The DIY Designer: How to keep paint from peeling or scratching off your newly painted furniture


Authored By rainonatinroofblog

Have you ever painted a piece of furniture only to discover a few weeks later that the paint is easily scratching or peeling off it? After putting so much time and energy into painting a piece, that can easily keep you from ever painting another piece of furniture again.

Usually the reason paint ends up peeling off a surface is because it didn’t as fully adhere to the surface as it was supposed to do.

There are a couple of reasons why it may not have adhered correctly:

Reason one: The surface wasn’t clean.
Anytime you paint something, it is so important to clean it first. You don’t have to do soap and water (unless it’s really nasty); just a wet cloth will usually do the trick. With any piece of furniture I paint, I always wipe it down first with a wet cloth to remove any dust and dirt. If the piece is really gross, like has been sitting in my garage for months gross, I will pull out the shop vac and run that over it first, then come back with the wet cloth.

After you have wiped down the surface with a wet cloth, you need to go back over it with a tack cloth. A tack cloth is literally just that, a tacky cloth that feels a little sticky. Wipe it over your piece to pick up any remaining dirt and dust.

Reason two: The surface had a topcoat or finish that kept the paint from adhering as it should have.
There are some paints out there that you can paint directly on to just about any surface. One of those is Velvet Finishes-and if you’ve seen some of my latest furniture makeovers, you know that’s my new favorite furniture paint. Depending on what type of surface you are painting, though, you may still need a primer with that paint and will most likely need it if you are painting with regular latex paint. If the furniture you are painting has one of these types of finishes, you will need to sand and/or prime it before painting: 

  • A thick, waxy finish
  • A shiny, glossy finish
  • Laminate
  • A polyurethaned finish

I recommend doing a quick sanding if the piece has any uneven spots or if it’s just really super-shiny. You won’t need to sand it down to the bare wood-just rough it up a bit. After you have sanded, run the tack cloth over the piece and apply a primer.

If you are painting a piece of unfinished furniture, there is no need for sanding. However, depending on the paint you are using, you may need to prime it. If you are using a regular latex paint, you will definitely want to prime it with something like Zinsser or Kilz primer. All you will need is one coat. It will keep the furniture from soaking up your paint and taking coat after coat after coat of paint. If you are using a paint that requires no priming first, you can skip that part.

After you’ve prepped your piece as needed, it’s important to remember a couple of other things when you get ready to paint:

Apply thin coats of paint.
I’m guilty of it, too-trying to put on thick coats to minimize my work time and because I’m just plain lazy. But you will get the best protection and finish on your furniture if you apply thin coats of paint. To speed up the process, I will often use my paint sprayer when the weather permits. If I can’t spray a piece, I use a high-quality paintbrush and/or roller.

Protect it.
Some paints already have a topcoat built in, such as the Velvet Finishes paint that I mentioned above. High-gloss paints are usually pretty tough, too, but not everyone likes that super-shiny look. If your piece is going to be seeing a lot of use, you need to put a good topcoat on it. I like to use Protect or a polycrylic. With this step, you can also use a paint sprayer or a high-quality paintbrush. A good topcoat will make your paint job stronger and hold up against little circuses that may be roaming around.

Let it cure.
Just because the paint or the topcoat is dry to the touch doesn’t mean that it’s fully cured. It can take paint and/or a topcoat up to three weeks to fully cure sometimes-this is especially true when it’s really hot and humid. Typically, once a piece is dry to the touch, I will move it to its “spot,” but I try not to put anything on it until two or three weeks later-especially no magazines and papers, because they will easily stick to paint that isn’t fully cured and leave some of their ink on the piece.

You can read more about keeping your paint from peeling here. You can see all my furniture makeovers here.

Do you have any tips and tricks to keep paint from peeling, or on protecting painted furniture pieces? 

Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk d├ęcor, 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.