Today, I’d like to talk about how to paint furniture with minimal prep work. The next step in the process of refurbishing this dining set that I took on was painting the laminate chairs.
But first I’d like to talk a little bit about the tools that I used and also my setup. Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I see these elaborate DIY projects, and I think “Wow, they must have some setup!” I’m here to tell you that I don’t have an amazing workshop or anything like that. In fact, 90% of my house is carpeted and I live in a desert. That means that, while I have a lot of outdoor space and a decent-sized patio to use, it’s not exactly ideal. It’s hot for at least 6 months of the year, and it is extremely windy and dusty where I live. Not great conditions for painting and things like that.
My Workspace Setup
However, there are ways to make it work. I have worked on this particular project both outdoors and indoors, but for this final push to finishing it before Christmas, I have commandeered the dining room.
For painting the chairs, I used a table that my parents were no longer using (free!), which my husband put a piece of spare plywood on to make the top larger. Then I just put an old fitted bedsheet on top and went to work. I did this for a couple of reasons. Number one, I hate bending over and it hurts my back, so elevating my workstation is pretty much essential for almost all of my projects. Number two, it seemed to help keep my son’s hands out of what I was doing, obviously important if you ever want to actually finish something. Then I just push it out of the way when I’m not working on it.
As far as my tools, they’re pictured above. Your tools are really important when you’re looking to paint furniture with minimal prep work. I used a flathead screwdriver for opening paint and a hammer to get the cans closed again. I used a couple different kinds of paint brushes for applying the paint and the topcoat. My two favorites are ones that I get from Ikea and ones that I get from my local Habistore. I really like to buy paint brushes when I go to different stores and test them out to see which ones I like. My husband thinks I’m a weird hoarder; I call it product testing. (They really are different!)
I used and HIGHLY recommend a sanding block for hand sanding. This is one of those things that I was like, “No, I don’t need to buy that. That’s just more money for a silly, little thing.” But then I got one, and it was a game changer. For a few bucks (less than $4 at Harbor Freight) I saved so much time on sanding and so much money on sandpaper that was just getting crinkled up and ripped from using it by hand. Just bite the bullet, you’ll be glad you did! It made my effort to paint furniture with minimal prep work just that much easier.
The other couple things I used on the chairs were an old paintbrush to brush the sawdust and dust off the chairs before painting and a microfiber towel and a spray bottle of water for cleaning them up.
My Minimal Prep Work for Painting Furniture
Now, back to the chairs themselves. I hate prepping for paint. There, I said it. It’s terrible and time consuming. But I knew that I had to do something to this laminate so that the paint would actually stick. Because even worse than prepping for paint would be having to remove a layer of paint just to go back and prep it and then put another coat on. As the old saying goes, do it right the first time.
However, this didn’t mean that I didn’t wish for some magical solution to make prepping for paint easier and to make it possible to paint furniture without sanding. So I did some research and decided that I would try Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer because it says it “sticks to all surfaces without sanding, seals uniformly, blocks stains, dries in 1 hour” and is for “use with any topcoat.” All of this sounded excellent. And honestly, after paying only $35 for the entire set of a dining room table with leaf and six chairs, I was willing to risk using an unfamiliar product because I wouldn’t be out too much if it didn’t work out. But if it did work out, then I would have saved hours of time.
Using a small roller and brushes, I coated each piece of the set in a coat of primer. I made sure to get into all of the tight areas created by the details. I will say that although I love the details, they have not made redoing the chairs easy.
This is the point where life happened and the chairs sat for a long while on our porch. I’m not proud of it, but this is nothing if not reality. I know you all know how it is.
Attempt One – Paint Sprayer
For the paint, I went with ColorPlace interior, semigloss. I chose a cream color that was in the fabric. A nice, warm color and semigloss as to aid with the cleaning process.
At some point, my parents acquired a paint sprayer, and I thought, “Oh, my! This is clearly the perfect thing for painting my dining set!” I thought that this would be the solution that I was looking for. Like, in my head, everything was going to be painted in one fell swoop.
What was even better was the fact that my husband loves all things tools and gadgets, so I was easily able to talk him into helping me once the sprayer involved. He painted four chairs, and then I assessed the situation. It wasn’t as magical as I had hoped. The coverage was spotty and the coats were thin. They did not look good.
This time, during another intermission in working on the dining set, the chairs were brought into the house for use. By a 3-year-old. As you may suspect, I had to wipe the chairs down. When I did this, the paint actually started wiping off, with just water! Certainly not going to work for us. However, the primer was holding up fairly well.
Attempt Two – Hand Painting
When I began work on the chairs again, I knew that I would have to paint them by hand. Before I did that, though, I sanded the laminate chairs down slightly with 100 grit sandpaper to rough them up so that the new coat of paint would stick. I proceeded to apply an even coat of paint, painting with the grain, to the entire chair.
Problems and Solutions
There were a couple of issues with this coat of paint but nothing that I wasn’t able to get around. The first issue that I had was the old paint was sometimes coming off as I was painting the fresh coat. As I hit these points, I wiped off the new and old layers and kept painting. There were times when the coat was looking gloopy because of this. But I kept going, assuming that I was going to have to sand down the rough spots and apply another coat of paint. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that the paint evened out as it dried and I didn’t have to do any more work to it.
The other issue that I came across was drippage due to the detailing. This just meant that I had to be diligent and keep an eye out as I was painting, going back to previously painted parts to brush away the drips.
Once each chair was painted, I let it dry for 24 hours and then brushed on a coat of Minwax One Coat Polyurethane. From my research, I found that this is supposed to give a harder finish than paint alone, which hopefully will aid in the longevity of the pieces and in cleanup as well.
And here’s the finished product! They turned out nice and even and glossy.
Now, I will say that this is my largest furniture refurbishing project to date, and I have no idea what to expect with respect to how it will hold up in the future, especially with the goal to paint with minimal prep. But, I will update this post to let you all know how it fares.
In my next post, I will talk about how I tackled the table, my favorite part of the whole process! As always, be sure to catch my updates on Facebook and Instagram, and check out my other posts where I talk about the project , how I reupholstered the chair cushions, resined the tabletop, and upholstered the backs of the chairs.
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