When you refinish a chair with paint, you can make it contribute to the style and beauty of any room. Depending on the color you choose, it can lighten and brighten a space, or make a big statement. In this post, I am taking my old chair from dark to light and giving it a bright and airy makeover.
What Kind Of Chair Can I Refinish?
In this previous post, I showed you an old chair that I had been storing for years, that I was finally ready to work on. I removed all the old upholstery and springs, so the chair I’m refinishing is down to its bones. However, you could be starting with a chair that has all the upholstery intact. So, any chair you would like to update with a fresh paint job is great for this project. It can be old or even brand new!
A good thing about working with a skeletal chair is that I needn’t be concerned with avoiding fabric as I paint.
So, if your chair still has a cushion and upholstery, I recommend that you protect them by taping along the edges of the fabric with painter’s tape. You may want to use something like this tape, so that there won’t be residue left on your fabric.
Supplies For Prep Work
220 grit sandpaper or sandpaper foam block
Bucket of soapy water
2-inch paint brush
Rags for cleaning, wiping away sanding dust, and catching drips
Preparing A Chair To Be Painted
It’s important to take the time to prep your chair for paint because your end result will be much better for doing so. My chair started out in a very dirty state, due to being stored in a shed for a few years. But even if a piece of furniture has been in the living space of your house, it can develop oily residue and dusty crevices.
So, I like to first clean with a shop-vac to get rid of the loose dirt. Then, I lightly washed the surfaces with soapy water that I’ve made by diluting a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of water.
Next, I used a 220-grit foam sanding block to lightly sand the surface which allows the paint to adhere more easily. I removed the sanding dust with my shop-vac and a dry rag.
The picture below shows half of the top part of the chair back lightly sanded. So, it’s just a little scuffed to give the paint some traction.
Wearing a dust mask during the process of sanding is important, it’s best to avoid breathing in the sanding particles.
Now, I could move onto the fun part of painting.
Before I tell you about the paint I have used and how I prepared that, I have to stop and show you how the old stain seeped through after a small section dried.
Bleed-through can come from the tannins and sap in the wood, or the type of stain that was previously applied.
You can see it in this picture, it is the pink showing through the white. No matter how many layers of paint applied, it will continue to seep through.
So, I stopped painting and tended to this problem properly before continuing.
To seal in whatever was causing the bleed-through, I applied a sanding sealer to all of the wood. I used a two-inch paint brush and allowed it to dry thoroughly, which took about an hour. I repeated with a second coat to be sure all the nooks and crannies were completely sealed.
Sanding sealer is a shellac, and it gets tacky quickly, so you can’t brush back over spots to make it even. If you think you have missed a spot, let it dry and repeat a layer on those places. Applying the sanding sealer in bright light, enables you to see where it is because of its sheen.
It is best to apply this product outside in plenty of ventilation. But if you must work indoors, be sure you can have windows open and air flowing.
Supplies To Refinish A Chair With Paint
Milk paint or other paint of choice
Hemp oil- I like this one, or other finishing coat
Disposable cups for paint and hemp oil
Craft stick or old spoon
2-inch paint brush
Round brush for applying finish (optional)
Drop cloth or old sheet
More Posts About Painting
If you like the idea of painting a variety of projects, I have more for you. This post shows how to refashion little wooden houses with paint. And this one leads you through painting baskets that are commonly found at almost every thrift shop or yard sale.
My favorite paint to use on furniture is milk paint. I like that it is natural and fume free, first of all. But what I love most about it, are the various pigments that make up the colors that come out as the paint dries, and repeat coats are applied. I appreciate the beauty of the imperfect and I prefer that there are variations in my paint on a piece of furniture.
Another thing I like about milk paint is that it chips off in places. I usually don’t want a lot of chipping, because I want my furniture to be practical and easy to dust. But a little is beautiful, in my opinion.
For my old chair, I have chosen to use this paint in Farmhouse White. I like all the whites in this paint line, and I’ve used them all many times before. The other whites include Linen, Grain Sack (which you could also consider a light gray), and Ironstone.
