Monday, August 6, 2012

An Amateur's Guide to Refinishing Furniture

I am a self-professed amateur when it comes to refinishing furniture, but when I share my projects I always have people tell me about an awesome piece they have been dying to refinish but just don't know where to get started.  So this post is for you friends.  This is definitely not the only way or even the expert way to refinish furniture, but this is what has worked for me.  Please read the labels to make sure the product I recommend will work for your project.

Step 1: Clean your wood (or brass, laminate, metal, etc.)
  • To clean, I use a microfiber cloth and mineral spirits. Also make sure you have a good pair of gloves and a respirator mask when handling cleaners, strippers, paints, and sealers.

Step 2: Get to stripping (or sanding or scuff sanding)
The next step is to make sure you have a surface that will adhere to the paint.
  • For metal projects (like my brass chandelier or towel basket), I scuff sand using steel wool. Scuff sand is when you lightly rub or scratch the surface, so it is no longer super shiny and smooth.
  • For wood projects that I don't want to strip or sand completely (like my stained bedroom dresser from Homegoods), I scuff sand and then use a product called Glidden Grey Gripper (see step 3).
  • For wood projects with lots of curves or intricate carvings or with multiple layers of paint (especially if it is oil-based like the yellow, now grey nursery dresser), I use a spray on paint stripper.  Beware when using the spray strippers, prepare to shell out some dough.  I always seem to need more than I purchase.  I've used a few brands, and they have all worked, so I don't have one I particularly recommend.
  • For wood and laminate projects with straight lines (or to clean up after stripping), I use this handy dandy orbital sander that came in one of those Costco tool kits.  Make sure to get the correct grit for your project (it says the grit # on each package--I use "extra fine" for scuff sanding and "coarse" for paint removal).  I scuff sand laminate projects and usually start with coarse grit sand paper for solid wood projects. I just love this thing!

Step 3: Prime your project
  • I prime a project because it seals-in any stains, provides an even surface for paint to adhere to (especially important when painting laminate and metal), helps my paint go on more even, and allows me to use less paint on each project.
  • I have used both Kilz primer and Zinsser primer, and they have both worked great.  Some people swear by either of those two (or another brand), but I usually just purchase the one that is available at the hardware store since I bounce around between Lowes, Home Depot, Osh, and Ace.  For hard to reach projects or laminate or metal, I use the spray can primer.  For larger projects, I use the can primer.

  • For projects that I scuff sand and do not want to strip or sand (like my bedroom dresser), I use a primer called Glidden Grey Gripper.  This sealer is great to paint on high gloss surfaces that have one or two coats of paint.  I just scuff sand with a low grit sand paper and then paint the Gripper on with a brush. I would not recommend using only this for projects with multiple layers of paint or that have uneven surfaces (those need some sanding or stripping before priming).

Step 4: Paint as directed

  • Read the labels on your paint cans, and paint the recommended number of coats and WAIT the recommended amount of time before coats.  Also to avoid peeling and sticky coats, do not paint in high humidity (recommended temp is usually on the can).  This is the hardest step because it is so easy to want to get your project done that waiting hours to a day between coats is a pain, but you will regret it if you rush and your project is a sticky mess.
  • Also if using latex paint from a can (opposed to spray paint), don't skimp on the brushes.  Buy several high quality brushes that are straight and angled in the sizes needed to get into those grooves for full coverage.

Step 5: Seal your project
  • After waiting the recommended drying time for your last coat of paint, make sure to seal your project to protect against water rings, scratches, little hands, etc.
  • My favorite sealer is Varathane WATER-BASED Interior Polyurethane.  As mentioned in my Refinishing Furniture post, I prefer the water-based to the oil-based because the oil-based tint yellowed some of my lighter projects and one brand even left a sticky residue.  From now on I stick to water-based sealers.  Water-based also dries faster, so that is a bonus for anxious crafters like myself.  Oil-based sealers are recommended for outdoor furniture, but I still use water-based on my outdoor projects because I can't stand the yellow tint--that's just me.
  • I have yet to use Polycrylic, but I have read blogs that recommend the water-based Polycrylic to seal as well.
  • Do spray light coats and spray as many as is suggested since a good seal will length the life of your project.

Step 6: Come back to this site and post a link to your project, and add any products or recommendations that would benefit other amateur crafters.  Thanks for taking the time to read my lil of luck!

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