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Getting Furniture Ready for Paint

Step 1: Where to Find the Right Piece of Furniture

Finding a really great piece of furniture can be a little tricky. Today I wanted to share with you my top 5 favorite places to pick up furniture.

1-Garage/Estate Sales

I ALWAYS get the best deals at garage sales…why you ask? People are usually trying to clear stuff out so they are willing to negotiate a little more. I have also found if I hit garage sales around 10am ….. a few hours into the sale …. they are more willing to strike a dea.l

2-Thrift Stores

I probably shop thrift stores the most as it is convenient for me. If I am driving by and have a few minutes to spare I will usually run into a thrift store to see what they have. Thrift stores prices are usually a little higher as they have overhead they have to pay and chances are they bought the item. But for the most part I can still find a piece. You can often times negotiate prices, don’t be scared to ask.


If I am looking for something specific the classifieds are a great place for that. Rather than drive from place to place I can see the pictures and make sure I am interested before I call to set up an appointment. Much like garage sales I also get good deals online, as in most cases people are trying to get rid of stuff. If I really want something but it is out of my price range I will watch the item and if it doesn’t sell in a week I will offer them a lower price. 

4-Flea Markets/Vintage Sales

I will admit first….flea markets/vintage sales are my favorite to shop. There is always so many fun finds and goodies! Flea markets are not very consistent here in Utah but I always go to them when I can! 

5-Antique Stores

This will be your most expensive option, however it isn’t always a bad thing. Antique stores usually have the “cream of the crop” when it comes to old furniture. 9 times out of 10 you will find a very nice, sturdy, solid piece of furniture. I will shop antique stores if I am looking for something specific for myself. Very rarely have I been able to turn a piece of furniture from an antique shop for a profit. 

Step 2: Picking the Right Piece of Furniture

I CANNOT stress how important this is to get the right piece of furniture and yet how easy it is to end up with a piece of junk. Believe me….I have made this mistake too many times!

When you walk into a thrift store it can be a little overwhelming seeing all this furniture. So lets take a step back.

The first thing I always do is look to see if there is a piece that I particularly like. When I am refinishing furniture I prefer a wood piece that has not yet been painted and I like tall dressers. Like this one.

Once I find a piece I start to check it out. I will first try to wiggle it, this is a good way to tell if something is well built. I will then check the outside to see if there is any major imperfections.

Next I pull out the drawers. The back of a drawer will tell you a lot about a piece. As you can see from the back of this dresser all of the drawer fronts are solid wood, SCORE! The drawer sides are made from particle board, but since we are not painting them that is fine!

Now to examine the back. As you can see from the back everything is made from wood. This is an awesome dresser and I would buy it.

Now lets talk about what NOT to buy

From first glance this desk looks awesome. It has a great shape, I love the wood looking top with the cream bottom and the hardware looks to be in good shape. Lets take a closer look….

I am so happy I found this piece to show you. This is a textbook example of a TERRIBLE piece. This piece is made of particle board and then has been wrapped with paper… you can see it peeling off here. If I had bought this piece, when I got it home and started sanding it this paper would have started to rip off leaving me one great big mess and it would have been taken to the dump. Not all furniture that is wrapped in paper will be this noticeable so let me show you other ways to spot it. 

You can see on the edges of this drawer where the paper comes together. Most of the time you can stick your fingernail in there just as another test.

Now for the back. Remember that wood top….not so much wood. It is MDF with an overlay of some kind, and if you look at the sides it is very clear this is particleboard with paper glued to it.

Step 3: Having the Right Supplies

Using the right supplies and products plays a huge part in how your piece of furniture turns out. Here are my 5 go to supplies I always have on hand


When I am sanding down a piece of furniture I like to use 100 grit sandpaper. It is rough enough that it will get the top coat off but it doesn’t scratch as easily as a 60 grit sand paper. I also always have 220 grit sandpaper to smooth everything out. 3M is my favorite brand and I feel like it lasts a little bit longer.  You can buy an assorted pack here (affiliate link)

Palm Sander-

Having a sander sure speeds up the process! For furniture I have liked my Mikita random orbit sander the best. It comes with the hook and loop sanding discs. When a disc is warn out I can just pull it off and stick another one on….like velcro! They just came out with a new one that has adjustable speeds which I am loving!  You can buy it here (affiliate link)

