Two Tone Treasure + How to Paint Furniture

April 26, 2011

Wow, such inspiration from this week’s Paint Projects Party, you simply must visit so many of these links!  There are over 400 projects to browse, from furniture to floors to fabrics to home accents.  Oh the power of paint never ceases to amaze me!

Nothing makes me happier than a great second hand find, and the opportunity to revamp the new treasure for a great cause.  This one was for a good friend of mine who recently had a baby girl.  She’s been a little preoccupied with her little one, so her hub and I conspired to makeover this piece for her nursery, currently a work in progress, but sure to beautiful when the space is finished. 

I’ve been looking for the perfect dresser for her for awhile now, and finally scored this one at a local thrift store last week, I was so excited! I brought it home so I could paint it for her as a surprise.

dresser before left


dresser after left side font


With all the pieces I’ve painted over the years, I realized I should write up a full step by step for repainting an old treasure like this one, including cosmetic repair, priming and painting so here goes!

Supplies to Have Before You Start:  Power screwdriver (+ drill bits if replacing hardware), medium (80 – 120 grit) sanding wedge, primer, latex paint color of choice, Floetrol, 2” angled quality paintbrush, water based polyurethane protectant. 

How to Paint Wood Furniture: The Basic Steps

These are my tried and true techniques for repairing, priming, and painting an old hand me down, or a lucky Craigslist or thrift store find like this damaged honey tone wood dresser.


Necessary to Sand?  If your piece is in pretty good condition, you can skip the sanding step or the use of a power sander and go straight to priming.  Bonding primers don’t require sanding, even if your piece is heavily varnished, but I do find giving the furniture a good scuffing with a medium (80 grit) sanding wedge not only helps clean off any debris, but gives your primer a great surface to cling too.  No need to sand away all the varnish and get down to the raw wood, just give it a good 5 to 10 minute scuffing with a sanding wedge, then wipe away any debris with a soft cloth. 

Repairing Scratches, Dents & Holes.  I bought this particular piece because of its classic lines and solid wood construction, but many would pass it up due to the surface damage.  On the top of this dresser, there were deep scratches and a sticky residue, so the first thing I did was sand the scratches on the top with my power orbital sander to smooth out the surface. 

sand top to make it smooth

There was also a deep unsightly welt in the front corner. 

welt on top

No worries, this is a cosmetic problem easily addressed with wood filler, which allows you to repair scratches, dents, welts and fill holes in your wood furniture before you go about painting it.  I’ve tried other products, but to date Elmer’s is the best I’ve found.  It’s moist and moldable and washes off your fingers and tools easily, dries quickly, and is also sandable and paintable. 

wood filler


Gently sanding the top with my power sander combined with the proper use of wood filler (two applications for the deepest welt), led to this perfectly smooth surface. 

smooth top


Filling Holes for New Knobs or Pulls.  If you’ve opted for new knobs, often they will fit right in the old holes, but many modern pulls are sized differently than the old hardware.  Wood filler is also your best bet for starting over. 

filling holes in wood

old pull front

new glass pull

These glass pulls can be found at Restoration Hardware, they’re gorgeous, but pricey.  Definite bling for your furniture, but a worthy splurge for my very dear friend, especially since the dresser only cost me $40 dollars.       

Do You Really Need to Prime?   With wood furniture, the answer is yes and no.  Yes, if you want a smooth even finish and a paint job that will last for years.  No if you want a distressed look and don’t care about the paint peeling off over time, or if are using oil based spray paints, which I have found often work really well without primer.  (Yes, I have read about the newest product on the market, chalk paint, see below!) 

Nevertheless, I always advise if you’re seeking a straight up smooth evenly painted piece and a paint job that will last, using a good bonding primer is key.  If you’re going to take the time and energy to paint a piece, take the time to prime it too. 

My go to favorite has always been Zinsser.  You can use the water based formula with the blue label but it takes up to a week to fully cure and I haven’t the patience.  I prefer to use either the spray or brush on oil based Zinsser Cover Stain with the brown label, it has yet to fail me.  For this dresser, I used spray on Zinsser for the drawers for a super smooth finish – it goes on quickly and dries in about 20 minutes.  (If using the spray version, be sure to work in a well ventilated area and dispose of your cans according to your local waste regulations.)

zinsser primer

For the top I brushed on a thicker coat of Zinsser because it will get the most wear and tear.  It’s a personal preference to use the brush on formula, but for tabletops, desktops or other surfaces which will have lots o’ stuff sliding back and forth, a thick coat (even two!) of brush on Zinsser is a miracle worker, plus you can sand it smooth once it dries (in less than an hour per coat) making it easy to get really good bonding coverage in an afternoon.

