Furniture refinishing!!

My in box has been filled with request on a “how to” refinish furniture!!! I better get on it already and just share it here for all to enjoy!!!

So let’s get started!!!

My rule of thumb when it comes to deciding if something is worth refinishing…

  • it has to be a solid piece to begin with!
  • made of real wood
  • not a veneer!
  • take a before picture because you will hardly believe what it looked like once you are done!

(I have heard of using a product called Liquid sand, or a special primer for veneer on veneer pieces to make it paintable! Ask your paint expert at Home depot what to use. Check it out and read the directions to see if you want to go that route! I haven’t used it though so if you do use it let me know how it goes!!)


The most asked question I get is “Do you have to completely sand off a finish first before you paint?”

and the answer is NO!!!!! Thank goodness right!!! As long as you use an OIL BASED primer you don’t have to sand!!! I recommend KILZ brand from Home Depot.
I buy it in a gallon size because I do so many projects and will use it all. I have also bought a KILZ spray can of oil based primer for a quick job. The spray can works great too.

I will say this…light sanding will be needed if you have areas on your project that may have splintering, or large peeling or chipped paint. Just sand the are to make it more uniform and smooth.

The only time you will need to sand off a finish completely before refinishing is if you are planing on staining a piece as opposed to painting. I’ll talk more about staining at the end of this post!

Because you will be using oil based primer just prepare to toss the paint brush you will be using. Oil based paint is a BEAST to wash so I recommend using gloves too if you are a messy painter.

Prime your piece once and let it dry completely before moving onto the next step!


You will want to use a Latex paint. I LOVE BEHR brand from Home Depot the best! ( Side bar: we painted all our rooms in our house with Behr paint and only had to paint one coat!!! Good stuff!!!)

I always do two coats for furniture. ALWAYS allow each coat to fully dry before you paint the next coat.

I buy my brushed from the dollar store. I like the synthetic fibers. For projects that have a lot of flat surface areas I’ll also buy and use a small foam roller. I’ll roll the flat surfaces and use my brush for the “cutting” meaning the corners and seams and detail work.

You can easily wash out and reuse your brushed when you use a latex paint!


Once the paint is completely dry you will want to add a Polyurethane Sealer. MINWAX is my favorite! It comes in Matte, Semi gloss and High gloss so be sure to pick the finish you want. I always do at least two coats and again it’s important to allow it to dry before adding the next coat!!! I use a foam brush to apply poly. NEVER shake a can of Poly! It makes small bubbles that may dry in your finish. ALWAYS use a stir stick and stir your poly well. It tends to settle.
They do sell poly in a spray can but I avoid it becasue I want a very even finish that only a paint brush can achieve.

Faux Finishing

I love me a good Faux finish! If you plan on adding a faux finish or rub you would do this step before your poly step. I usually do a glaze on all my projects but that’s just my style! My favorite technique is adding a brown glaze that settles in the details and seams of furniture…

I use Raulph Lauren Glaze in “Tabacco.” This technique requires you to paint a thick coat on and then quickly wipe it off with a rag and leaving behind the glaze to get the aged look you want. It takes a little getting used to but it’s by far my fav!!

I have also used a crackle finish effect. If you want to try to do a crackle the only thing you have to remember is that you have to use a FLAT finish in your base coat paint! It will not crackle correctly if it’s a egg shell, semi, high gloss or satin finish.

READ all the instructions on faux finishing products! Ask your local expert for tips and just have fun!

  • You can find “Oops Paint” or “Mistints” paint at a discount for $1-$5 a gallon. Ask your paint departments where they keep it!It’s not always out in front! I have found some great colors and have saved a ton of money!!!
  • Check your loacl Dollar Store and see what painting tools they sell. I was spending full price on brushed for almost a year before I discovered that the dollar store sold a three pack of brushes!!
  • Prime multiple pieces at the same time!Priming is my least favorite step but the most important!!! I just like to get as many things primed at once if I can.
  • If you are planning on painting anything RED you MUST tint your primer gray! Home Depot will do this for you by adding black paint. Gray primer is the only way to get a true to color sample result. If you buy a gallon of primer and only have one project to paint red, just buy a plastic container in the paint section, pour a good amount to cover your project into the container and they will add black to that. That way you don’t have to tint the entire gallon.
  • I can’t stress enough how important it is to allow proper time for drying in between each coat!!!!!
  • You can sand in between each step…primer, two coats of colored paint and poly if you want a very smooth feel in the end. I rarely do this because I like how it looks adn feels enough when I don’t and I am all about saving the effort if I don’t care! If you do sand use a very fine grit and wipe it down well before painting again.
  • Allow more time then you would think for the piece to dry before you bring it in the house. I have made the mistake of thinking it was dry before it was and got paint on my carpet!!! NOt fun!!! I wait over night before I move it in.