Paint Brush-

I CANNOT stress enough how important it is to have a nice paint brush. A brush makes a huge difference now how your piece will turn out it helps to eliminate brush marks. I like to use a Purdy or Zibra brushes. You can but them at most hardware stores. You can also add Floetrol to you paint at a 2 to 1 ratio to help eliminate brush strokes. You can buy a multi pack of Purdy Brush’s here, A Zibra Brush here and Floetrol here  (affiliate link)


I prime everything. So if you are ever wondering what Brooke would do just rest assured I would prime it. This may sound strange but…..primer is designed to help your paint adhere better to the surface. It also helps seal your wood to create a nice and even paint job. It can help with your paints durability and is provides additional protection to your piece of furniture! I use water based primer by either Zinsser or Kilz. It is a little bit cheaper then a name brand like Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore, but I think it works better. Both of them come in paint cans and spray paint, I use both often. You can buy Zinsser Primer here and Kilz Primer here (affiliate link) Watch this video below for more priming details.


*Latex paint – I will try to keep this short and sweet. Paint can be a little tricky. I don’t believe there is an right or wrong answer to what paint you want to use…..But I do think there are better products for certain projects. I personally have found Latex paint to be my go to paint….. Why? Over the last 5 years as I have experimented with paints it has held up the best against my kids in high traffic areas…..If you want the long answer  You can read my blog post about it here.

*Chalk Paint- That being said I still like to use chalk paint on certain projects, you can read how it has held up in my laundry room here. Chalk paint is super fun to paint with and you don’t need to sand or prime before using it. It goes on really smooth and sands of so easily. The down side is it doesn’t hold up as good as a latex paint. I have had a hard time getting it to seal and not stain.

*Milk Paint – If I am going for a chippy look I will go with milk paint, blog post here.  With milk paint you will need to sand it but you can skip the priming step! I love how milk paint naturally flakes and creates an authentic rustic look. I have also painted with milk paint and gotten a smooth finish. You can view that blog post here. Milk paint comes in powder form, you do need to mix it up. View this video below for all the details on mixing.

Step 4: Picking a Paint Color

I am sure many of you can relate to trying to pick a latex paint color from a swatch at the paint store. After your hours spent at the store you come home to find you hate the color anyway and now you have wasted money on a gallon of paint. 

Did you know most paint stores sell sample pints for around $5? I will usually pick out 3 colors, a light, medium and dark. As you can see the light one is so light it almost looks cream, not what I am going for. The dark one is a little too pink for this project, but I am loving the shade in the middle. It is more of that blush color I am looking for. 

When I am buying a specialty paint like milk paint or chalk paint I will search for the specific color on Pinterest. Keep in mind lighting can be off a bit online so make sure you find 3 or more images to compare. That way you can get a feel for what color you are really ordering. In most specialty paints you can also buy a smaller size! 

Once I have picked out a color I will test it on my piece of furniture and let it fully dry before I buy more paint.  Or you can paint it on swatches. Blog post here on how to do this.

Believe me when I say this little trick has saved me tons of money!!

Now that you have your piece of furniture and all your supplies!

It is time to prep for paint!

1-Remove all your drawers, doors and hardware – I like to keep all my hardware in a ziplock bag so it doesn’t get lost

2- if there are holes or you are putting on new hardware you will need to fill the holes. Watch my tutorial here.

3-Sand the flat edges with your palm sander- When sanding you don’t need to sand all the stain off. You just need to get the top coat off so your paint will soak down into the wood and stick better. 

4-Use your sheets of sandpaper to get down into the details

5-Use a damp rag to remove all the dust – this is super important. If dust is left on your piece your paint will stick to the dust rather then your furniture This will cause your paint to chip down the road.

Here is some high speed prepping…

Stripping Paint off of Furniture

If your piece of furniture already has paint on it…. you can sand it down and then prime it before painting again. However if the paint job is terrible or there is a lot of paint already on the piece I would recommend stripping it. (blog post here) Watch the video below.

Now you are ready to paint

Part 2 … how to paint this is coming soon!!!

Start at Home Decor



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