In my opinion, this is the very best primer for laminate surfaces as well.  I’ve used this brush on formula on a laminate storage center and also this office credenza, and haven’t had any chipping or scratched paint to date, and both of those pieces experience a lot of daily wear and tear. 

Always Two Coats of Paint.  Once you’re primer is fully dry, sand any drips, brush marks, or paint residue and wipe down with a soft cloth. I never skimp with just one coat, two is always best for uniformity and even coverage, allowing 4 to 6 hours of drying time between coats.  There are two tools I won’t paint without.

1) Floetrol.  This product in the orange bottle is a paint conditioner exclusively for latex paint (use Penetrol for oil based paints).  It’s a product I have used time and again to extend the wet edge (or slow down the drying time) and also to minimize roller marks and brush strokes.  The most frustrating part about applying paint to furniture by hand is the drag that occurs when paint starts to dry too quickly, so the Floetrol helps avoid that drag.  I follow the directions on the back of the bottle, but I also let the paint’s workability act as a guide as to how much Floetrol is necessary.

Floetrol is not a paint thinner, it’s a conditioner sold at all the specialty paint stores, and it won’t change the color of your paint.  It was recommended to me by a professional years ago, and ever since I’ve always used it.  Floetrol is great investment if you’re also painting trim or doors around your house, it’s not expensive ($7 to $10 per bottle) and a little goes a long way. 

floetrol and purdy

2)  A high quality angled paint brush is essential.  If you don’t have the luxury of a sprayer, you’ll be using a paintbrush.  The last thing you want to be doing is picking loose paintbrush hairs out of your paint, which happens with cheaper brushes so don’t bother with them.  You can apply your paint quicker with a foam roller, but you still will end up with edge marks, so I always follow up a roller with a brush.  An angled brush also helps get into grooves and crevices better, plus with a steady hand it cuts in straight lines extremely well.  If you take good care of it, a good angled brush like Purdy will last you for years.

This dresser got two tones of paint for subtle but beautiful contrast.  The drawers are painted with Benjamin Moore’s ‘Prescott Green’ (HC-140, Regal formula) and the top, sides and frame are painted with ‘Prescott Green’ cut in half with white paint.   

prescott green paint


This dresser is for a baby girl’s nursery and soft green is the favorite color choice for the space, which is why I chose this particular shade for her.    

Should You Paint the Inside the Furniture?   I typically don’t because layers of paint can cause stickiness or prevent your drawers from sliding in and out, but it depends on the piece.  In this case, I painted just inside the frame, and nothing more.  With doors I usually paint the back too so there is uniform color when doors are opened, but that is a personal preference.  

paint inside frame


Adding New Hardware.  If you’ve filled holes from your old hardware and are drilling new ones, here are the steps I follow.  Precisely measure the location of your new hardware, then use the proper size drill bit to create new holes for your screws.  I do this before the protective coat, just in case there are any slip ups or mistakes that need to be patched or painted over. 

reattach hardware


A Note on Paint Sheen.  You can choose anything from flat to semi gloss to refinish your furniture, I typically go with eggshell or satin.  But it is the final protectant you use that determines the ultimate sheen. 

Protecting Your Paint Job.  These are the two brands I use: Minwax and Varathane, both in water based formulas.

water based protectants for furniture

You also have the option of using glazes and/or paste waxes for a more hand rubbed finish – see below for links to the sites I recommend that know all about protecting your piece with waxes.   

Both Minwax and Varathane’s formulas are available in either satin or gloss clear finishes.  When your paint has dried for at least 24 hours, apply a water based polyurethane to protect your surface.  Do not use an oil based polyurethane, it will amber or yellow over time. 

Minwax Polycrylic comes in both a spray or brush on formula.  Varathane in spray, brush on, or my latest discovery, a rub on formula in a tube.  This version is quick, easy, and dries the fastest.

wipe on varathane


Once the protectant is dry, you are free to bring the piece inside your home and make it work for your space! 

dresser before font

dresser after left side


There you have it, my step by step for a lasting paint job on wood furniture ~ these same steps also apply to wood cabinetry or laminate pieces as well. 

