How-To: painting furniture 3 ~ painting tools

I’d like to take a moment to talk about what tools you’ll need to apply your paint…

Brushes: don’t waste your money on cheap ones. Cheap brushes lose their bristles during the painting process and don’t clean up as easily. They also give a crappy, brush mark appearance to your job.

I prefer something from Purdy or Wooster and if you care for them they should last many jobs. My favorite size of brush is the Sash (2”) angled brush. I also have on hand a 1” (in photo), 2 ½”, and 3”, however, the 2” is the one I use most. The angled brush allows me to really penetrate into crevices and allows me to paint the edge of moulding without needing to tape off the wall.

bristled brush used to paint in detailed areas

If using latex paint, brushes can be cleaned with warm water. Here is an excellent article about how to care for your brushes. I’ve learned my lesson from reading his advice, so need to be better about caring for my tools.

If working with latex paint, wet the brush lightly before dipping into paint to extend the dry time; if oil paint, use paint thinner before dipping. Stopping for work but don’t want to clean the brush? Then wrap in a slightly wet rag for latex, slightly damp with paint thinner for oil, and place in plastic bag (remove as much air as possible) and put it out of the sun.

If you want to lessen brush marks from laxtex paint, try Floetrol. I saw this recommended on another blog.

Tips for minimizing or eliminating brush strokes:

1.) Use less paint then you think you need. Dip your brush into paint about 1/3 of the bristle length. Don’t put in the entire brush. The common mistake I see hubby making is too much paint on the brush and this lends to more visible strokes. It also leads to more drips!

2.) Brush strokes can often be “feathered out” before the paint dries.  Do one straight stroke and come back, stroking the paint outwards from the original line. This often reduces or eliminates the initial brush stroke.

3.) Come back over it with a 4″ foam roller before the paint has dried. If I am painting large flat areas (front of dresser, top of dresser etc…) I start with a 4″ foam roller over a paintbrush anyway.

4.) Brush strokes are usually more visible on the priming coat. Since this becomes covered with another coat it generally doesn’t concern me. I just sand smooth and put on the next coat with a roller. Another option would be to prime with a spray.

5.) Brush strokes are often found where you begin and end. Begin the stroke off the project, “land” and then lift off at the end with one smooth slide.

Foam Rollers: for furniture painting, I find the 4” foam rollers for cabinets and doors fantastic for working over large flat surfaces such as table tops however, grooved and detailed areas I use a brush or a spray. They are also excellent for painting doors as their name suggests.

cabinet door foam roller to paint furniture

Foam Brushes: I rarely use these for an entire painting project anymore as they disintegrate too rapidly. However, they can be great to use for touchups and for squishing paint into corners and crevices. To avoid brush marks, apply paint with the tip and then feather away with the side of the foam applicator.

Speciality Brushes: Depending on how creative you are going to be you might need some brushes specifically to fit a purpose such as these stencil brushes.

Sprayer: this would be a machine you load in your paint of choice and then spray it. I’ve used one to paint a large trio of bookshelves and for a room’s walls. They have their big pluses and big drawbacks.

PROS – completes job quickly; gives an even spray; great for carved or highly decorative pieces, and makes a huge job be finished in little time. If I was working on a new house where the flooring hadn’t gone in yet, this would be my choice for painting walls or exterior. If I had a garage dedicated to painting furniture and could set up a corner with drop clothes covering the walls and a turntable for the furniture to sit upon, this would be my choice.

CONS – loads up with a huge amount of paint (actually lost half a gallon for the machine to load); spray goes everywhere (and I mean EVERYwhere! – be sure everything is taped off or you are working in a spray cabinet area); you need a professional machine – those sold at Lowes and Home Depot lead only to frustration; and not cost effective for small jobs.

