Are you Ready to Prep? Four Steps to Prep Your Project Piece.

Ok friends! You have picked the perfect piece of furniture. You know your design plan and what paint you are going to use. It's time for the crappiest part of furniture refinishing......prep. BUT...it's also the MOST IMPORTANT PART! A painted piece only turns out as good as it's prep. I'm going to list and describe the different ways in which you may need to prepare your furniture for paint. SIDE NOTE: many chalk paint companies claim that their paint requires NO PREP. It will say it right on the packaging! At the very least you have one step that you always need to preform before you paint.


Step 1: Cleaning Your Piece

No matter what state your project piece is in, you will need to give it a good scrubbing with a solution that cuts grease. In order for your paint to stick, all dirt, dust, grease and oils need to be removed. I have several products that I like and I will share them and why I choose them in specific situations.



Dawn soap, water and a sponge. Good for most every piece except for highly polished wood furniture with years of wax based furniture polish build up. It will remove the dirt and dust from most pieces. You can use a bucket of soapy water or spray it on with a spray bottle. Use a sponge with some mild abrasiveness to scrub all surfaces of the piece a couple times. Then wipe down with a damp rag to remove any excess soap.


Thieves household cleaner by Young Living. This product uses essential oils to cut grease and remove oils. It is also helpful if your project piece has any kind of odor that you want to get rid of. The product comes as a concentrate and I mix it in a glass spray bottle as directed (it will eat through a plastic bottle). I typically spray the piece down, let it sit for 10-15 min and then spray again and start scrubbing with a mildly abrasive sponge. Then I use a clean, damp rag to wipe off the piece and let it air dry.


Krud Kutter Original Cleaner and De-greaser is for pieces that have visible grease and dirt that has been building up. Like if they have been left outside and have dirt and moss or mildew on them. I also use the Krud Kutter Gloss Off to prep pieces that are grungier than most. I use the gloss off on those wood pieces that have been cleaned with furniture wax for years. The furniture cleaning polishes that you spray on, like Pledge and Old English build up over time and actually trap dirt and dust. You will notice as you cut through that product buildup on furniture, it will get lighter. That's because years of dirt has built up and changed the appearance of the finish.


There are thousands of cleaning products available and every furniture refinisher has their favorites. The bottom line is that you have to get the dirt, dust, grease, oil and whatever else off of the surface of the piece to ensure good adherence to the paint.


Step 2: Assessing Repairs and Addressing Them

Once your piece is clean, this is a good time to assess any damage and address it. While cleaning, you will have noticed chips, veneer damage, broken drawers, holes, weak joints, etc. Now it the time to address them. Have them fixed or fix them yourself. I highly recommend you tube videos if there are things you've never done. I will be sharing tips on repair here in later posts, but you tube is where I learned a lot. A couple things I have learned....I prefer Bondo to wood filler when filling holes and patching.

It sands down completely smooth and wood filler does not. Bondo was super intimidating to me in the beginning because it's a 2 part system that you have to mix. But it's the best product that I have used for filling and for reshaping/rebuilding edges, corners, decorative elements, etc. It's also a lot stronger so using it on edges/corners that will get continuous contact isn't an issue. It will hold up to wear and tear. Keep an eye out for my blog post on using Bondo.



Step 3: Sanding

You will want to, at least, scuff sand the surface of your piece to increase adherence. Use a 120 grit sand paper to rough up the shiny surface. The point of scuff sanding is to scuff up the shiny surface of the paint or poly that makes up the surface of your piece. You are creating tiny scratches and a rougher surface for the paint to grab on to. If your surface is too slick and shiny, the paint will just sit on top of that surface and it's durability will become an issue. It will look like it's fine. But it will chip and peel much easier than a scuff sanded surface. Once you have finished scuff sanding, use a clean, lint free rag to wipe the surface clean of dust.

Some pieces will need more sanding than just scuff sanding. If the surface you are painting isn't smooth to the touch, your paint will not be either. So if your end goal is to have a very smooth, shiny surface, than you will need to sand those surfaces until they feel smooth to the touch. For instance, chips in paint, little scratches and dents in the wood will show in the paint finish. This is pretty common with vintage furniture and I consider it part of it's character. I don't always remove every little ding. I do have a trick for helping you determine how much sanding you need to do. Keep reading!


Step 4: Priming

Ok, this is a step that many will insist is not necessary for most projects. I have learned that doing this step ends up saving me time and money in most projects. I use BIN Shellac based primer by Zinsser in white. I will link it here.

A shellac based primer will block bleed through from certain types of wood and also from stains like oil, markers and pens. If you are painting a piece in a dark color like black, navy or dark brown, then you can usually skip this step. Otherwise I recommend priming your piece with a shellac based primer every time. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten two coats of paint on and then started to apply my top coat only to see huge red and brown stains come seeping up to the surface. Once this happens you have to sand, prime and repaint to get rid of the stain. That means you've wasted two coats of expensive paint and probably a coat of poly, not to mention time. SUPER FRUSTRATING! I use primer for another reason.....the little trick I was talking about before. Putting the white primer on will give you an idea of what the paint is going to look like over the existing surface. Apply it with a small foam roller and then touch up edges with a foam brush. (Just an FYI, I toss my rollers and brushes after using them to prime because I hate cleaning up this primer. Don't use your nice brushes to apply primer!)

The Primer will highlight any scratches and dings and make it easier to determine what you are willing to overlook and what will drive you nuts if you don't fix. I put on my first coat of primer and then take a good look to see what little spots need my attention before I go any further. I may do a little sanding or grab my bondo and fill some spots. Then I can sand it down smooth and add my second coat of primer. If after your second coat, you don't see any bleeding, then you can do a light final sand with a fine sand paper and do a happy dance......cause you're ready for paint!

I hope this post helps you with your project! Make sure to like and comment if it was helpful! Also, sharing to Pinterest is super flattering and helps me get my posts seen! Thanks for checking it out! Subscribe to get notifications about new posts! Thank you!

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