Preparing wooden furniture for painting – part 1

I’m going to post a two part series about preparing wooden furniture for painting over the next few weeks. Here’s Part One:


If the piece of furniture is unpainted or maybe varnished:

  1. Remove any dirt and grease.
  2. Wash it down with hot water and sugar soap. Wear rubber gloves! That stuff is bad for delicate skin :-(
  3. Give it a stiff brush over to get rid of anything loose or flaking
  4. You can fill small holes and cracks with wood filler.

Warning: Do not use ordinary household spray cleaners! They can stop the new paint from keying (sticking) to the surface.

If the piece is has already got a fairly OK coat of paint, or a light varnish, you may get away with just rub down with fine sandpaper to give the new paint a key. If you are just adding a finish, like crackle, you could just wipe it with sugar soap applied with a sponge

How to use sandpaper

Wooden furniture usually has any serious roughness already removed. Still, to get a good finish you need to use sand-paper There’s is a right and a wrong way of doing this and it makes a big difference to your results.

So long as the surface of the furniture feels only slightly rough, a medium followed by a fine sandpaper will do the job. Hold it perfectly flat against the surface. You can buy special blocks of cork to wrap your sandpaper round and these are definitely worth using. It makes sure your paper is kept in even contact with the wood.

  • Maintain even pressure (otherwise you can make lumps and bumps :-( )
  • Never rub across the grain of the wood (or you can get uneven uptake of paint, dark patches etc :-( ).
  • Sandpaper is graded from very fine to coarse – start with medium & move to fine
  • Finish with black emery paper (called ‘wet-and-dry’) use it with water for a very fine finish.

Sourcing the finishing touches

When you are planning a piece of painted wooden shabby chic it is really important to have a vision of what you want to achieve. Decide on they style you are aiming for, be it New England, European or even Gothic and plan you colour scheme. Then look for fittings to enhance your vision. Occasionally you’ll know as soon as you see the furniture what you will do with it, other times it can sit around for ages waiting for you to be inspired. You can go as far as this preparation stage and then get really stuck!

Sometimes finding the perfect fittings can help.

3 thoughts on “Preparing wooden furniture for painting – part 1”

  1. Sugar Soap in the UK is a cleaning material, (sodium carbonate, sodium phosphate, and sodium silicate as an abrasive.) The powder looks like sugar. It’s available from most DIY stores.
    In the USA it’s TSP. (TSP – often uses less environmentally unfriendly ingredients than actual phosphorus)

  2. That’s very useful information, my furniture is getting into a bit of a state so I’m going to have a go at painting it in the spring.

Comments are closed.