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Where do you start when painting furniture ?

Where do you start when painting furniture ?

So you have always wondered, Where do I Start When Painting Furniture ? Here I will explain all you need to know so that you are no longer fearful of messing up .

Consumers these days are confused. And its no wonder really . They are being told by a lot of the chalk  paint manufacturers and retailers  that there is no need to prepare their furniture before painting.  “no prep” is how they market their products.

But I am here to tell you, that is simply not true!

Well ok, it is true that you can paint without prep , of course you can… You can put any paint onto any surface and get started straight away . You can spend hours or even days creating the most beautiful masterpiece without ever having cleaned or sanded first…..just make sure you don’t ever touch it and make sure its not used on a daily basis. In other words, sit it in a corner and just look at it or it will end up like the photo below…


I am that soldier , I have done the ‘no prep painting’ and although the piece looks great for a while…. it wont look great very soon after. And all that work you put in, will be wasted.


The truth is, your prep is your finish, i have been saying it for years and many of my customers now say the same. If you want the finish to last ,you must take a few minutes before you start painting to simply clean and sand. Its not rocket science, but it’s the reason every professional painter and decorator in the world knows that ‘no prep’ is a marketing ploy to sell more paint to amateurs. Terrible but true.

Now imagine you have a solid oak kitchen that is dark and dated and you want it given a fresh new look. You get 2 quotes

  1. Company one will charge you €1200 to repaint it. They will have it done in 3 days as they wont bother cleaning or sanding or priming. They will just come in paint it and go. Nice and quick.
  2. Company two will also charge you €1200, but it will take 6 days as they will be cleaning it thoroughly, sanding the wood so the new paint has something to adhere to and as its raw wood, they will prime it first to give the perfect starting point for the paint. It will have a smooth long lasting durable finish.

Which one of these companies would you choose for your solid wood kitchen ? They are both the same price ?

You would choose the second of course . But why ? Because you know the the preparation of the surface, will give your kitchen a much better finish and it will last much longer too.

Now imagine you are a customer who bought a beautiful hand painted piece of furniture that was totally bespoke and suited your room décor perfectly. You are delighted with yourself and your new piece as you stand and admire it .

But within the month you notice a few scratches in the paint work and you cant understand it, as you have been actually minding it because you love it so much. After a few more weeks of real family life, you realise your beautiful hand painted piece doesn’t look so beautiful any more . If it looks like this now , what is it going to look like in 12 months. What a huge disappointment. You will certainly be telling all your friends and family to avoid buying from that furniture restylist.

Now imagine you are that restylist  and imagine the photos or comments you might receive on your page, from this disappointed customer…. how mortified are you ?

As a small business owner, this can ruin your name and your reputation. And this can all be avoided and Yes, it really is as easy as 1,2,3…. I promise.

S0 lets go >>

Step one:


…no paint will stick to dirt and it also creates little lumps and bumps, in what should otherwise be a perfect finish. And you don’t know what residue is on this piece that could bleed through your paint !! Remember nearly all paints today are water based .

But what to clean it with?  This is the most important thing… Many people use sugar soap and that’s good, it certainly cleans grime and grease but unless its rinsed off properly it leaves a residue that itself will bleed through your paint. And you REALLY don’t want that. SO here is my recommendation and why.. METHYLATED SPIRITS and Water….. a 50\50 mix in an old shower spray bottle. This will thoroughly clean the woodwork and leave no residue.. get yourself a cheap scrubby sponge and some kitchen roll and get going. That should only take a few minutes and now we are already on to the next step..

Step Two:


We want our paint to stick to the best of its ability and we want it to stay stuck right !

So this is especially important on pre-finished pieces. Pieces like this Prefinished wood


…you know the kind. These pieces have a lacquered finish that is meant to repel all liquids. So ideally sand it right back ( if you have a good orbital sander it wont take long) or just give it, whats known as, a SCUFF SAND>>

What is a scuff sand I here you ask… ??  well its basically creating millions of little scratches . This breaks down the lacquer somewhat and gives the paint something to sink its teeth into.. and how to do it ? You use three grades of paper 150, then 180 and then 220.  A good rub all over with these grades of sand paper or pads will do the job and not take very long at all. Wipe off all sawdust with a lint free cloth. This also takes a lot of the shine off your piece .


Step Three:

Prime or straight in with Paint ?

Now you are informed you can choose….

  • You can go straight in with your paint. I recommend  Fleetwood Advanced Eggshell or Satinwood   ( click to see range). This is a paint specifically formulated for upcycling . It gives a wonderful low lustre finish, is  self priming and self sealing . It is also self leveling and if you use a mini foam roller ( Available here)  for all flat areas ,you will find it gives a sprayed like finish ..(very professional ) and  the roller makes the whole job much quicker and easier !


  • Or prime first… So when and why we should prime ( especially if the paint is self priming ???)

Well I  prime with Grey Primer/Undercoat as grey is a much more neutral colour that white  and I do it for two reasons

  1. If the piece is dark in colour and I want to paint it white or cream, i would use white but for everything else i use grey.
  2. The surface of the piece has a high sheen. The  primer dulls the surface and prepares it for the paint.

The primer I find the best can be bought HERE .

However , one more very important note on priming…

sometimes you will come across a piece of furniture  like this …( usually mid century mahogany )


The tanins from the stain used in the piece will bleed through all water based paints…and water based primers !

Have you experienced bleeding yet ?? Its very annoying and can be quite distressing, when you think you have your furniture all beautifully painted .

In instances like this, you need an oil or shellac based primer. You can see it HERE and just so you know, the brushes used with this primer will have to be cleaned with Methylated Spirits ( but you already have that from the cleaning process,  don’t you ) .

I used it on this piece and it sealed in all the nasty tanins . Here’s the end result….

Patina Green and Java Gel Stain

So what do you think ?  Worth the extra 20 minutes at the start to get a more professional finish ??

Now I am going  to tell you a bit more about the paint I use, before I finished.

( Disclaimer….I have updated this blog post  since i first wrote it, due to improved products coming on to the market.

For years I used a major well know brand of chalk paint ( you can see it on the chair above, or whats left of it) and as time went on I realised that is was exactly what they said on the tin , a DECORATIVE paint. Not suitable for everyday furniture and the wax finish is not durable enough for every day furniture.  Also I HATED having to wax after I  finished painting !! Plus I found it much harder to use, than advertised , as it thickened so quickly with exposure to air.

I adore upcycling, as you will have seen from the amount of furniture that have passed through my hands ( if you have been following me for a while)

(You can see more of my blogs and videos HERE)

and it never ceases to amaze me the new lease of life we can give old quality pieces,so I wasn’t going to be put off by this , I just had to find a better paint.

Last year I teamed up with Fleetwood Paints , Irelands largest paint manufacturer. If you haven’t used their advanced eggshell for furniture ,  it or haven’t heard of it yet, I suggest you look at my collection HERE . Yes i was so impressed with this paint, i started my own colour collection with them ! Its not every paint I would put my name to. That should tell you how good i believe it is.

After using  this paint I was absolutely smitten …the ease of use is incredible , the flat sprayed like finish is so professional  and the durability is perfect for everyday furniture. And its fantastic value for money.

I haven’t not looked back since and I find all the customers who try this paint, especially my cottage industry girls, are astounded as to how their business has taken off since using this quality product.

So give it a go. You can try a box of our 90ml samples. click here for colours.

Hope you found this helpful and happy Upcycling folks

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Aileen xx



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