Be sure to check out This POST with all my before and afters when it comes to refinishing!

You must have raw wood to stain so you do have to sand. Once it is sanded wipe the piece of furniture clean. You can use tack cloth to insure that you get all the dust off.

I use MINWAX stain and seal.

There are two ways you can apply stain.

  • dipping a cloth in the stain and rubbing it on or
  • using a brush and applying it thick and then wiping it off with a rag.

Apply your stain, going with the grain of the wood, ’till it is the desires color! I usually do two coats. When it comes to staining you do not have to wait for it to dry before you add your second coat of stain.

Be sure to apply two coats of Poly even though it says it’s a “Stain and Seal!” Poly will protect it the best!

Follow the poly steps I listed above!!!

I hope this helps!!!! I’d love to see your projects!!!!! Email me before and afters and I’d be happy to feature you on my blog! Email me with any questions!!!!

[email protected]

Happy refinishing folks!!!!



  1. 1

    could not have come at a better time. I'm re-doing my craft desk and a total newbie! thanks!

  2. 2
    Susie Jefferson says:

    Spookily enough, I was writing a post for the BladeRubber blog, and mentioned you just this morning!

    Great minds, etc! Great post, great tips, and I never knew that about oil based primer. When we moved in to our current home the previous tenant had been a heavy smoker – it took me 5 coats of 1-coat paint on the ceiling (nightmare!) and then someone said we should have used an eggshell finish first (I think that might be oil based). Too late by then of course… AND we'd sugar soaped the ceiling before we started.

  3. 3
    Stephanie says:

    wow- how long did it take you to write all that????

    i need to keep these directions for sure- you gave some great tips i knew nothing about! thanks becks!

  4. 4
    Susie Jefferson says:

    Hi Becca – My pleasure. I love to share great blogs & great links – I already mentioned you to Nancy at La Chambre Rose (on the same post as you) as she is as fanatical about DIY as I am. She just got her hands on an armoire I'd give my husband's eye teeth for!

    I've got my eye on a small bookcase (same size as the one we have, but a different finish) with the intent of painting them to match, and hiding the fact they are cheap chipboard with a melamine wood effect. I'm wondering about Universal Primer, and if I'd need to sand…

  5. 5
    Valerie says:

    Thank you so much! I have filed this away at my blog,

    Thanks again!!

  6. 6
    Karenin Jaar Robison says:

    i actually have that same white buffet i want to paint it black. do i still use the tabbacco glaze to have that faux finish? even if its on black? or what do you recommend. you are genius by the way.
    email me at [email protected]

    • 7

      Hi, I would also like to know this as well. Also, love all the tips above. I will keep for future refrences. Thanks

  7. 8
    careymc says:

    BLESS your heart, woman!!! I'm so glad you posted this. Hopefully, by the end of summer, I will have completed 2 silhouettes of the boys (if they let me) and paint 2 pieces that need some serious help. I'm going to take you up on your offer and send you a pic of one dresser in my room. I need major direction. THANK YOU!!!!

  8. 9

    Wonderful!! Home Depot provides great paint supplies for furniture make over… You choose right stuff!!

  9. 10

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  10. 11
    Maryann @ Domestically-Speaking says:

    Thanks for the great info. I've just started re-doing furniture… I will save this post!

  11. 12
    Chad and Kristen @ The Tomato Vine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I love the look of painted furniture, but am affraid to do it my self. However, after your tips I think I might be ready! :)

  12. 13

    such great tips…thanks for sharing, and linkin' up to FF!

  13. 14

    Hi Becca!

    Thanks so much for this info. I have used it many times since seeing it, and have referred my readers to it in this post:

  14. 15

    The cobbler always wears the worst shoes

  15. 16

    thanks for this post. i am in the middle of a furniture project myself. I’m almost done which is a bit bitter sweet. I’m glad I read this post becasue i’m at the poly stage of my project.

    thanks again,

    bernadette (

  16. 17
    Stephanie says:

    Thanks for all your great tips!!! I just love seeing all your furniture redos!!!! Question do you stilluse the kilz primer when painting black since the primer is white? Thanks so much!!!!

    • 18

      You can have your primer tinted by adding black paint to it to make it a dark gray! That’s what i do and I do it at Home Depot, they will tint it for free and mixed it really good!

