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DIY - How to refinish your furniture

The question I find the most in my inbox is “How do I refinish Furniture?” I’ve been doing it for so long and have quite a few huge projects under my belt (Giant Red refinished Piano is still my all time favorite to date!!) I forget that I, too, once wondered if I could tackle the likes of an Antique Buffett or a Dinning Room table that once done would be worthy enough for guests to enjoy over the age of 5!

Trust me when I say that anyone can do it! By following a few “Golden Rules” you’ll become a pro in no time. Yard sales, thrift stores and Grandma’s old furniture cast will all become your new best friends!

My rule of thumb when it comes to deciding if something is worth refinishing...
  • It has to be a solid piece to begin with! Look for quality over aesthetics!
  • Make sure it’s made of real wood and not a veneer. This technique works best on real wood.
Be sure to take a before picture because you will hardly believe what it looked like once you are done!


The biggest question on everyone’s mind 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 for smaller projects too, like a chair or stool or small desk.

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 area 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 planning 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 an oil based primer, be prepared to toss the paint brush you will be using. Oil based paint is a BEAST to wash so I recommend using gloves too.

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 do one coat!!! Good stuff!!!)

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


I confess: I buy my brushes from the dollar store. I like the synthetic fiber brushes best. For projects that have a lot of flat surface areas, I'll also purchase a small foam roller. I roll the flat surfaces and use my brush for the "cutting in" (meaning the corners and seams and detail work.)

You can easily wash out and reuse your brushes 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 creates small bubbles that will dry in your finish. Instead, use a stir stick and stir your poly well as it tends to settle. They do sell poly in a spray can, but I generally avoid it because I want a very even finish that only a paint brush can achieve.

Faux Finishing

I love 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 personal style! My favorite technique is adding a brown glaze that settles in the details and seams of furniture...

I use Raulph Lauren Glaze in "Tobacco." 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 favorite technique!

I have also used a crackle finish effect. If you want a crackle finish, you must use a FLAT finish for your base coat paint. It will not crackle correctly if it's an 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 "Mis Tints" 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 local Dollar Store and see what painting tools they sell. I was spending full price on brushes for almost a year before I discovered that the dollar store sold a three pack!
  • 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 as 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 and 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.
Don’t be scared my friends! Start small! My home is filled with about 8 refinished projects and I can’t tell you how cool it feels knowing that I created that one of a kind look! Each piece seems to be a favorite for a different reason! So dive in and get painting!

Be sure to check out this POST for many of my before and afters!


Becca is one part wife, three parts mother and the rest is a mixed bag of genetic obligations, sass and reality! Her High School sweetheart husband and three energetic daughters are constant sources of entertainment and inspiration. While in the throws of motherhood Becca can often be found knee deep in Domestic Goddess training! Rooted in self taught sewing and having a borderline unhealthy obsessive for fabric and paper, Becca is always out to create! She lives by three mottos…1. Everything has potential and can become something wonderful! Everything and everyone! 2. Live the way you want to be remembered! 3. Mint Oreos are just as important in ones creative arsenal as Mod Podge, Ribbon and a Hot Glue Gun ! You can follow Becca’s adventures on her creative blog Blue Cricket Design.

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