I’ve read a lot about the latest ‘no primer’ product on the market, Annie Sloan’s chalk paint, and it sounds very promising having read several reviews.  I have yet to try it because it’s more expensive than standard paint, requires an online order, and comes in limited colors, but I’m sure I’ll be ordering some soon just to see how I like it.   I found this helpful article on the pros and cons and also gained some useful information from Amy’s experience working with chalk paint. 

Distressing Techniques: I’ve repainted a piece here and there to achieve a distressed look, but there are three ladies who refinish furniture as a business that I highly recommend for this technique.  These inspiring bloggers have mastered the art of distressing, glazing, and/or waxing furniture, so be sure to pay them a visit. 

1) Shaunna from Perfectly Imperfect (I also recommend her eBook Creating Your Masterpiece), 2) Marian from Miss Mustard Seed (who also recommends both waxes and chalk paint), and 3) Holly from In the Fun Lane, who does the most beautiful white finishes on her pieces for sale.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this step by step today!  It may seem time consuming and labor intensive but remember a quick spray primer and a rub on protectant are the fastest steps, it’s the repair and painting processes that take the most time.  With a little patience, you’ll achieve a perfectly painted piece with smooth even coverage that will last for years to come.

Linking up to Layla’s How To’s Party & Tip Junkie’s ‘Tip Me Tuesday’




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310 Responses to “Two Tone Treasure + How to Paint Furniture”

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for the wonderful instructions. I happen to have the same dresser w/mirror and chest. I have just painted them with the similar colors that you used. It’s for our spare bedroom. I just got the glass drawer pulls and knobs. Tomorrow I’ll be doing the poly. I’m so excited. This was my first furniture painting experience. Thanks again.

  2. Nancy says:

    Thank you for talking about drying times. I have utterly ruined my first (and probably last) piece of furniture ‘re-do’ by not knowing how important this step is. Now, after the fact, I’ve done quite a bit of research on this online and what you say here is more helpful than even the product website instructions! Again, thank you so much!

  3. Sabrina says:

    Your step by step instructions is very helpful. Now I am ready to start my kitchen cabinets repainting job and I had bought all the products you listed in your article. Before I start, I have one more question Floetrol: should I add it to each coat of latex paint or just first or final coat? And should I add Penetrol into Zinsser oil based primer as well? Or it is unnecessary? Thank you very much!

  4. Brittney says:

    I love your tips and ideas on painting! I have several projects that I’ve been waiting to due until warmer summer months. I noticed you love spray paint as much as I do :) and was wondering why you chose to use latex paint on this project and not spray paint? I have a similar dresser I’ll be painting soon and was debating between the two methods. Thank you!!

  5. marsha says:

    I sanded, primed, and painted like stated above then polyed but I am still getting chipping paint. I usually use the oops paint from Lowe’s or Home Depot (Olympic or Valspar usually), I just can’y figure out what I am doinh wrong??? Any help would be appreciated!! Also how do you keep from getting tiny “hairs, dirt, etc” from your pieces? I am always finding them when it’s too late and they have dried on the piece. Thanks so much!!!

  6. Heather says:

    Thanks for this. I’m working on my first project right now!

  7. Heather says:

    I am wondering where I can buy the rub on varathane? I’ve been searching online and can’t find it.

  8. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Heather, I talked with the folks at RustOleum (the parent company) and while it’s only available in California right now, they’re pushing HD and Lowe’s to carry it, hopefully soon~

  9. Jessica says:

    Kate, this is by far the best furniture painting tutorial I’ve found! Thank you!

    What do you think is the best paint remover for getting the oil-based primer out of your brushes?

  10. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jessica, I still use paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean oil based paint from brushes, but regular vegetable oil will take it off your hands!

  11. Genevieve says:

    Hi Kate!

    I just applied a coat of Zinsser Cover Stain with a Purdy Brush on bare wood and I have brush strokes from hell!! Have you ever had to deal with that?? It is so demoralizing to think I now have to re-sand the whole thing after I just spent 2 weeks sanding it down to wood until it felt like a baby’s bum!! Any idea what I might have done wrong?
    Thanks so much! Love your blog!!

