6 Essential Steps When Painting Furniture

Alright, friends. I’d like to have a little chat about painting furniture… I have seen tons of tutorials and projects on Pinterest and I’m deeply saddened to see the results! Don’t be fooled by those posts that say, “No sanding or priming required!” Sure, skip those steps if you want your furniture to look good for less than 10 minutes.

Here’s the gist: Whatever way you do it, it takes work to paint furniture. So if you’re going to put in the effort, make sure you do it the RIGHT way! No shortcuts!

The hubs and I have refinished lots of furniture over the past year and (after some trial & error) here are the steps we make sure to take each time so we get a good finish that lasts.

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy an item after clicking a link, I may receive a small commission from the purchase at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep this blog up and running. Thank you!*

Disassemble the Furniture

No, you don’t have to take apart every single board! If it has drawers, shelves, knobs, or extra hardware, take it off. It might take an extra 10-20 minutes to disassemble and reassemble, but it will ensure that your paint job has nice clean lines. When any paint gets on the hardware, it looks uber sloppy. Don’t be sloppy.

Also, if you leave the hardware on and decide to paint around it, the paint could start peeling when the hardware gives. All your hard work for nothin’!

Painting Furniture - Hardware

Clean Off the Gunk

If you decide to paint a dresser or cabinet that gets touched a lot, make sure to give it a good wiping down with a degreaser. If hands have been touching it, it probably has a layer of oil on it which means the paint won’t adhere to it as well. Blegh!

If you’re painting furniture like a bookshelf or end table, you could probably forego the cleaning. That being said, it takes 5 minutes so why not clean it anyway?

I use this handy dandy stuff called Krud Kutter. Classy, right? It smells kinda like urine, but it really does kut the krud! You can find it at your local home improvement or cleaning supply store… or right here on Amazon! Just to show you I’m not lying, I took a selfie with it. ????

Painting Furniture - Cleaning

Sand it!

Sanding is one of the best ways to ensure your paint sticks to your furniture. Taking a 120-220 grit sandpaper to the surface of any piece of furniture will open up the pores on the surface and give the paint something to stick to. It’s like walking on ice vs. walking on concrete.

Also, if there’s any loose paint, sanding will make sure you have a smooth, clean surface to work with.

Sanding by hand is exhausting, so we bought this handy dandy little Ryobi palm sander. It is AWESOME and a total life saver. If you’re planning to do more than one piece of furniture, I’d 100% recommend it (and everything else Ryobi)! You can find it here on Amazon.

Painting Furniture - Ryobi Sander

Prime it!

Glossy surface? Prime it! Stark color underneath? Prime it! Priming preps the surface for paint, so if there’s any concern about the paint sticking or having to use multiple coats to cover what’s underneath, use primer.

Just one thin layer of primer is enough and it doesn’t have to look beautiful. We bought a gallon of Kilz mold-killing primer for our bathroom floor, so we’ve been using that for everything. I swear, the stuff lasts forever!

Seal it in

After painting, it’s a wonderful idea to seal in your paint. It gives the piece a “security blanket,” if you will, from scrapes and scratches.

Whenever I chalk paint I use chalk paint wax. I gave some step-by-step instructions and shared a useful video in this post a few months ago. I use Annie Sloan clear chalk paint wax. It can be a little hard to find, but you can find a stockist here that’s near you. It’s a little pricey, but it lasts FOREVER!

Painting Furniture - Wax

For any other paint, it doesn’t hurt to use a water-based polyurethane coat to seal it in. I bought one with a satin finish because I don’t like the super glossy look. This helps keep the finish from getting scratched and will keep your furniture looking nicer, longer. This stuff will definitely do the trick:


Give it time to dry

After you finish painting your piece, it can be SOOOO tempting to re-assemble it and start decorating. Just hold your horses! The finish needs some time to set and if you start reassembling it right away you’ll mess it all up. *sob*

Give yourself time. Don’t rush the process! Your patience will be rewarded, I promise! Painting furniture isn’t so bad. ????

Painting Furniture - Before and After

We just finished painting a hutch for our nursery and I can’t WAIT to share the results with you!! New nursery post coming soon… stay tuned! ????????

5 thoughts on “6 Essential Steps When Painting Furniture”

  1. I really enjoyed this article. We make tables and chairs for cafes and bistros so I can appreciate the work you have put into this and the before and after photos say it all, well done!

    1. It’s the same finish as the one on the left! The one on the left was all black, too. ????

  2. C’mon!! Your before and after coffee tables do not look like the same piece!!! ???? (JK ya ????)

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