Thursday, September 1, 2011

How-To Strip and Repaint Furniture

So this isn't rocket science. Most people can manage to do this easily without a tutorial. But we are new to the world of repainting furniture, and I wanted to share what worked for us just in case any of you are looking to redo your own piece of furniture and could use a little guidance.

We were on the lookout for an antique dresser we could use for a combination changing table and storage for the nursery. We scored a great piece on Craigslist for a steal.

The paint was a shade of blue we weren't in love with and a little chipped. Since it was antique, I was also concerned that it had been painted with lead paint, so we began by doing a lead check test to see if the piece contained lead paint. We used the 3M LeadCheck Instant Test and followed the instructions to swab the piece. Sure enough it came back with traces of lead, so we knew we would have to strip the furniture down to the wood, repaint it, and seal everything to ensure the lead paint was not an issue.


Furniture stripper (recommend Citristrip Stripping Gel)
Metal container
Scraper (recommend a plastic scraper so you don't gouge the wood, something like this works perfectly)
Paint brush
Odorless mineral spirits
Bristle brush

Make sure you can work outside and place a layer of newspaper or a drop cloth down below your furniture. We used Citristrip Stripping Gel to remove the paint and it worked like a dream. I highly recommend it. Citristrip specified a metal bucket, so we poured the gel into a bucket and began brushing it on. We let it sit for about 40 minutes before using a plastic scraper to scrape the paint off. Remember to strip with the grain of the wood. The paint and gel come off in one gloppy go, instantly showing the grain of the wood beneath the paint. A wad of newspaper is perfect for clearing off your scraper. After removing most of the paint and gel, you may decide to do a second coat if your first coat didn't remove enough of the paint.

Use a little odorless mineral spirits and a rag to clean off any remaining paint. A toothbrush and toothpicks are perfect for clearing out any small crevices in the furniture.

Give your furniture 3-4 hours or let it sit overnight to make sure it has dried out before moving on sanding and priming.

Note: If your piece doesn't contain lead paint, you can probably get away without stripping it and simply sand it and move forward with priming.

Sanding & Priming

Sandpaper (recommend 100-grit)
Dry cloth
Damp cloth
Primer (recommend this primer)

Use your sandpaper to gently sand everything. Remember to sand with the grain of the wood. No need to sand furiously, just sand consistently all over the furniture. Once you are done, wipe down with a dry cloth and then go back over everything with a damp cloth to collect any remaining dust. This is a good stage to clean up your area, make sure things are nice and clean before you begin priming. You may want to place a clean drop cloth down. After the furniture is wiped down, give it 30 minutes to an hour to dry out before priming.

Using your brush and primer, begin painting the furniture. The key here is to give it an even coat, though you're not looking for complete coverage, you will still be able to see the wood in some places. After priming the furniture, give it at least 3-4 hours to dry before painting.



Semi-Gloss paint (1 quart should be sufficient for most pieces of furniture)
Assorted brushes
Small foam rollers (perfect for large, flat areas like the top of a dresser)

Finally, the fun part! Paint! At last! Plan on 2-4 layers of paint. Using a clean brush or roller, apply your first layer thinly. Thin is key. You want to shoot for the thickness of an eggshell. Less is definitely more. Paint with the grain and work from one end of the furniture to the next. This will help avoid making unnecessary extra brush strokes. Be sure to let each layer of paint dry thoroughly before adding the next layer.

Bonus Step - Sealing


Water-based polycrylic sealer (recommend this brand)

This is the last step and ensures your furniture will look professional. With a clean brush, add two thin coats (allowing time to dry between the coats). As before, paint
with the grain and work from one end of the furniture to the next.

Allow your furniture to dry for 2-5 days without placing anything on the surface. This will prevent any dents or flaws on your furniture.

For our piece, we picked out some new hardware at Anthropologie
and lined the drawers with some canvas cotton liner. Now we're ready to stock the drawers full of little baby things. For you DIYers, any tips to share or anything I forgot?

Don't worry, the pregnant lady didn't complete any tasks that required handling any hazardous materials. While I refer to "we" throughout the process, Charlie did the majority of the work on this dresser. I avoided all tasks that involved stripping, priming, and painting. Mostly I provided help picking out supplies, moral support, clean-up duties, and stocking the playlist with episodes of Radiolab and This American Life.

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