How to Paint Furniture Without Sanding

Written by fiona fearey
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How to Paint Furniture Without Sanding
Alcohol- and oil-based paints are more durable for surfaces. (Red patio furniture image by Scott Latham from

Preparing a surface for painting can seem like an overwhelming process, especially if you follow every step recommended by paint manufacturers and home improvement experts. While their advice will result in a painted surface guaranteed to be durable, you may not always have a lot of time and energy to devote to every painting project. Although sanding a very glossy surface will help primer and paint adhere, you can skip this step when painting most furniture. Instead, use an alcohol or alkyd primer, which cover almost every surface.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Respirator, optional
  • Detergent
  • Mixing bucket
  • Sponge
  • Alcohol or alkyd primer
  • 2 inch angled brush
  • 1 inch brush, optional
  • 3 inch brush, optional
  • Denatured alcohol/mineral spirits
  • Good quality semi-gloss paint

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  1. 1

    Find a place to work where there is adequate ventilation. Alcohol and alkyd paints produce strong fumes. The ideal location would be a covered outdoor space. Wear a respirator if you are working indoors.

  2. 2

    Remove all hardware from the furniture, such as drawer pulls and doorknobs. Mix detergent and water in a bucket. Wipe off the piece of furniture to remove dirt, dust and oils. Allow the furniture to dry completely before starting the priming process.

  3. 3

    Apply primer with a brush. Although a 2 inch angled brush is appropriate for most projects, you may consider using a smaller or larger brush depending on your project. Always brush primer and paint on in the same direction that the wood grain runs.

  4. 4

    Follow the manufacturer's directions when it comes to drying times. Always wait the recommended minimum time before applying the next coat of paint to prevent crackling or wrinkling.

  5. 5

    Wash brushes used with alcohol-based primer with denatured alcohol. Clean alkyd primer off of brushes with mineral spirits.

  6. 6

    Select the type of paint that you want to use for your furniture. Most alcohol and alkyd primers can be painted over with latex paints, but you may prefer to stick with an oil-based paint for a more durable finish.

  7. 7

    Apply two coats of paint for complete, even coverage. Follow the direction of the wood grain, as you did when applying the primer. Allow the furniture to dry between coats of paint. Use a soft brush if you want to minimise the appearance of brushstrokes.

  8. 8

    Wash brushes. Replace the hardware on the furniture after the paint is completely dry to avoid scratching the delicate, freshly painted surface.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear latex or vinyl gloves to keep hands clean.

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