10 Tips for Painting Wood Furniture

Brighten up your house cheaply and creatively.

By Tracy Leigh Ritts


Painting an old piece of wood furniture can give it new life. Purchasing an inexpensive piece of unpainted wood furniture and painting or staining it is a cost-saving and satisfying way to add a little color and style to your home.

If you are interested in either or both, we have 10 tips to insure success:

  1. Choose a well-ventilated area to work in so that the fumes don’t bother you. Also, be sure there’s nothing around that could produce sparks or flames. We recommend garages with the doors open, porches and covered decks, and basements with windows that open.
  2. Lay newspapers, an old sheet or another kind of drop cloth on the floor to protect it. Remove all hardware from the furniture. This might include drawer pulls, hinges, or anything else that isn’t wood.
  3. Sand the furniture with fine sandpaper or liquid sander until it is smooth. Be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and a dust mask to protect yourself.
  4. After you’ve finished sanding, remove any sawdust that remains. Hand vacuums make quick work of this job. Otherwise, use a brush or barely damp rag to clean the wood. You might want to use both for some pieces.
  5. Apply primer. It should be either white brush-on or gray spray-on water-based paint. The type will depend on the size of the furniture you’re painting. When in doubt, ask someone in the paint department at the local hardware store — they will point you in the right direction.
  6. Walk away and let the primer dry. This could take anywhere from one to three hours, but check the label on the primer you’re using to be sure. If the day is especially humid, it might take even longer.
  7. If necessary, apply another coat of primer and let dry again.
  8. Check for any rough areas and sand them until they’re smooth.
  9. Now, you’re ready to paint! Use water-based paint and begin with one coat, brushing it on with even strokes. Be sure to paint in the direction of the wood’s grain. If you’re using spray paint, go slowly and hold the can 8 to 12 inches from the wood’s surface.
  10. Let the first coat of paint thoroughly dry. Add the second coat of paint in the same way you did the first. When complete, let it dry overnight.

That’s it! Painting wood furniture is simple if you take your time and have the proper materials. It’s a great way to spiff up your house and have fun doing so.

Tracy Leigh Ritts is a freelance writer based in Ohio. She wrote How to Plan Your Own Wedding and Save Thousands…Without Going Crazy.