  12. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Genevieve, yep it can happen if it dries fast. Penetrol will help condition and minimize those brush strokes. You shouldn’t have to resand the whole thing, just enough to get it smooth. Do you have an orbital or power sander? That will help! Then I’d go over it again, but try the Penetrol additive, I think you’ll find with a few capfuls mixed into your primer in a separate container that you’ll end up with a smoother primer coat.

  13. JennieD says:

    Great ideas on how to finish wooden dressers or even bookcases, for that matter. I’ve got a small 5 drawer wooden brown dresser that I bought for about $20 years ago at a thrift store. It’s presently sitting in my dining room area holding all my extra bottles of craft paints & craft instruction sheets. I’ve got a mobile home that I’m renovating room by room and not sure what room this dresser will eventually end up in. I love the southwest colors and will probably eventually paint this dresser a shade of sage green.

    I also have a wooden bookcase that I rescued from a drive-in theater many years ago which only needs to have the back replaced ~ I guess that’s why it was dumped. To me, it was a diamond in the rough! It’s presently painted white, but this will also get a different color too. When I first found it, I had thought of using it as a “template” to make bookcases for all my grandkids’ rooms. Looks like it will be fairly simple to “reproduce” this kind of bookcase. The more I look around at things I want to “reinvent” ~ the longer my “to do list” gets! I guess that’s the life of a DIYer! I’ve ‘pinned’ this article to my Pinterest site so I can easily find it when the time comes. Thanks for being so thorough in your instructions on your projects! Thanks Kate!!!

  14. Barbara says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks so much for your great blog. I followed your instructions for my first project–two upholstered chairs with caned sides. I did end up having a friend spray on the paint because I just couldn’t handle the light brush strokes, but the end result is soooo beautiful. Even my husband ( don’t paint wood stuff) is a convert.

  15. Jolie Tegels says:

    Where did you get the glass pulls and knobs?

  16. CentsationalGirl says:

    Those pulls and knobs are from Restoration Hardware, but there are more inexpensive sources, like Hobby Lobby or even Lowes.

  17. Jake says:

    I found a great solid wood dresser that I am re doing and am going to be using this post, so very helpful and easy to follow. One question? I am wanting to do a flat and semi gloss tone on tone pattern on a media console, would the protectant in the last step ruin the combination in the shine and the matte?

  18. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Justina I think it would, especially if you want a flat finish. You could try the enamel paints I talk about here:
    Try buying satin and only using a high gloss protectant where you want it to get the look you mentioned.

  19. EyeGirl says:

    I wish I had found this before I started doing a dresser. At least I started with just 1 drawer. I bought the Rust-o-lium spray paint, it said you don’t need a primer – big mistake…I thought I had sanded it enough but the paint is not going into the grain of the wood.

    Now I have to pull the paint off, resand, prime and repaint. Ugh.

  20. Jenelle Ricci says:

    This is beautiful! I am so glad that you are so detailed with your write ups. I know that when I go to buy a new home, the cost of the home is going to be expensive enough that it will be difficult to decorate and furnish it will pieces that I love. Your entries really show me that you can take a piece of furniture and turn it into something that you really love buy truly customizing it. I love your work!

  21. Debbie says:

    Beautiful and I love the step by step instructions! I am hoping to find a old sturdy desk to refinish this summer . . . with this info I am sure it will be a success!

  22. Megan Horner says:

    I painted a bookcase and followed your tips (except we didn’t put any protectant on) – the bookcase came out a bit sticky…the books stick to the shelves a bit. It’s not awful, but not the best. Would a protectant solve this problem?

  23. Jaymie says:

    Thanks for your great tutorial. I am finishing up my first project — painted a hutch and buffet black, and it worked great. I added the Floetrol to my paint and it went on smooth and streak-free. But my polycrylic coat is not faring so well. I’ve tried rubbing it on with nylon pantyhose (another tip I found online), brushing it on and rolling it on. IT DRIES SO QUICKLY and then gums up. I’ve had to sand the polycrylic off twice! I’m wondering if floetrol can be added to the polycrylic to slow the drying time????

  24. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jaymie, the Floetrol isn’t designed for Polycrylic, but if you’re having trouble it could be due to temperature and I’m so sorry you’re getting a gummy look! Have you tried the Varathane instead? And there is always the option of clear furniture wax, they won’t give you the shiny finish but you’ll at least get a nice protective coat.

