So after scouring endless garage sales, online ads, and/or auction houses, you have found the one! That one piece of antique furniture that makes your heart pitter-patter. Maybe it’s in pretty great condition, or maybe you plan on investing some time in restoring the piece. If so, there is one question you need to ask yourself, to paint or not to paint? Before jumping to any quick solutions, please read on so you may consider all the pros and cons of painting, or repainting, your beloved new furniture piece.

The Process

Deciding to paint a piece of furniture is not as cut and dry as it may seem. It is not simply brushing on some paint and moving on; jobs like this require a lot of effort and a hearty dose of patience. First, you should consider your final intentions for the piece. Do you want to keep it as your own, or resell it to a prospective buyer? For the sake of argument, let’s say you want to keep it and paint it. Great! Below is an outline of the next steps to take and how to handle the furniture.

  • Tackle Residue – you will want to remove any residue from the piece before you do anything else. Use an oil-based soap, such as Murphy’s, and a tack cloth, which helps remove any adhering particles. Make sure to follow the labels on any product you use to guarantee proper application.
  • Sand – you will need to sand the furniture in order to remove any previous paint work or stain. Make sure you remove the hardware and drawers from the piece first. Using an orbital sander with variable speeds and 80 to 100 grit sandpaper, carefully go over the entire surface of the furniture. There is no need to get crazy with this step, you just want to ensure that any prior paint or finish are removed and that the surface is rough enough to work with.
  • Prime – priming is the only way to assure a smooth and even look when you get to the painting stage. Most people swear by Zinsser, whose oil-based cover stain is thick but cures quickly, or their water-based primer, which offers a smoother look but takes about 3 days to cure. After the primer is completely dried and cured, go over the furniture with a new tack cloth to remove any excess primer residue.
  • Paint – Yes, finally, paint! The idea when painting restored furniture is to apply multiple thin coats. This allows for an even and smooth finish. Paint three thin coats of latex-based semi-gloss paint, allowing several hours to pass between each coat. It is preferable not to use a flat-finish paint as it will show any and all flaws once dried. Once you have finished your final coat of paint, allow at least one day for the furniture to dry completely.
  • Seal it – Now it is time to protect all that work you just put into the furniture. Simply brush on a water-based polycrylic or polyurethane top coat and bask in the smooth and gorgeous finish. This piece is now easy to wipe clean thanks to its satiny finish. Allow 3 days to fully dry before moving the furniture.

Milk and Chalk-based Paints

While the steps listed above are necessary when using most types of paint, using certain paints means you can skip some of the stated steps. Chalk-based and milk-based paints are growing in popularity in the DIY world, and they allow you to paint reclaimed furniture without sanding or priming the piece.

Another interesting thing about these paints is that a different sealant is recommended to protect the paint job. Because the paint allows for a more porous texture, using a finishing wax makes for the perfect sealant. Rub a thin coating of wax along the furniture with a cloth, allow for the wax to dry, and then buff it smooth with a clean cloth until it reaches the desired shine. You will also want this to dry for a full day before moving the furniture should you follow this route.

You May Not Want to Paint If…

There are a couple factors to keep in mind before you buy all your supplies and commit to painting restored furniture.

  • Firstly, going back to your intentions with the piece, do you want to keep it for yourself, or do you plan on selling it? If you are certain the answer is the latter, keep in mind that while painting furniture may seem like the trend now, down the road it may look outdated. If you are uncertain if a potential buyer will be attracted to painted furniture or not, it may be best to leave it alone.
  • Consider the source of the furniture. If this is a piece that you bought somewhere, the only attachment you have with it is what you put into it, right? But if this is a cherished family treasure that has been passed on, you may not want to be too hasty and completely overhauling it!
  • Certainly do not paint the piece if it may be valuable! We’ve all seen those television shows where people learn a piece of furniture they purchased at a garage sale or that has been handed down to them is actually an antique worth lots of money. Painting would certainly ruin the value of that piece.

When you are restoring furniture, a lot of consideration and hard work goes into each piece. If you have any questions, concerns, or if you prefer experts to handle the extensive restoration work, give Rahn’s Furniture Restoration a call at 562-921-4922 and allow us to make your restoration vision a reality.

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