There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to spruce up an old piece of furniture or a new stain to breathe new life into neglected cabinets. Understanding the basics of painting and staining is fundamental to so many DIY projects, and we’re here to help with the basics to get you started. Here are some important things to think about before you stain or paint furniture.
Actually, these tips come from Kate, the blogger behind Censational Girl, Chris from the blog Just a Girl and Bruce from Minwax. They led the Beginning Paint and Stain session at the recent Haven Conference in Atlanta. (We already knew Kate from an article she wrote for the Apron on her cabana make over, and it was a pleasure to meet Chris and Bruce.)
Here are the top seven tips they had for anyone planning to stain or paint furniture or cabinets.
- Water-based versus Oil-based — when it comes to picking a stain, there are three questions you should ask yourself to determine whether you choose an water-based stain or an oil-based stain. First, how quickly do I want it to dry? Second, what are my ventilation conditions? Third, what do I want the stain color to be? Water-based stains dry quickly, have low odor, and have a much larger assortment of colors, from the traditional wood tones to colored stains, like red and blue. Oil-based stains, on the other hand, take longer to dry so they work better for more intricate projects that require detail and finesse; however, oil-based stains require proper ventilation and only come in the traditional wood tones.
- Better wood, Better results — Bruce reminded us that the best wood to stain is oak, but pine is easy to work with as well. It’s important to remember that wood with lots of knots and any wood that isn’t nice quality won’t look as good as a very highly quality lumber, so take that into consideration when deciding to stain a piece of furniture.
- Try a Pre-Stain Conditioner — if you’re staining wood with a water-based stain, try using a pre-stain conditioner which will ensure that your wood stains evenly. After you pre-stain your wood, be sure to sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper. This sanding step opens up the pores of the wood and takes off any scratches that were made in stores or moving the item.
- Start with the right primer — Kate and Chris both highly recommend Zinsser’s Cover Stain primer, in regular and spray paint! Most pieces should be okay with just one coat of primer, but for laminate pieces or furniture that gets a lot of wear (like a coffee table), go for two coats!
- Is it water-based (latex) or oil-based paint? – If you’re repainting an old piece of furniture, first test to determine whether the previous finish was an oil-based paint or stain or a water-based paint or stain. To test, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub it on the piece of furniture or wall. If the paint is an oil-based paint, nothing will happen. If it’s a water-based (latex) paint, a little bit of the paint will come off on the swab!
- Try a Paint Conditioner — When painting a piece of furniture with either a brush or a roller, it’s easy for brush strokes and ‘drag’ marks to occur in your paint finish. By adding a conditioner to your paint, the paint will dry slower, and the marks will fall out of the paint finish before drying. For latex paints, use Floetrol, and for oil-based paints, use Penetrol.
For more help on painting or staining visit our online Community Forums, where you can get answers and advice from our DIY experts. And be sure to check out Centsational Girl and Just a Girl for Kate and Chris’ ideas on decorating, crafts and home improvement. Those are two DIY blogs you’ll love. We certainly do.