How to Paint a Workbench


After years of dropped hammers, saw cuts and other wear and tear, your wooden workbench is probably beginning to show its age. If you’re planning to repurpose it or simply want to spruce-up your workspace, cover the tabletop and legs with a fresh coat of paint. Before the first drops of primer or paint touch the wooden surface, prep it properly to ensure the products adhere effectively.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • 1 tablespoon tri-sodium phosphate
  • 1/4 gallon warm water
  • Plastic scrub brush
  • Rag
  • Wood putty
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer/sealer
  • Natural-bristled paintbrushes
  • Semi-gloss latex paint
  • Foam brush
  • Clear-coat sealant
  • Slip on a pair of rubber gloves, dust mask and safety goggles before creating a mixture of 1 tablespoon tri-sodium phosphate, or TSP, and 1/4 gallon of warm water. Stir the water until the TSP, which is a mild degreaser, is completely dissolved.

  • Dampen a plastic scrub brush with the TSP mixture and clean any surface of the workbench you intend to paint. The TSP removes any paint drips, grease or other difficult stains. Dampen a rag with warm water and rinse off the TSP mixture. Allow the workbench to dry completely before continuing.

  • Examine the workbench for any holes, nicks or chips. If you don’t intend to repair these imperfections, move to the next step. Otherwise, fill the imperfections with wood putty. Soften the putty with your fingers and work it into the dents or holes. Allow the putty to set according to the package directions before sanding it flush with the surrounding wood, using 180-grit sandpaper. Wipe off the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

  • Apply a thin coating of primer/sealer to the table with a natural-bristled paintbrush. The combination of primer/sealer hides any discolorations or imperfections in the wood, while protecting it from moisture damage. Allow the primer/sealer to dry for at least three to four hours before continuing.

  • Apply a thin coat of semi-gloss latex paint with a natural-bristled paintbrush. The semi-gloss finish provides a pleasant sheen that’s easier to clean and maintain. Allow the first coat to dry for at least two to three hours before applying a second coat.

  • Allow the second coat of semi-gloss latex paint to dry for at least three to four hours before applying a waterproof clear-coat sealant. Using a foam brush, apply the clear coat to protect the wood finish from future exposure to damage and moisture. Allow the sealant to dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before using the workbench.

Tips & Warnings

  • Prime, paint and seal the workbench in a well-ventilated space, preferably outdoors.

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