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How to Paint MDF Furniture

Updated April 17, 2017

MDF furniture can make a wonderful, cheap update for a home on a tight budget. But when it comes time for a new update, MDF can seem like a nightmare to paint. Between the slick surface of the laminate on top of the MDF, and the porous MDF material, it can seem like an impossibility to give the furniture a splash of colour. But with a primer and sealer that works for MDF surfaces, like Shellac, your fears can be washed away. With some priming, sanding and an available weekend, your furniture can look like new.

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  1. Break down and disassemble the furniture as much as possible with a screwdriver to make the sanding, priming and painting processes much simpler and more efficient.

  2. Remove any finishes or sticky substances from the surface of the furniture by sanding it with a 220-grit sanding block or sandpaper.

  3. Wipe the sanded furniture with a clean tack cloth to get rid off any dirt or grime that was pulled up from sanding.

  4. Put a single coat of Shellac onto the sanded furniture pieces with a foam brush or roller (depending on the size of your piece of furniture) in even stroke and leave the furniture to dry overnight.

  5. Apply latex paint (in your preferred colour/finish) with a foam brush or roller in even strokes across the furniture. Allow the paint to dry (this should take three to five hours) and apply a second coat if necessary.

  6. Apply a single coat of a clear wipe-on varnish with a clean rag if your furniture will see a lot of traffic. Follow the directions specified on your particular brand of varnish.

  7. Put the furniture back together after all pieces have dried completely.

  8. Tip

    Using a paint sprayer will leave the furniture with the most clean, seamless, professional finish you can achieve at home.

    Warning

    Keep all paint products away from children

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Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper block or palm sander with 220-grit sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • Tack cloth
  • Shellac (a primer/sealer)
  • Acrylic latex paint
  • Foam paintbrush or rollers
  • Wipe-on polyurethane varnish

About the Author

Darren White is a third-year student studying photography and art history at Haverford College. Raised in the Philadelphia area, he has followed its art scene for some time, which has influenced his column, The Fashion File, that he writes for the "Bi-Co News." He also writes, edits and photographs for Haverford's fashion magazine, "Feathers & Fur."

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