The DIY Designer: 3 ways to paint furniture

Authored By rainonatinroofblog

If you’ve read my column for a while, you may know that one thing I love doing is furniture makeovers, particularly painting furniture. I’ve done a whole lot of furniture makeovers over the past couple of years and have always learned a little more with each one. You can see the gallery of all my makeovers here.

There are three different methods I have used when painting furniture, and each has its own pros and cons.

Regular latex paint method
In terms of just the paint itself, this method is the cheapest. When I paint a piece of furniture with latex paint (usually some I’ve picked up from a local home improvement store), I usually start by priming the piece of furniture. If a piece is stained or has a dark color on it currently and is getting a very different-toned color, it most definitely needs to be primed when using latex paint. The same is true if it is an unfinished piece of furniture.

After it’s primed, the piece typically needs two to three coats of paint. If it’s a smaller piece of furniture, you may get away with a quart. If it’s larger, you will need a gallon but will have some left over for other projects. Unless you paint a piece with a high-gloss finish, latex paint is most likely going to need a topcoat to protect its finish.

For painted pieces, I suggest a polycrylic finish. It’s clear and doesn’t yellow like polyurethane. If you use a paint sprayer to paint furniture, which I often do, latex paint can be used in the sprayer by simply thinning it. The same is true of the primer and the polycrylic. If you are into the “chippy” and “distressed” look on furniture, you can sand latex paint to get that look; however, it won’t sand as easily as other specialty furniture paints may. Latex tends to sand off in a plastic, rubbery fashion. The pieces I have used regular paint on have held up well. It just takes more time and effort with this method. 

-Average cost of painting a piece of furniture with latex paint (assuming you have zero supplies on hand):

  • Quart of primer: $9
  • Quart of latex paint: $15
  • Quart of polycrylic: $18
  • Paintbrush and small paint roller: $10
  • Total cost: $52

-Average time to paint a piece using this method: Including drying time, count on a few days. Overall hands-on time will be four to six hours, depending on the size of your piece and how many coats it takes. 

If you are interested in using a paint sprayer to cut down on time spent painting, I recommend the HomeRight FinishMax. It gives a very fine finish and is easy to use. 

Velvet Finishes paint method
This is new-to-me paint that I have recently found. It’s actually made by a gal from Dalton, which is cool. Velvet Finishes paint typically requires no priming or topcoat on furniture-it’s all built in. There aren’t as many colors available as with latex paint, but there is a good variety of colors, and you can mix paints to come up with other colors. The actual paint is more expensive than latex, but you can thin it to make it last longer, and you aren’t paying for primer and polycrylic unless you have something that meets the criteria I wrote about above. You can also use Velvet Finishes in a paint sprayer after thinning it.

If you want that chippy look, Velvet Finishes sands easily. So far, the pieces I have used this paint on are holding up very well. 

-Average cost of painting a piece of furniture with Velvet Finishes paint (assuming you have zero supplies on hand):

  • Paint: $19 (8 ounces)-$38 (38 ounces)
  • Paintbrush and small paint roller: $10
  • Total cost: $29-$48 

-Average time to paint a piece using this method: Including drying time, it takes one to two days. Overall hands-on time will probably be one to three hours, depending on the size and condition of your piece. 

Chalk paint method
Chalk paint has become very popular in the past few years. There are many different brands of chalk paint out there, with Annie Sloan being the most popular. But there aren’t as many colors as latex paint.

Typically with chalk paint, you don’t have to prime a piece of furniture. It sands easily to create that chippy look, but you have to seal it with wax or another sealant. Most people prefer to seal it with wax, but I have never been all that good at waxing. I have made my own DIY version of chalk paint and used one store-bought chalk paint before. Neither was as easy to work with as the other two methods, but they did have good coverage. However, nine months after painting the buffet in my living room with store-bought chalk paint, it hasn’t held up too well. The paint has started to scratch off in multiple places. It could be because of the wax I used on the piece or the paint itself-not sure which yet. This paint is also more expensive than latex but can be thinned to go further.

-Average cost of painting a piece of furniture with chalk paint (assuming you have zero supplies on hand):

  • Paint: $23 (pint)-$35 (quart)
  • Chalk paint wax to seal it: $27
  • Paintbrush and small paint roller: $10
  • Total cost: $60-$72

-Average time to paint a piece using this method: Including drying time, this method takes one or two days. Overall hands-on time is about two to four hours, depending on the size of the piece. Waxing will take longer than other sealants.

Have you painted furniture before? What is your preferred method? 

Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk décor, thrifty finds, crafty creations and other decorating dilemmas. She went to UTC, where she got a teaching degree that now collects dust. When she isn’t trying to keep her kid from climbing out of the circus ring or making sure her husband’s shirts are taken to the dry cleaners so she gets out of ironing, she can be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. But if you’re buying, she’ll have a cosmopolitan. You can email her at [email protected]; or you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @raintinroofblog or at her blog. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.