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Make it like new again

Got the do-it-yourself itch but little time or cash to spare? Look around at the furniture you've already got. Some of it probably could use a refreshing coat of paint. In fact, a new color may put the "wow" back into a room.

Too timid? Don't be.

"Everyone should have lots of courage and confidence," says Neil Wertheimer, editor-in-chief of "Fresh Home," a new DIY magazine that features three table makeovers in its summer issue. "This is not hard! A piece of wood furniture is wood and screws and coating, and all three are easily fixed and replaced."

The key to a good redo is to take your time and work through all the steps. Wertheimer should know. He admits to skipping a critical step — the primer — in the past, and paying the price with a less attractive piece.

"The primer creates something for paint to adhere to so much better. It's made to be sticky for paint," Wertheimer says. "Paint does not stick well to old finishes and old paint and to whatever else might be on there."

John Gidding, a judge on "HGTV's $250,000 Challenge," has seen, and done, a lot of furniture rehabbing as an HGTV designer. He says primary candidates for a paint job often are a handed-down dining room table and chairs.

"The reason for this is they're expensive," Gidding says. "You either get something really cheap or you take what your mom gives you."

Either way, these dining sets often don't fit a couple's style, and painting them can fix that.

Gidding offers one caveat: Don't paint the antiques. Ever. They'll drop in value.

Instead, he suggests painting a room a color that complements the color of an antique piece to help it blend in, no matter how monstrous.

"I advise not spray-painting Louis the 15th furniture," he says with a laugh.

Spray paint will work, however, on lesser wood pieces.

"We use (spray paint) for everything around here," says Veronica Toney, associate decorating editor at BHG.com, the Web site for "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine.

She says it's inexpensive, easy to use and doesn't leave behind pesky brush strokes. The trick is to spray slowly to avoid drips and uneven painting. For larger projects, be prepared to stop often or have extra hands at the ready: That nozzle can be tough on index-finger muscles.

The first step in any wood-furniture rehab project, says Wertheimer, is to inspect the piece for structural and visual flaws. Tighten loose legs, grease sticky drawers, buy new knobs, etc. Use wood putty to fill in any cracks or holes. Then, lightly sand the piece and go over it with a tack cloth to remove the dust. Finally, prime it, paint it and, if necessary, give it a protective layer of polyurethane.

A piece that sits around and looks pretty but isn't actually used? That doesn't need the protective top coat. But a piece that could find itself home to keys and loose coins needs at least one coat of polyurethane.

What about furniture other than wood?

Gidding advises against painting plastic furniture because it'll likely chip. Metal furniture can be tricky to paint, too, so use a primer and paint especially made for metals. (Instead of sanding, scour off any rust using steel wool.) Wicker spray paints easily.

An oil-based, black satin paint is applied to a wooden table. Sand and fill holes with wood putty, thin the paint about 10 percent with mineral spirits, then apply a smooth coat, brushing in one direction. Tip: Remove drawers and paint them separately. Flip table upside down and paint the legs and underside before flipping the table upright to finish. - AP