How to Paint Over Finished Furniture

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Whether you're moving into your first apartment, purchasing your first home or simply redecorating a room, there's a good chance that you'll need to purchase furniture for your space. If your budget is tight, there's a good chance that you won't be able to afford new furniture. Fortunately, most used furniture pieces can be given new life simply by painting over an old finish. A good coat of paint can update the style of an outdated piece, cover an imperfect finish and disguise blemishes so that your dresser, table or chair looks like you bought it new.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean rags
  • Tack cloth
  • Screwdriver
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • Mineral oil
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Wood filler
  • Paint brushes
  • Small box or container
  • Drop cloth
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Paper face mask
  • New hardware (optional)
  • Remove the hardware from the furniture piece using your screwdriver. This includes removing doors from cabinets if your piece of furniture includes them. Be sure to set the hardware aside in a small container so that you don't lose any important parts later. Place the disassembled furniture pieces outside on a large drop cloth.

  • Apply mineral spirits to a clean rag, then wipe down the entire piece of furniture---as well as any disassembled pieces---to remove any oils, dirt or residues from the surface. Allow time for the pieces to dry.

  • Use sandpaper to sand the finish, following the grain of the wood and making sure you sand in the small cracks and crevices. You need to use a fine-grit sandpaper, such as the suggested 400 grit paper, to avoid scratching the wood. This light-sanding process is not designed to remove the old finish, rather to create a surface for the primer to adhere to.

  • Rub the entire surface of the furniture (inside and out) with tack cloth to remove any dust and residue. Wipe down each piece again using mineral spirits to remove any last bit of residue from the surface. Allow at least 1 hour for the pieces to dry before moving on to the next step.

  • Fill in any chips in the wood using wood filler.

  • Apply a coat of primer to the entire piece of furniture, including any disassembled pieces. Allow enough time for the primer to become dry to the touch. This may depend on the product, and the outside temperature and humidity levels. Consider applying a second coat if the first appears to be too thin. Allow time for the primer to completely dry before moving on to the next step.

  • Sand the surface of the primed piece using a fine grit sandpaper to remove any rough areas before painting.

  • Brush on a layer of paint using even strokes that follow the direction of the wood grain. If you are using spray paint, hold the can about 12 inches from the surface of the wood and make slow passes to apply the paint. Allow time for the first coat of paint to dry before applying a second coat. Allow the second coat to dry overnight.

  • Reassemble the piece of furniture using the original hardware, or replacements you have purchased, then place it in your room.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use gloves, safety goggles and the face mask whenever you sand or paint.

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