8 Essentials for Painting Furniture

By Kate Riley December 30, 2011

It’s no secret I love to paint furniture. Call me strange, but I find fixing up and painting an old piece therapeutic. What was once a hobby is now becoming creative outlet and a small source of income for me. I’ve picked up a few great pieces from thrift stores in the last two weeks that I can’t wait to paint, so while the hub and I were running errands the other day, we made a stop at my local True Value Hardware for a few supplies. Our conversation went something like this: 

“I just need some paint and Floetrol for those pieces in the garage”  and he asked, “Have you written about that?” and I replied “Yes” and he said “Well have you showed them what you’re talking about?” and I said “Yes” and he said, “You should make a video” and I thought well I’m not prepared for that and he said “Just do it” and so I said, “OK”.  So what was supposed to be a quick pit stop turned into an impromptu tour of a few aisles of the paint department at my local True Value and the eight essentials you’ll need for a basic paint job on a piece of furniture.

Let me preface by saying there are several techniques for painting furniture and many many products to choose from. I’m a fan of a quick spray paint job and also the latest sensation, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and I’ll continue to use those products in the future. There are also glazing and distressing techniques and more advanced tools you can use like a sprayer (I got a Wagner for Christmas and will be trying it out soon) and all of that will make a great eBook someday.

But for those of you just starting out and not knowing how to navigate the aisles of a home improvement or paint store and also staring at a piece you’ve scored and just want to change it up with a coat of paint, here are eight of my essential tools for a basic paint job on any piece of wood or laminate furniture.

I apologize for the the distracting conversation and 80s rock in the background, but this was spur of the moment. Feel free to name those background tunes in the comment section if you can! 



Like I mentioned in the video, both water based Minwax Polycrylic and Varathane are great for satin to gloss sheens but for a matte or hand rubbed finish turn to waxes.  Fiddes & Sons, SC Johnson, Minwax, and Briwax are just a few you’ll find on the shelf depending on where you shop. 

More great makeovers coming in 2012, can’t wait!


True Value Blog Squad legalese: “I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY projects. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”





  1. I’ve read several of your posts on how to paint furniture and it has been really inspiring. We actually scored a small farmhouse table with bench and three wacky metal chairs for $60! I spray painted the metal frames and re-covered the seats with pretty fabric. Some crazy person glued a laminate top onto the table!!! I had enough courage to rip off the laminate to find pretty pine underneath. After sanding the glue off, I covered it with matte poly and it looks so beautiful! I would have never even thought to look twice at that table much less buy it and then fix it up without the help of your blog. Thanks so much!!!!

  2. Great video! I am not quite ready to tackle DIY furniture, mainly due to lack of workspace (I live in a condo) but when I move I will definitely be using all your tips! Thank you!

  3. Good job on the video. I think your husband was on to something, sometimes seeing tips in a different form of media have more impact. I like the idea of using Floetrol since painting can leave frustrating bush marks and it is too cold here for me to use spray several months of the year. Thanks for the tips and Happy New Year!

  4. Nice job!! :) Helped me figure out what I’ve been doing wrong.:) Thanks for the inspiration!!

  5. Great video! Sometimes it really is easier to understand things when someone shows you, as opposed to reading about it. I feel like we just walked through True Value together-how cool is that? ;)

  6. Loved the video! Especially great timing since just yesterday I tweeted you a question about painting :) I am going to buy the Zinsser primer today. I just can’t figure out if I should spray or brush-paint the bed frames I’m doing. I have always liked the results that brush painting gives better than spray, but these frames have so many nooks and crannies that I can’t imagine painting well with a brush. Maybe you have a post somewhere else about it that I haven’t found – but how do you determine when to spray and when to brush paint? Thanks for all your awesome tips. You seriously are a rockstar with this stuff!

  7. Thanks so much Kate, this is so helpful! Question, can you use a water-based latex paint over an oil-based primer?

  8. great video! thanks for sharing it. i’ve been using chalk paint and want to branch out so that i have more color options. this was very helpful.

  9. Great Video Kate! I’ve used many, many of your painting tutorials and they are all great. The last big piece I did was a dresser for my daughter’s nursery and the Floetrol worked really well. It was an older piece with a lot of texture so the paint conditioner gave me the extra time I needed to make sure my paint was nice and smooth! Thanks for all your tips!! Keep them coming :)

  10. I have a dining room table I bought for $10 at a yard sale this summer- I do believe it’s cursed! :) Some day when I can actually get it refinished correctly, I’ll blog about it. Right now, it sits in the basement, taunting me.

  11. GREAT VIDEO! Thank you for doing this! I’m such a visual person. I have never painted furniture before but have a project I’m about to start so this was perfect timing!!!! Again, thanks!

  12. Love, love, love this video. When the weather warms up a bit; I plan on repurposing a circa ’50’s telephone table in a shabby chic design.

  13. Great tips! It’s clear that you’re not only passionate about painting but also experienced. Love that it’s the finish coat that determines the finish, not the paint. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  14. I love the video. The more videos the merrier for me!! I would love to pin this onto my Pinterest Painting page, but when I tried, I got this response: “Sorry, we can’t see any big images or videos on this page.” Does anyone out in Blogville have any suggestions as to a workaround for this? Happy New Year, Blogfriends!!

  15. Try your paint sprayer I’m curious if this works and how you like it. I just bought one and use it for other things, but would like to try it on furniture. Let us know!!