  25. […] simple power of paint! A new coat of color on an old piece of furniture can do wonders! Check out Centsational Girl‘s super helpful, step-by-step post on painting furniture. Roll up your sleeves because […]

  26. […] am not handy in the slightest, but I used this tutorial and banged this puppy out in a weekend.  It’s certainly not perfect, but it looks pretty […]

  27. Nicole says:

    Thank you so very much for this tutorial! My husband and I just started repainting his old dresser yesterday and I can’t wait to see the finished look (and have a new dresser). I love your style and I hope ours looks just as great as yours!

    Thanks again!

  28. […] I wanted to have some fun with customizing it to fit our needs. I followed this blog post on to get an idea of the materials and process for this little […]

  29. Kristie says:

    I did not use floetrol, and have brush strokes on the top of a table. Will it work if I use it with a final coat of latex paint?

  30. Laura Hess says:

    Awesome instructions! Just bought a pedestal mirror I need to repair & repaint. All the information I need is right here!!! Thanks ;)

  31. CentsationalGirl says:

    Another coat won’t get rid of the underlying brush strokes. I think it would be better to wait until the latex is cured (two to three weeks) then lightly sand it down with a medium grit sanding wedge to remove the brush strokes, then add another layer with Floetrol after that.

  32. Jennifer says:

    I bought a dresser to r-do for my kids’ room and it has something like 6 inches of varnish on
    it. I started sanding and have completely sanded down to the wood one drawer, plus the flat front of 2 more drawers (there are 7 drawers). I used some of that stupid stuff that you smear on and it takes the varnish off…only it doesn’t work worth a crap and it took about 6 coats to get the varnish off of about 1/3 of the top.

    My intention was to paint it white, with the drawers different brighter colors…is it too late to skip sanding off the varnish? Can I possibly get away with just roughing it up and the priming? Or is it likely to show through the prime and paint job?

  33. Meredith says:

    What paint finish did you use on the dresser? Semi-gloss or satin? I am refurbishing my old bedroom suit for my daughter & painting it white. Also, what shade of white do you recommend? I didn’t realize how many there were until I went to buy some last night!

  34. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Meridith, I think I used eggshell, but it’s the protecctive coat that determines the sheen, whether it’s Satin polycrylic or a soft wax which gives you a hand rubbed matte finish.

  35. JennStevenson says:

    Awesome tutorial! We have 2 dressers & an antique armoire that need some serious updating. Your instructions are gonna make this a MUCH easier process!
    Thank you!

  36. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jennifer, use a good stain blocking adhesion primer (I love Zinsser Cover Stain) and you should be fine, forget all that sanding!

  37. eric says:

    getting ready to do a dresser for our firstborn’s (a boy) nursery. This is going to come in quite handy! Thanks so much!

  38. […] is the first time I used Floetrol, a trick I learned from Kate’s paint tutorial. I’d use it again. In progress. In my “workshop”. I.e. […]

  39. Erin88 says:

    These were awesome step by step instructions, thank you so much!

  40. Kimberly says:

    I love Zinsser! Only discovered it last year but love not having to sand anything ever again! My only problem is that I hate to clean the brushes after using it, but a friend who refinishes furniture for a living gave me a great tip: brush as much of the paint out of the brush as you can then put the wet brush into a ziploc baggie and store it in the freezer. I’ve done this and the brush is flexible and ready to go the next time I’m ready to use the primer again. I just finished repainting my mom’s 55 year old china cabinet and it looks great!

  41. CentsationalGirl says:

    Totally great tip Kimberly! I use the refrigerator in between coats, such a great idea to use cold storage to avoid cleanup !

  42. Katie says:

    Hi. I stumbled across this post from pinterest. Great work! I have a question for you… I am redoing my parent’s old table and chairs. I painted it in a flat paint. I am wondering if the poly sealer will make it glossy and easier to clean? If not do you have any tips on how to achieve this finish?

  43. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Katie, yes it’s true, the glossier the surface, the easier to wipe down!

  44. Katie says:

    Thanks! I applied the water based minwax today, but it seems that it has darkened my paint color. It was off white and now looks tan. What have I done wrong?