Spraypaint: Working with a paintbrush is something I really enjoy. It’s like another person working in clay – I want to get my hands onto the project. It’s why I generally prefer liquid paint that is applied with a brush or roller over spraypaint.

great for small jobs;
Great for projects that are metal or have a lot of curves, detail which would make using a brush difficult.
Has a lot of variety in speciality finishes (i.e. metallic, hammered, for glass etc…)
Works better over plastic, laminates, glass and ceramics then liquid paint.

it’s far more expensive to use spraypaint primer project after project then to buy a can of primer. For example, for $10 I still have gray primer left in a can for many more projects vs. the one can of spraypaint primer which is already used up on one job (and didn’t even cover that one job).
The color choices are very limited and I prefer having paint chips to choose from.
Drips are extremly difficult to deal with as it dries so quickly.
Take the stench and the toxicity very seriously.
It also oversprays into other areas, despite drop cloths, as my garage will testify.
Disposal is a serious problem if your city requires payment for toxic paints (and mine does).
Used on metal, laminate or plastic, scratches will easily reveal the undercoat, original layer (I have yet to see one blog or DIY state how to avoid this – would love to know – Krylon recommends sanding prior to get a better attachment).

spray primer to cover pine knots

While I’m not a fan of spraypaint I have started using it on smaller projects just because of it’s ease of use. However, I still would not use it on a large project such as a dresser or a hutch. The cost factor alone would make it infeasible.

Spray paint links ~

FAQ on spraypaint from Centsational Girl

Video of spraypainting techniques by Centsational Girl

Pros and Cons of Spraypaint from Centsational Girl.

How-To: painting furniture 1 ~ prepping and priming

The first step is prepping your piece and it’s the most important and IMO the most boring! It’s why too many people skip it and go right to painting and then are disappointed with the final product. It’s important – don’t skip the prepping! and if need be take several days to do it or wait a day and go back to it.

What your piece is made out of and what type of coating it has determines how you will proceed:

1.) Bare Wood. If dealing with bare wood you may want to prep the surface with a sealer (i.e. shellac or “sanding sealer” found in the stain area of the hardware/paint store) to prevent bleed through from the knots. If you don’t want the knots to show through, after sealing use a primer (recommended is Zinsser’s B-I-N). Be sure to seal both sides of the board.

I find knots that bleed through are most commonly found in pine that hasn’t been cured or fresh cut pine lumber. You might also have an issue with knots that are dried out and thus are loose and may fall out. A great article on how to work with knots can be found at American Woodworker.

2.) Soft Woods, i.e. pines, grow fast so are often seen in today’s lumber store. Softwoods dent easily with the use of a hammer and when stripping I do not start with the coarsest sandpaper (i.e. try a 80 to 120 grit instead of 40 or 60 for the first sanding).

You may even want to use a sanding block instead of an electric sander if the wood is too fragile. Too much harsh sanding can actually remove the pine itself and with older or thinner pieces of furniture may leave you with little to work with.

obvious marks on softwood (pine)

A line of Basset furniture has predominate knots as part of the country look that was once popular. If you wish those knots to disappear, they too will need to be thoroughly primed with B-I-N before painting. It comes as a liquid or spray.

3.) Hard Woods, ( i.e. oak, walnut, pecan) are slower growth trees and have a harder surface. It can withstand harsher treatment when stripping. Some of these are also a great wood for doing liming and whitewash effects due to it’s grain.

Generally, I start with an 80 grit sandpaper using my electric hand sander (I use the Black and Decker Mouse Sander but there are other hand sanders that are just as effective). From 80 I go to 120 (by machine), then 180, and possibly 220 (by hand) depending on how smooth I want the surface. Make sure you wear protective eyewear and a paper nose mask to prevent dust in your nose or eyes.

If  you are stripping a piece of furniture only to paint it, then you are looking for a smooth enough finish where the initial protective surface (i.e. anything shiny, whether it’s a wax or poly finish) is removed. If that protective surface is not removed, paint will not adhere.

It’s not important that every bit of stain or previous color be removed from the piece. Depending on the end effect, you may not even want the piece entirely smooth in order to enhance the distressed, end appearance.

However, special attention should be given to any details you want to emerge. Grooves and designs are notorious for being filled up with previous layers of paint, destroying the lovely detail. Use steel brushes and other scraping tools to remove what you can. I’ve also found that a chemical stripper may be used to speed up the process in areas that are hard to sand.

leg of vanity table for powder room bath

Repairs at this point need to be made, this would include filling in holes, any edges or trim that might be missing, framing that needs to be strengthened with glue, and legs that need to be fixed.

repairing furniture with spare piece

The bathroom vanity is a project showing the process of stripping, sanding and priming.

4.) Veneers and laminate will be covered in a later post.

