How to paint old wood furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Although looks can be deceiving, old wood furniture often has a lot of life left in it. Painting is a good way to freshen the furniture for a minimal amount of time and money. Painting furniture requires a bit of sanding and preparation but the results will last a long time.

Clean the furniture with white spirit and a soft rag. Over time old furniture accumulates dirt and grease. Removing this prepares it for paint. Furniture that is not cleaned will cause paint to bubble or finish unevenly.

Examine the furniture for any needed repairs. Repairs will be much easier before the piece is painted. Make any necessary repairs.

Use a small orbital or hand sander to sand the glossy finish off. Begin with 60 grit sandpaper and switch to finer sandpaper such as 120 grit. In most cases, you don't have to sand to bare wood. Make several passes with the fine-grit sandpaper. Take the necessary precautions, like opening a window and wearing a mask, to avoid breathing in dust as you sand. Varnish or paint on old furniture can contain lead, which can pose health risk.

Wipe clean with a damp cloth. Any sanding dust will make it difficult for the new paint to stick. Allow the wood to dry completely before applying primer.

Cover the entire piece with a light coat of latex primer using a paintbrush. Let it dry completely.

Paint with latex paint. Put the first coat on and allow it to dry per manufacturer directions. Apply one more coat and wait for it to dry before using the furniture.

Things You'll Need

  • White spirit
  • Soft rag
  • Orbital or hand sander
  • 60-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Damp cloth
  • Latex primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Latex paint
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About the Author

Cadence Johansen is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about travel, marriage, family relationships, caregiver support, home improvement and money. Johansen has been writing professionally since 2008. She holds a master's degree in family studies from Utah State University.