  45. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Katie, it shouldn’t have turned your paint color that dramatically, but with white paints you do have to be more careful. You can use clear furniture waxes with white paint, they won’t change the hue, they might deepen it *slightly* but they won’t change the color. See this post:

  46. Sparky says:

    Hi Kate! Thanks so much for this tutorial! I used it to paint a L-shaped desk for my craft room. I posted the project on my blog and included a link for your site. Thanks again! :) :)

  47. Oh this is soooo inspiring! thank you for taking the time to write up the best post ever on how to paint furniture. Especially loved your tip on using Floetrol for slowing down the drying time and reducing brush strokes.

    I love painting furniture but do not like seeing my brushstrokes.

    PS: Love your blog !!

  48. Waleska says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write down instructions on how to paint wood furniture. I plan to follow these instructions and re-paint a desk for my daughter. Any advice on removing paint from wood furniture?


  49. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Waleska, I wrote about using paint strippers here:
    I use Citrustrip, it’s great!

  50. Rhonda says:

    Wow, how silly am I. My mom’s got at least 3 or 4 old dressers downstairs in her basement that I need to get out and paint. I already did one old dresser that I got from a resale store several years ago so I know it’s not hard and it turned out so cute. Silly me!

  51. Stacy says:

    We’re looking at refinishing our old furniture set and I want to know how much time I’ll be without the use of our dressers. Can you estimate how long you spent on this dresser?


  52. Stacy says:

    Do you also have any recommendations on a reliable brand of sander? Along with an idea to safely remove paint that is already peeling?

  53. Candice says:

    Thank you for showing this. I have this EXACT dresser but it is the chest of drawers!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes b/c I’ve never seen it anywhere! It is a solid piece but dated and wanted paint it. I have a question. It has a door that pops down to make a desk in the center. Would it be better to spray paint in the desk area inside, then to try to fit a brush in the small spaces? That’s been my only thing holding me back is how to make the inside compartment match the rest of it. Thanks!

  54. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Stacy, I use Citrustrip to remove paint from furniture!

  55. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Stacy, hard to give you an exact time, but I’d say half hour to spray prime, or an hour to brush prime. An hour for each coat of paint then half hour or hour for protectant – so I’d allow four to five hours of labor per piece if you’re using a brush – but it varies on the detail and size of your piece.

  56. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Candice, it’s tricky to spray paint inside a small space, the overspray and fumes make it very challenging, so I’d take the time to roll or brush that out. Or maybe just leave it wood inside? Might be a cool contrast!

  57. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have 7 pieces that I have been wanting to paint.

  58. Casey says:

    I have been searching for some good online tutorials for painting furniture. This was by far the best!!! This one here was great but it did not address options other than what method was being used:

    Thanks so much for the suggestions on sanding to the grain v not. It was nice to have someone comment on the variations in methods!!

  59. Kelly says:

    Wow – Incredible looking dresser and an amazing color combination!!
    Just curious about the water based protectants. Can you use water based products on top of oil based paints, or do you need to used oil based protectants?
    Thank you so much for the tutorial – your step by step intructions are awesome and so easy to follow.

  60. Pam says:

    I’ve followed your instructions to a tee but I’m still getting HORRIBLE brush strokes – even with the Floetrol. I even added more Floetrol than the directions say (because I live in Texas and it’s 100 degrees here) and the brush strokes are just awful. Plus, half of the piece has dried white (Latex paint) and half of the piece has a yellowish tint to it. Any ideas?? I’ve sanded, primed, sanded again. Now I’m at the painting stage and things are not looking good…

    Suggestions are extremely welcome! Thank you!!

  61. Pam says:

    Hi, I just did a little research trying to find out why my Valspar latex paint is yellowing. I didn’t find any answers on that specific question, but I did come across a few posts that said that Minwax Polycrylic (what I bought) will turn white paint yellow. Have you encountered that?

  62. Jennifer says:

    I painted a dresser and desk for my daughter last year, but they have developed problems that I need to fix. I sanded both down and used wood filler for some spots. I then brushed on two coats of satin finish Valspar paint in black. The problem is that the paint has seemed to remain tacky. If my daughter sets things on top of her dresser, they stick, and in a few little spots the paint has come off. I did not use a clear coat over the top. I am thinking about lightly sanding down the top, then putting on another light coat of paint, and then a clear coat. Do you think this will work?

