Thursday, May 3, 2012

Basic Refinishing Tutorial

We made it safely back from our many vacations. Disneyland must be where the saying, "it was the best of times and the worst of times" comes from. One second my daughter was filled with overjoyed excitement and the next she was screaming, kicking, and biting because she didn't want to wait her turn in line.

I was hoping to show at least one of the four projects I have going on right now, but I have had some technical difficulties. I ran out of dark wax and have been waiting for it anxiously in the mail. I just need to wax a few small appliqu├ęs to go on two nightstands I have painted and silver leafed, then they will be all ready to go.

I painted another all white carved nightstand that turned out lovely. I will be showing that by tomorrow. I also painted a chair and asked my dear husband to screw the seat on, but without fail he managed to break it. We'll see if it makes it after that, I'm currently shopping for a new chair. I'm that confident.

Right before our little break, I started reupholstering an antique replica couch and loveseat for my own home. I've got the loveseat done and I'm on to the couch, so stay tuned for those too.

Since I don't have any finished projects to really show, I felt I should take the time to go over some basic refinishing steps for redoing your own furniture. I will go over steps for both using latex paint and chalk paint since it differs quite a bit. Like I said this is for basic refinishing, no fancy techniques yet.

Latex Paint
1. Assess the finish on your old piece of furniture. Is it already painted, is it bare wood, is it stained, does it have a thick oil based paint layer on it? Does it have dings, scratches, and chips? Most importantly is it real wood? With latex paint I don't bother painting anything unless it's wood.

2. Decide what finish or "look" you want the finished product to be. This will help you decide if you need to go through all the steps and "rules" of refinishing or if you can skip some for a more worn look.

3. Remove all hardware. Strip any thick shell-like paint off with a Citrastrip paint stripper. This brand seems to be the most environmentally friendly, smells the best, and works great. Follow the directions on the back. After a few hours it dries and bubbles up the paint, then scrape it off. I've had issues with some spots still being sticky, so I then use a mineral spirit and some steel wool to rub it off. If you don't have a thick shell paint finish, you can probably get way with the stripping step and move straight to sanding.

4. Sanding of old paint and creating a smooth finish. Start with a higher coarse grit like 60 grit or 80 grit. I use an orbital hand sander. Sand with the grain of the wood and move up gradually to less coarse sand paper like 120, then end with something fine like 220 grit. If you're looking for a smooth finish I usually sand all the paint off.

5. Fill in any holes, knicks, or scratches with a wood filler. This includes any hardware holes if you're planning on putting new hardware on. Wait for it to dry and sand it even.

6. Clean up your piece. I like to use Simple Green or a TSP cleaner. By the way, all of the products I mention in this tutorial can be found at Lowes or Home Depot.

7. Priming. Priming helps the paint stick to the wood or old finish underneath. It also helps cover old stains and smells. I find it easiest to use KILZ spray primer, no paint brush necessary. Keep in mind if you're planning on distressing ( sanded the edges down) for a worn, look the white primer is going to show through. If you're not looking to show off your primer I suggest not priming the edges or rubbing wax over all the areas you don't what the primer to show and stick.

8. Now you're ready to paint! Finally!! I like to use a flat sheen on furniture, I'm just not in love with a bright shiny factory-made finish. If you're just going for a clean one-color look, go ahead and paint. Some people prefer a foam brush because it doesn't leave paint stroke lines but is hard to get in any cracks or carving. If you want a layered or distressed look it might take two colors to achieve your look. Paint a base color first, let it dry, and apply your top coat. Then break out the coarse grit sandpaper and rub it along the edges and any surfaces that would show natural wear over time. I always prefer to hand sand with a sanding block. I just feel like I have better control of what the distressing will turn out like.

9. Apply any glazing you'd like with a brush, then wipe it off with a damp rag immediately.

10. Apply some sort of protection. This isn't necessary if you want it to get naturally worn and distressed over time. Most people use a polyurethane to finish with their latex paint. I again use a satin low sheen finish. You can use a paint on version. This is the most durable but paint strokes seem to show. I love the wipe on poly, it doesn't show paint strokes but you need more coats for protection. The last type of poly is a spray can. It's hard to get an even finish with this and it's easy to go overboard and get drips. I only use this on the inside of hutches or amoires.

11. Put any old or new hardware back on and enjoy your new piece!

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
1. Assess your old finish. Is your furniture all wood? No? Well it doesn't matter with chalk paint.

2. Decide what your desired end result will be. Clean and simple, layered and worn, etc.

3. Fill in any scratches and dings you don't think add "character" as well as old hardware holes. Sand them even.

4. No sanding is necessary with ASCP. If your piece has paint stroke lines or peeling underneath that you don't want to be seen, you will need to sand the old finish. I love the textured, hand-painted, peely look so I paint over a lot of stuff people might consider breaking a rule in refinishing.

5. No priming is necessary with chalk paint. I have had a little bleed through from stain on really old pieces. I just apply primer over the spot and paint over it.

6. Paint your base layer, let dry, then paint any other colors you want to show through. Annie Sloan's website has all of the colors available, Don't forget you can mix to make other colors. Here's her link

7. Clear wax. You can use Annie's, Minwax, Johnson and Johnson, or just about any paste, floor, or furniture wax. I apply mine with a lint free cloth. It just seems quicker. If you're not looking for a dirty look, just use the clear wax. After the first waxing, I hand sand and distress any edges. Unlike latex paint, I use a fine grit sandpaper for distressing. The chalk paint is soft and delicate and distresses easily. After distressing, I apply two more coats or wax for protection. Three coats of wax is the magic number. After the wax dries, buff with a lint free rag or buffer. If you want an old dirty look, or to highlight any carving, apply the dark wax after the first coat of clear wax. Apply it in sections with a short stiff paint brush or Annie Sloan's wax brush. Keep in mind, a little dark wax goes a long way. You can even mix a little in with some clear wax. Right after you apply the dark wax, use a clean lint-free rag with clear wax to pull off any excess dark wax. Buff when dry.

I know so many people are hesitant to try the ASCP because of the price, but I feel it saves me so much time and work that it actually saves me money. It is perfect for an antique look. It sands smooth and silky soft. It distresses easily. These steps are just suggestions. Just like in art and music, as soon as you know and understand the rules you can break them to make your own masterpiece :)


  1. Where you talk about wax you say that you put on 3 coats. Do you buff between each coat?

    1. The first coat is a clear wax, it helps seal and protect your paint color. I don't buff after this one. I then apply the dark wax with a brush or rag working in small sections, in each section immediately after applying the dark wax I get a clean cloth rubbed with clear wax to pull off the excess dark wax. After you've done that all over and it dries you buff at the very end.