A lot of you who visit this blog seem to enjoy DIY and painting furniture (you’re my kind of people!) – some of my most popular furniture painting posts are the ones about painting with milk paint and gold-dipping. One thing that I’ve realized is missing from the equation in my posts though is the most crucial step: the prep work. But what must you do before slapping on the paint?
As with many projects, the most important part of ensuring a great looking end-result for a painted piece comes in the prep work. I’m still learning as I go, but let me pass along what I’ve learned and practice as of now.
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Cleaning the Furniture:
Especially if you thrift your furniture like me, your piece may need a good cleaning. Any sticky residue or spots on the piece can be cleaned with a mild cleaner (soap or vinegar with a damp rag works). This step alone can sometimes take me an hour – I seem to be a glutton for punishment have a knack for picking out abused furniture and wanting to make it dashingly handsome again. If your piece is in good condition, just give it a good dusting and vac the insides of the drawers.
Get A Few Screws Loose:
Once cleaned, take any drawers out and unscrew all fixtures with a screwdriver (“lefty loosey”). Be sure to keep the screws together with their fixtures if you plan to re-use the fixtures.
Tip: it helps to take a picture before you start so you can remember later what it looked like when putting the fixtures back on.
Look closely at the piece and see if the piece looks like it was previously painted. If so, it is a good idea to do a test strip of your paint in a small, out-of-sight area on the piece. If it dries and looks smooth and normal, then proceed to the next steps. If the paint bubbles or has streaks in it, you may first need to sand the paint entirely off of the piece.
Fill ‘er Up:
Now is the time to find any chips or gashes in the piece and make them smooth again using wood filler. (I use Elmer’s wood filler)
Simply smear the wood filler into the gash until it is filled-in.
Follow the directions for drying time and let it set. It’s ok if the area looks messy – you’ll be smoothing it soon in the next step.
When all wood filler has been given adequate drying time, lightly sand down your whole piece with a sponge sander or fine sandpaper (120-200 grit). Make sure the areas with the wood filler are smooth and even with the rest of the piece by running a finger over the area. Though sanding the whole piece is not usually necessary if you are using milk paint, I still like to do it to ensure that the paint will stick better to the piece, especially if the wood is “shiny” or has any kind of laminate-looking surface on it.
Shake Off the Dust:
Clean the fine grit left over from sanding off of your piece using a cloth.
Stick Till the End:
Now for my favorite tool – Frog tape. This tape will ensure that as you paint, you leave crisp lines with no bleeding, giving the whole piece a more professional and polished look.
Using the Frog tape, run it across areas that you don’t want the paint to go beyond for a nice-looking finish.
On pieces with drawers, be sure to know where the drawers sit so that you do not miss any areas. On the first piece I ever did, I had to do touch-ups because I did not paint inside far enough; when the drawers were placed back in, bare wood showed through on the sides. As you can see in the pictures above and below, I’m lining the drawers for this piece with the tape so that when I paint, the paint line will go back approx a quarter-inch.
With your piece now cleaned, filled, lightly sanded and taped off, you are now ready to get painting and transform your piece!
Now that you know what you need to get started, here’s a quick checklist of prep supplies:
Cotton cloth wipes
You can also download my furniture prep checklist!
If you’d like to learn about some of the cool effects you can pull off when painting, jump over to see how to glaze furniture.