on freshly painted surfaces; a tape for painting textured surfaces; and patterned tapes in chevron, wave and scallop.
High-quality paint roller, paintbrush or paint sprayer
Your paint rollers and brushes can make or break your paint job. If you don’t invest in good, high-quality rollers and brushes, you can be left with a finish that is full of fibers from the roller and hairs from the brush. Your paint rollers and brushes are not the place to save money. My go-to paintbrush is this Purdy brush, and my go-to rollers are these Purdy ones. A high-quality paintbrush will also minimize the brushstrokes in your paint finish. If you want to decrease all chances of roller marks and brushstrokes, go with a paint sprayer, which is what I usually do. My personal favorite is the HomeRight Finish Max.
If you don’t have a paint sprayer or can’t use one for your project, you can add Floetrol to the paint to dramatically reduce brushstrokes. I had to do this when I painted my bathroom vanity since I couldn’t move it, and I can barely see any brushstrokes. Directions are on the bottle.
Obviously when painting a piece of furniture, you need paint. This is not a place to skimp, either. Always invest in a quality paint for your projects. It will save you time, money and headaches in the long run. My personal favorites are Velvet Finishes and Behr.
After spending all that time prepping and painting a piece, it’s not a bad idea to protect it with a topcoat. My usual topcoats are Minwax Polycrylic or Velvet Finishes Protect. But topcoats are not always necessary on some pieces and with some paints. I’ve got a whole list of different kinds of topcoats and when to use them.
Do you have any favorite tools or supplies for painting furniture?
Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk décor, thrifty finds, crafty creations and other decorating dilemmas. She went to UTC, where she got a teaching degree that now collects dust. When she isn’t trying to keep her kid from climbing out of the circus ring or making sure her husband’s shirts are taken to the dry cleaners so she gets out of ironing, she can be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. But if you’re buying, she’ll have a cosmopolitan. You can email her at [email protected] or you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @raintinroofblog or at her blog. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.