To prime or not to prime? I’ve found myself starting to prime more and more. It cuts down on the coats of color paint needed which costs more then primer. A tinted primer is cheaper then paint and goes much farther in the can then using spaypaint primer. JMO but I am not a fan of these new paints which include primer.

A priming coat also lets you see if there are blemishes or further repairs you need to make before putting on your colored coat. A gray or darker tinted primer will also help you go to a darker colored paint faster and achieve a richer end color. For example, if going from white to black, or white to red, you may want to apply a gray primer.

gray primed table for vanity in powder room bath

Once a piece has been sanded, repaired and primed, it is ready for your decorative paint.

FAQ’s on prepping… 

When painting, the surface needs to be clean, smooth and free of any glossy topcoat. It does not need to be sanded down to clean wood but surfaces should be smooth. If you want it smoother, fill in any defects, sand and then prime/paint.

If the original piece is stained, break the topcoat with a sanding, and clean out decorative moulding pieces. Sand smooth and then prime before painting. If the piece is being difficult to clean (or is pine and you worry about damage), go with a chemical stripper, scrub with wire brushes, and then clean the area with thinner to remove gunk left behind.

If the original piece is relatively smooth, in good condition, and does not have a topcoat, you can skip straight to priming (if going from light to dark) or painting (if color hue is relatively the same tone).

If the surface is plastic, ceramic, glass, or laminate, you will need to get a speciality primer for the job. Try looking at the spraypaint aisle at Westlake for a product that suits these surfaces. Be aware though that it will take at least two coats and lots of time to dry in-between. If you rush it, the surface will eventually scratch back or not hold future paint layers.

Before painting be sure to vacuum or use tacky clothes and have your piece completely dust free.

Tip: cohesive paint color for walls

I didn’t take a before photo of the dining and living room but they were just empty blank canvases with ratty old carpet, so I don’t think you missed much!

Both rooms are painted with Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720 (Lowes) and I have to say that I’m LOVING THIS COLOR! It’s dark enough that it gives color to the wall – unlike the cream neutral we had before. It also isn’t so dark that I feel like I’m living in a cave! It’s also neutral so would go with many colors that you would want to use for furnishings, art, etc…

The Rock color will go through the entire downstairs area – the formal living and dining, as well as the front hall, the kitchen and the family room. I’ve mentioned that when we went on the Parade of Homes tour, the builders had all used the same neutral color in the downstairs to make the area look larger. That’s the point of this paint job as we hope to put the house on the market within 18 months.

Because of the natural lighting and the flash on my camera, the color on the walls doesn’t always appear accurate in the photos; I’ve noted where the most accurate color representation is in the following photos:

view from dining to living
least accurate color - paint is not yellow
very accurate wall color
most accurate wall color

Still to do on Dining Room: sheers for window, 4 wall sconces, floor and baseboard.

Still to do on Living Room:  wall art, floor and baseboard.

The biggest problem I’m having though is this stupid formal living room. Because of the room layout – one very large window on one wall, another wall with a very large arch doorway into the dining and another wall with an entry arch, the room is pretty much nothing but a pass through. Furniture will have to be arranged facing each other, leaving a huge road in the middle to allow traffic. I’ve got to figure out a way to make this appealing and comfortable.

Project: glazing the bathroom cabinet (black over gray)

The original cabinet in the powder room was standard builder work. Though made of nice oak, it was just a box that hung on the wall. With the high ceiling, I always felt it should be a taller to draw the eye upwards.

Hubby made a box out of Aspen to mount on top of the existing cabinet. The carved work was recycled from an old vanity harp with very decorative moulding which I had bought years ago ($20), thinking I would make a shelf out of it. The edge of one piece of the molding was damaged so we used molding epoxy to shape the end piece.

The new box was attached to the wall, and molding trimwork used at the top and bottom of the old cabinet to make the unit appear as one.

Since the original cabinet had been stained and coated with a protective finish, it had to be sanded down to a point where all the old stain and varnish was completely broken and ready to receive paint. We goofed by not working hard enough at it and the first coat ended up peeling! DON’T SKIP SANDING AND PREPPING!

Danielle Hirsch (formerly of Color Splash) has a video here about cabinet doors. She recommends cleaning, sanding, (and on the show – not this video) priming with an oil-based as the first coat, covered with latex paint.