      • 19
        ana pereira says:

        Hi was just wondering was your paint colour/brand was for the white and black buffet with the ralph lauren tabacco glaze? It’s AMAZING

  17. 20

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been trying to figure out how to paint furniture! I’m saving this away…and planning a trip to Home Depot. :)

  18. 21

    Is it really true that you can paint latex over oil and it won’t peel off?

  19. 22
    Brittany says:

    Hey! I just stumbled upon this post! Thank you so much for posting this 2 years ago! ;) Anyway, I was just wondering if it mattered what sheen your base coat is? Also, what sheen do you recomend for the Minwax? I’m doing my first project and I’m a little nervous! Sorry, one more question…Have you ever used spray paint on anything? Just wondering if it works as well?

    • 23

      primer usually only comes in one sheen so I just buy what ever that is. I have only used the Kilz so that’s what I go with. Sheen also comes down to personal preference. i tend to not want a high sheen so I go no stronger then a Satin. My stain are the same…less sheen. I only typically spray paint small projects like frames and decorative things. i don’t like to use spray paint on furniture items. Good luck! So glad you found me!

  20. 24

    Thanks for the tips. I spend quite a lot of time repairing / refinishing furniture so this is very helpful. I have also been able to apply your tips to just wood in general, taking it beyond just furniture. Thanks!

  21. 25

    This is great advice. I have some customers that I will send to your blog as I know they would love these tips on wood refinishing. Thanks for being such a great resource.

  22. 26

    Really very nice post is posted here. I appreciate it very much and I’m hoping from you to post such articles in near future also. Keep it up in near future also.

  23. 27

    I really enjoyed reading through you blog. as a painter for the past 12 years, I always am learning new tricks and I learned a few here.

  24. 28
    Megan Michele says:

    I did some pieces this summer that are veneered pieces. They were in great condition and I knew I could figure out SOME way to do be able to work with it! (Especially since I had a horrible time with redoing some cabinets and not wanting to sand them down…after all they were cheap ones put into an old home but needed updating…needless to say, what the paint depart. said did NOT work and the paint was chipping off within weeks!) So I did some extensive research this time. What you will need to buy for a veneer or a surface that you REALLY don’t want to sand, is buy a bonding primer. They can be found at Lowe’s at the very least. But it isn’t just a regular one it has to say BONDING on it…don’t let the sales people tell you any different!!! Just a little info. So far my old dresser has been turned into a FABULOUS new TV stand and is withstanding bumps and such that the cabinets didn’t. I also sealed with a clear varnish….and it’s a gorgeous piece. Did a dresser for my girls too!

  25. 29

    what finish on the minwax polyurethane do you use? Is a aged piece usually more matte?

  26. 30

    Thanks for this post! I can’t believe I just now clicked it! I was wondering if you have any trouble with the poly yellowing? I did a big craft project one year which required I nice thick coat of poly. It was great and sealed nicely, but about a year later, it had yellowed so badly that it sorta ruined the look of the project. Since then I am afraid to use it on a big project I have put some much work into. What is your experience? Thanks again!

  27. 31

    Since it looks like you’re really thorough, I thought I’d share these tips.
    Veneer: As mentioned, a bonding primer is perfect. Inslx, now owned by BM makes a FABULOUS primer called STIX. Their paint for trim and cabinets, Cabinet Coat dries hard as a rock. It currently only comes in light colors, but is fantastic.

    For staining, a couple of things that don’t leave lint behind if you’ve run out of t-shirts: Coffee filters. A little less expensive are [wait for it] sanitary napkins. No joke. They make a nice thick pad (Oh too weird) and some have plastic backing that help keep your hands clean if you hate to wear gloves like I do.
    Happy to have come across your site. Thanks!

  28. 32

    I want to refinish a pair of antique -looking chairs and small table that are currently in my entry. They are too victorian for me. Currently they are a dark cherry wood and of good quality. I would like to refinish in a soft black with distressing then cover in a cream with black swirls fabric. What color of paint would you recommend and should I glaze or stain. I don’t want a hard pure black.

  29. 33

    Furniture refinishing is what i always do with my furnitures at home. i love keeping antiques furnitures that we just keep on repainting or refinishing it to restore its beauty and longevity.

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    Amy Wilde says:

    Thanks for all the useful tips. Wondering if you have any more detailed tips or instructions on painting and faux finishing with black??

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  1. [...] Blue Cricket, says sanding is not needed if you use oil based primer! [...]

  2. [...] I checked out Blue Cricket design. [...]

  3. [...] I used the same thing as Blue Cricket design. [...]

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