  63. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Pam, I haven’t experience it yet, but I know some others have. With white paint, I use waxes now, I mention it more in this updated article on paiting furniture:

  64. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jennifer, using a clear coat like the ones I mentioned will help to hardent the surface and remove the tackiness that can come from latex paints, but they do take a while to cure, be prepared for a few weeks!

  65. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Pam, I think temperature may be a real issue for you – now I only paint in 55 – 70 degree weather which is more difficult for Texans I know! I’d sand down the primer to remove any of those brush strokes. Not sure wy your paint has a yellow tint to it if it’s a water based paint – perhaps it wasn’t stirred up enough before you began painting. My best advice is to paint in cooler temperatures to avoid the drag that creates those brush strokes.
    Also, here’s an update on painting furniture, it talks about enamel paints which have better flow and don’t need Floetrol:

  66. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Kelly, I haven’t had any issues using a water based protectant on top of an oil based paint, just like you can use a water based paint on top of an oil based primer. The one to avoid is applying water based paint on top of oil based paint, it won’t adhere well without a layer of primer in between. These days, the water based paints are really good, I stick with an oil based primer for adhesion and durability and add water based enamel paint on top, like I mention here:

  67. Rachel says:

    I have a question regarding primer. I am attempting my first refinishing project (a small bookshelf) and realized after I tried applying the first coat of primer that I had purchased shellac (sp?) based primer Zinsser and not oil based. Will this make a big difference? I used the spray can and ran out way too early so must purchase more. Thought I’d ask before I go back and just buy a gallon since I’m enjoying it so much I also found a cheap wood dresser I am going to tackle next!


  68. Casey says:

    Does this dresser have real wood sides? I’ve come across a number of inexpensive and similar looking dressers but they all seem to have laminate sides and /or paper board back. The finished product looks great and I too am looking to revamp a bureau for a nursery. Thanks for your great tips!!!

  69. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Rachel, they’re similar, but the shellac formula is thinner. I think you’d be fine switching to the Zinsser Cover Stain in brown, it literally clings to everything.

  70. Michelle says:

    Thanks to your blog, I have successfully turned a drab night stand to a gorgeous piece! This was my first time painting a piece and it turned out great. Thanks again :)

  71. CentsationalGirl says:

    Fantastic news Michelle!

  72. Andrea says:

    Do you mix the Floetrol in both the primer and the paint?

    Thanks =)

  73. Rosanna says:

    I’ve been following your directions on painting furniture and I’m testing it out on a dresser I found at a thrift store. After priming the whole thing what kind of sander should I be using to sand down all the brush strokes left behind? Thank you for all tips and tricks!! :)

  74. CentsationalGirl says:

    Just a medium grit sanding wedge should do!

  75. Olivia says:

    First i love your blog! I decided to repaint my dresser after discovering it.
    I went to the home hardware to find the products you mentioned but the guy there said that i should use a all in one paint + primer stain blocking, he said it sticks to anything. I thought i’d give it a try but i wanted to ask you if you ever tried this and what you thought about it. The one i bought is Behr premium plus ultra stain blocking paint and primer in one. It’s enamel acrylic.


  76. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Olivia, I haven’t tried the Behr paint and primer on furniture, I was unaware they had an enamel combo version. I’ve tried the combo formulas before on walls, they work great there, but when it comes to furniture, I’m old school, I let the primer do it’s job of adhesion and stain blocking and use enamel paints to add pigment and give the piece a good finish.

  77. Krysta says:

    Great post! How did you get the old pulls off I unscrewed but it’s still hanging on by what appears to be little pins but no way of unscrewing. How did you pry off without damaging furniture?

  78. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Krysta, that’s tricky! I recommend a lot of TLC and using a tiny flathead screwdriver to help pry them off.

  79. Shellie says:

    Thank you so much! I just bought a huge entertainment center for an awesome price and knew that there must be an easier way of painting. I am going out right now to purchase some Zinsser!

  80. Jamie says:

    I’m curious where you get the tube of Varathane, I can’t seem to locate any and would much prefer that method over spray or brush!!