If you want a protective cover coat, and used latex paint, use a water-based poly (good) or water based varnish (better) – preferably applied with a paint sprayer. If you use an oil based over latex it will yellow the overall look. Oil based varnishes and poly’s also will yellow as they have a natural amber tint.

I apply latex paint with a foam roller designed for cabinet applications along with a 2″ inch bristle paint brush (to push into the crevices). I like the foam because it leaves no marks when you make the last pass.

In this case the undercoat color was Valspar Waverly Classics – Gull W38006A. The gray was lighter then I wanted the end product which was deliberate as I knew the glaze would darken it somewhat.

Thickly apply the Valspar’s Antiquing Glaze, a black glaze over an area you can work in about 15 minutes (dilute with their clear glaze for longer working time if you need more then 15 minutes) .

With a clean rag (cut up t-shirt), work the glaze into the crevices with a circular motion. The crevices is where you will want the glaze to remain so you remove the glaze from flat surfaces.

If you have removed too much glaze, just reapply with your paintbrush, working it back into the crevices.

The end wipe should be in the direction of the wood. For example the long sides were an even stroke all the way across; the short sides an even stroke. Match the wood grain with your strokes and lift off at the end so there is no end mark with your rag or brush (similar to dragging).

click photo for closeup comparison

Once the second door is finished, the two doors are compared to make sure the glaze looks the same on both doors. That’s why it’s best to have one person to do the project, the amount of pressure, amount removed, will be more consistent.

Glazed detail on moulding
Three coats of wipe-on, water based poly with the 2nd coat steel wooled. If this bathroom had a tub/shower, I would have used a different topcoat as the wipe-on poly isn’t extremely durable but will be fine for the light use of this room. 

Want to see more about base moulding and moulding projects? There’s more on the blog right here

Want to see more about cabinets? There’s more on the blog right here….

Tip: downstairs wall paint

When we went on the Parade of Homes tour two years ago, we noticed that the builders had painted all the walls of the entire downstairs the same color. This gave the illusion of making the house appear larger.

We also noticed that they were using a darker neutral in tan/khaki or grays. This made the white of the mouldings, both crown and base really pop out. Overall, it was a fresh, clean look that fooled the buyer into thinking the home was bigger as all the rooms flowed easily into the other.

We plan on putting this house on the market in 12-18 months so all my design decisions have to take this into account: how will our 15 year old house compare to what people can buy new? or buy within the price range that this house is being sold for?

With that in mind the entire downstairs, except bathroom and laundry rooms are being painted with Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720. It’s a gray putty with a hint of brown.

We tried a lot of samples on the wall and this one really impressed us. We painted the walls of the hall down to the laundry room and bathroom, which is the darkest hall in the house, and the color wasn’t so dark that it made you feel you were walking into a cave. OTOH, it’s not so light that it looks like a dirty cream.

TIP! When trying a paint color put a sample on the wall – several walls – so you can see how light can strike it during different times of daylight. For example, we put a sample in the hallway with no windows, the front entry with some windows, and the dining which gets a lot of light.

bathroom crown moulding

We selected a crown moulding that was a primed composite with a vine pattern (right) from Lowes and a decorative accent moulding (Colonial, left).

We also picked up the speciality corner pieces which were supposed to make the job easier on fitting the corners — I would not recommend using them. We did and they were a pain! It would have been easier and cheaper just to cut the crown molding and fit it using the miter box!

Our plan had been to extend the molding using another piece but found with this type of crown moulding was that it didn’t really butt up well when fitting it against base mouldings. We eventually found the Colonial accent moulding and once it went up it look stunning!

Another thing to keep in mind is that the more ornate the moulding, the harder it will be to paint it without getting globs in the recesses when using a brush or foam roller (vs. paint sprayer).

The vine pattern was a bit tricky and we ended up using a foam roller (with little paint) over the projecting pieces, and filling back with a paint brush with very little paint. Since we were using white over white primer it worked out but if you were going to go a different color a paint sprayer would be a better option.

TIP! I do give the moulding two coats of paint, then put it up, fill in nail holes, sand and then paint again. If you paint it before attaching it will make the end paint job a lot easier.

click photo for larger photo

The ceiling was done in Valspar Pearl, a speciality paint in Blue Winter Fox. We had considered using tin tiles but decided that cost wise it wouldn’t be smart – the silver metal appearance gives us the same wow factor without the additional money and hassle of installing such a ceiling.