  16. Great job on the video! So happy your hub supports you in your endeavors!! I have been wanting to paint my oak cabinets for over 10 years and am so so chicken. I wonder too if I could spray the doors outside and brush the rest inside?? Scary but your info is really helpful!

  17. Well you should do impromtu videos more often……you rocked!! I felt like a student writing down all of your steps. Thank you, Thank you, Thanks!!

  18. Thank you so much for this post. I would love to start redoing some furniture I currently have, and this will come in hand. You did an awesome job on the video btw, such a pro!

  19. After following your blog for a long time, I’ve seen you mentioned these essentials in many of your posts before. But I still love the idea of seeing you talking about these in a video. Looking forward to more painting projects! You are such an inspiration to me!

  20. Great Info! Can I ask you a question? What is in your opinion pros and cons of rub on finishing. Is it durable, does it protect well enough? Thanks much in advance.

    • Hellooo glamour coach! Great question! I definitely think the waxes are great when it comes to that soft rubbed matte finish and they repel water really well, but they do tend to wear off after a year or so, but you can always wax again when necessary. The sheen is what’s so attractive compared to even the satin Polycrylic but I do like the rub on Varathane, more of a subtle finish and really durable, there but it’s hard to find, I’ve only spotted it at my local Cali based Orchard Supply & Hardware.

  21. Great video! I have a cabinet I’ve been wanting to paint and you’re helping me work up the courage to do it!!!

  22. I don’t have much experience with furniture but once I refinished a old dresser. After stripping the old varnish and sanding I used a gel stain from Formby’s. My father in law was a big fan of high gloss Deft, he put it on thick on everything he refinished. After I, tactfully as possible, explained the look I was going for, he got me to apply the same stuff using a old white t-shirt instead of a brush. It came out great and has held up well. I am using it today and this had to have been 20+ years ago.

    I have painted enough other stuff, I totally agree with Zinsser’s oil based primer, it’s the best and I have used water based latex over it.

  23. Thank You so much for the video – I am headed out today to buy paint for my “new to me” bedside tables. It was just in time.

    Your blog is great and is the inspiration for my project- Thank You and have a great New Year.

  24. Kate, your video is great! I agree with the others, you need to do more videos. I too am a visual person, so the video helped me a lot! I’ve been to our local hardware store thinking I know what to purchase and end up spending hours staring at all of the options. I’ve been following your site since Nov and can’t get enough of it! Since following you, I’ve painted my dining room chairs and simplified my Christmas decorations this year to include spray painted branches and a candy bar, which my kids loved!
    Looking forward to your 2012 ideas. Happy New Year!!

    • Thanks so much Kim, I’ll certainly try to do more video now that I’m familiar with the formatting and editing!

    • Hi Erin, I never sand between layers of paint, but often sand a little after the primer step, especially with brush on primers, if they leave brush strokes. Sometimes one coat of protectant is sufficient, but for high traffic surfaces like table tops and bookshelves, I’d go with two!

  25. Great job with the video and very helpful!!! I have a couple pieces of furniture I want to refinish/paint, so your information video was great timing! Thanks!!

  26. Thanks for all this info! I’m planning on painting a piece of ikea laminate furniture and I was wondering if the time of year/weather/temperature matters with how long it will take the paint to cure?

    • Hey Laura, it depends on teh projects you choose and the temperature in your town. Primers dry quicker, oil based usually in an hour, water based takes a few days to fully cure. latex paints take a while to cure in cooler temperatures, read the labels, they should tell you!

  27. Hey Victoria, you add a few capfuls right into your paint and mix it in with a stir stick. I often pour it into a separate plastic container before I do, you can grab the dollar ones at your local paint department or just use a food storage container.

  28. Great video! It makes me want to hit my Goodwill store and find something to paint!! Keep the videos coming!

  29. Thank you! Thank you! I have three pieces of furniture to paint and this video helped me to see what exactly each can of paint/primer/varathane looked like. Thanks again!!!!

  30. Hi Kate – I’m catching up on my CG reading and I noticed that I’m not able to view the video. It’s just a blank white space where the video would be posted. Is there a link for it? BTW – reading your inspiring and fun posts are my version of lavendar sea salt scrub!

  31. Loved this video.. It was VERY helpful as I am preparing to start painting some furniture I have this year for the first time.. Thank you so much for posting this! :)

  32. Thanks for all the great tips, especially about the wax finishes. I am a HUGE fan of Flotrol, in fact, over the Christmas break, I repainted my kitchen cabinets and couldn’t have achieved the look without Flotrol (they turned out with a zinc-like finish – very cool if I do say so myself!). It’s a great product to use when doing faux finishes instead of a “glazing medium” like those made by Behr or Valspar and much more cost effective. I save cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, etc containers for mixing up my paint w/flotrol – works great! Flotrol is great for regular painting too, as Kate said, it helps brush strokes become virtually invisible!

  33. Thank you so much for posting this. My husband and I are newbies with furniture painting. We have been disappointed with the results, but the tips you outlined in the video I hope will change our luck around. The current project we are working on is painting a wood dresser. The polyurethene bubbled and didn’t dry clear, so I think we will go with the wax.

  34. Thank you for the great tips, this is my first time painting furniture; I have an old rocking chair but am worried i may damage the wood with the wrong choice in primer. Is a primer essential?

    • Hi Lesley, yes primer is essential if you’re using a latex or enamel paint.

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