  81. Kitty LaFaurie says:

    OMG thank you so much for this post I will use it as the Instructions to re-vamping my old school sewing table. I cant just buy a new one because my sewing machine fits precisely inside of the table’s cut out. My brother sanded it down and stained and varnished the table and its been like that ever since. I just wanted to ask should we sand it down a lot to take away all the finish that he added? I want to paint it white to match with all my other furniture in my sewing room. thank you so much! <3

  82. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jamie, so far I’ve only been able to find it at my local CA based Orchard Supply, but I hear that it will be avail at HD and Lowes soon. Yes!

  83. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Andrea, Floetrol is for latex paint, Penetrol is for oil based primers and paints.

  84. Jen says:

    I’ve learned so much! I have recently redone a dresses in black the way you suggest. I think I messed up with the top coat I used which was a clear matte. It doesn’t seem the be drying completely clear, and it isn’t very smooth. Do I need to start over? Or will a light sanding with another coat of black be necessary? Thanks for the help, you are very inspiring!!

  85. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jen, if your clear coat doesn’t look right to you, I’d lightly sand it, then add another coat of black paint. Have you seen this more updated article? It recommends enamel paints (although latex works too) and clear furniture waxes as an alternative.

  86. Lucy says:

    How do you clean your brushes after using oil based primer/paint? I just finished priming a dresser and now I have no idea what to do with the brush.
    Help please

  87. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Lucy, you need to use mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean brushes after using oil based paint.

  88. Lindsey says:

    Genius! I love this tutorial. I’ll have to try it out. :-)

  89. Suzanne says:

    I just recently bought Annie Sloan Chalk Paint from my local vintage store. I would check their website for local stores that carry it. Its great for a vintage look!

  90. Pam says:

    I love this website and, as a first time painter (of anything) I followed it exactly to paint an old dresser. I bought exactly the products you suggested and it looked fabulous until I put the water based minwax that you recommend on it. What was white is now streaked with yellowish. It is not all that bad looking, still – mostly looks a little more rustic but I would sure like to know what went wrong so I don’t repeat the mistake!

  91. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Pam, I’m so sorry that happened! With white paints, I’ve started using clear furniture wax to avoid that problem. Here’s another post on painting furniture where I talk about waxes.
    You could sand it lightly and give it another coat of paint, then try the furniture wax, I think you’ll be more pleased. The Minwax is good but I find it’s best for colored or dark paints as a protectant.

  92. Pam says:

    Thanks! That’s what I was going to try.

  93. Holy cow. I found your post when I was looking for a good tutorial on the “proper way” to refinish a crap piece of furniture. I was really delighted by how specific you were but I still had my doubts. I am AMAZED at how perfectly this addresses everything you need to know about refinishing an old piece. I’ve written a post on my blog about how if anyone wants to know how to attempt a project like this, this post is absolutely the THE authority.

    Thanks so much!!

  94. CentsationalGirl says:

    How nice Meghan, so glad it was useful! And thanks for the mention!

  95. Lolli S says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I found it very helpful!

  96. Carolyn says:

    THANK YOU!!! I just have to say what an incredible blog post this is! I have been DIY-ing (mostly furniture) for over 5 years now and I have to say this is the lost helpful and well written piece of information about painting that I have read to date! I just tried Flotetrol and Zinnser for the firdt time and was VERY impressed. I have to laugh because the “paint lady” at Home Depot was giving me flack for not buying the paint and primer in one but i truly saw a difference with the Zinnser. (Shut it paint lady) If I have learned anything after my 5 years of trial and error… and if you want a piece to last – do it right! Be patient and use quality paint and brushes. Thanks again!!!

  97. Ashley zielke says:

    You are so inspiring and this detailed instruction is the complete guide! Bravo to you and your craft! I’m refinishing my first piece due to your awesome work! Any questions I had are completely answered!! Thank you so much!!

  98. Kayla says:

    Thanks for the Floetrol tip. It’s making a huge difference. Question: is it okay to add Floetrol to a large container of paint that I do not intend use up right away? In other words, will it negatively impact the paint storage? (I am about to open a new gallon of paint and it will probably take me about a week to get through it, and I’d like to add all the Floetrol at the beginning so i can be more accurate with the proportions). thank you!

  99. Monica says:

    Finally@ Someone posting the proper,durable way to refinish furniture. I have painted for 15 yrs & will not take any of the other ‘easy way’ to refinish. Good job! Looks Awesome!

  100. CentsationalGirl says:

    No the Floetrol won’t break down the paint Kayla.

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