The walls are Lowes Venetian Plaster Aquamarina #67 – both paint techniques require smooth surfaces to look well.

Want to see more about crown moulding and moulding projects? There’s more on the blog right here

Technique: Venetian Plaster, smooth vs. textured walls

When we did the Venetian Plaster in the laundry room it was over a textured wall. We attempted to smooth it out with plaster and sanding but it never got flat smooth all over. While we were happy with the end result, now that we’ve done the Venetian Plaster over a smooth wall (bathroom) the difference is quite astoinshing!

A sample of the color over a textured ceiling – color is flatter and without the mirror sheen:

base moulding conceals curtain rod in laundry room
Lowes Venetian Plaster Marmo

Over a smooth wall, the entire effect increases to that of the mirror sheen (not seen in these photos due to the flash of the camera but the gloss is as high as a mirror) that the product describes – depth and shading is more noticeable:

Lowes Venetian Plaster Aquamarina #67

The mirror sheen quality can be seen in this photo I took of the ceiling. Look in the walls and you can see the reflection across the top wall (it is reflecting the white of the crown moulding).

venetian plaster shows reflection on surface

Venetian Plaster isn’t really the right use for high traffic rooms, rooms with projecting corners, or where walls will have a high possibility of being touched or scratched. The surface mars very easily – for example, pressing a hand on the wall before it was top coated, resulted in a large dark smear that had to be buffed out. Scratches would also need to be filled and buffed with similar product in order to remove them.

After these experiences, I simply wouldn’t put the money into a faux effect like Venetian Plaster, Pearl, Suede, etc… unless you have a completely FLAT and SMOOTH wall. Financially, you will expend too much money on the paint unless the walls are smooth (either by re-plastering or sanding down) and you can’t get the end-effect that you want without it.

Be sure to check out the entire series on Venetian Plaster as I learned a lot over the course of different rooms.

Tip: removing wallpaper, disposing of odd paint

We’ve been very busy on the house these last 24 hours…. a lot of work is being done on the bathroom, including removing the wallpaper.

The best directions I found were located here on removing wallpaper. Using the scorer has perforated the drywall but we are going to cover with plaster so it isn’t a big deal. The paper scorer also knicked up the hands so try to use some sort of glove if you can.

Since this recipe uses a mix with anti-freeze make sure that all wallpaper removed cannot be accessed by animals and that the floor is cleaned before animals are allowed to enter.

We lucked out that the builder put up wallpaper with paper underneath so only a very small bit of drywall surface came off when we took off the wallpaper. This leaves bare drywall so to save on the Venetian Plaster, we will be painting the drywall prior to the application of the VP. Drywall that has not been painted or primed will suck up paint or surface material overlay like crazy. By painting an undercoat we hope to use less VP then if we just used it alone.

Speaking of which, when you read about using primer, don’t think it has to be white. And don’t think it has to be something bought special for the job. Using odds and ends as primers is a good way to use up that paint and keep it out of the landfill. As long as the under coat is the same product as the top coat – latex on latex, water-based on water-based etc… you should be okay.

Leftover, Latex paint, any shine, can be mixed together to form one paint hat you can later use for priming drywall or other projects. After combining, take to the paint store and have them shake it with their machine in the paint department. Generally, the color comes out light to medium in shade, and responds like a flat or eggshell. Be sure to mark the can so you don’t forget what is in it!

All the small cans (behind) were mixed either in the keep, primer (right) gallon or the disposal (left) gallon. Empty latex cans will be left to dry and, if steel, some recycling plants will take them.

Some metro recycling organizations will actually take the latex paint, mix it and then use it on city projects because when combined the paint becomes pale in color and a flat shine.

If you want to dispose of it, first combine all of it in an empty latex gallon can. Take a cardboard box, line with a plastic garbage bag and pour in about a two inch layer. Add kitty litter, grass clippings, sawdust shavings etc… to help it dry faster. Once it is dry and hard, and another layer and repeat. There are also commercial products that will do the same thing available at your paint store.

Another way to get rid of unwanted paint, is to advertise it on Craigslist. I listed the sizes, how full the cans were, and a color approximation in my description and within 24 hours someone who did crafts wanted all the paint!