Mixing Milk Paint
Milk paint comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with water before using. The directions are to mix it to a 1:1 ratio. I prefer to mix a conservative amount because I can always mix more if needed. There have been times when I didn’t think this way and had so much extra paint, so I searched for another object to paint. I didn’t want to waste any of it!
Use a dry measuring cup to measure out the powdered milk paint. It should be enough for a chair like this to use 1/3 cup dry and that’s what I’ve mixed for my chair.
Pour the powder into a disposable plastic cup. Pour an equal amount of very warm, almost hot, tap water into the cup. Stir up the powder and water with a large craft stick or a disposable spoon.
Stir for a few minutes, it takes time for the water to penetrate all of the paint powder.
Then, let it rest for 15 minutes. Give it another good stir and it should be very well mixed.
I find that I stir it every 2 or three times that I dip my brush into the paint, while I’m painting.
Due to the nature of milk paint, there are sometimes little clumps in the paint. I use my paint brush to smash them onto the side of the cup and then stir it around to disperse the paint.
* Note- I’ve had times my milk paint was too thick when mixing it to the 1:1 ratio. I simply thinned it by adding a few tablespoons of water at a time and stirring with a craft stick or spoon. By adding extra water slowly, I’ve ensured it didn’t get too thin.
Your paint should be the consistency of heavy cream, thicker than water, but still liquified.
Painting A Chair
When painting a chair, there are always narrow edges to fit your paintbrush into. This can be very tricky and frustrating, but with a little patience, you can get all those areas painted.
If you refinish a chair like mine and it has a wooden panel at the top, that is a good place to start. If you are using milk paint, don’t get too much paint on your paintbrush at a time. Dip your brush into the paint trying not to get the metal part into the paint. That will just make your job a lot neater as you go because it will help to keep the paint off your hands.
Simply begin applying the paint in even strokes, catching any drips as you go. I like to work from the top of the chair to the bottom. However, because of the narrow spaces, I had to change the directions of my painting strokes. It would be really difficult to paint only in the direction of the wood grain.
I only painted the parts I knew would show after re-upholstering my chair.
There are many corners and crevices in my chair, and I had to wedge my paintbrush into them. In the photo below, you can see how tight the space is between the rounded carving and the side rail of the chair.
Once you have a coat of paint in place, it’s time to let it dry. The first coat of paint always looks terrible. Don’t worry, it will look better with another coat or two!
The dry time is 30-60 minutes. Once the paint is completely dry, a second coat can be applied.
Because I chose white, I painted three coats to cover the very dark wood of my chair. You may only need to do two coats, if you have chosen a darker color.
So, finish up your coats of paint and let your chair thoroughly dry.
Finally, it’s time to oil or wax your beautiful milk-painted surface. Applying a top coat will deepen the color and help to protect the surface of the paint, making it a little more durable.
Hemp oil is my preference when it comes to a finish applied over milk paint. The application of it is easy, especially with a paint brush. I love that it is completely natural and therefore has no chemical fumes. Also, hemp oil is an ideal finish for furniture that will be exposed to heat and sun. Its wax counterparts sometimes break down and separate if exposed to too much heat, for instance in a sunroom, which we have at my house.
So pour about ¼ cup of hemp oil into a disposable cup, and with a brush or rag, begin applying to your chair. Give it a coating over all the painted surfaces. You will want it to look shiny, but not actually be dripping.
When all surfaces have been coated, let it rest and absorb for 30 minutes. You can stop with one coat or go on and re-apply 1 or 2 more coats. I felt one coat would be fine for my chair.
Finally, wipe all of the excess oil off your chair with a rag, buffing it as you go.
* Note– It takes 20-30 days for the oil to cure, so set it aside for that duration, or just use your chair gently. Keep it out of the sun during this time, and away from paper or fabrics because the oils may rub off during the curing time.
You may want to give your chair a final wipe with a rag before it you use it.
If I do a painting project during warm months of the year, I am careful when I dispose of any oil or wax coated rags. They can combust if left in a super hot dumpster.
So, to err on the side of caution, I recommend soaking rags with water before throwing them away.
I hope this post is helpful to you as you refinish a chair with paint. Have you ever painted with milk paint? If so, do you prefer hemp oil or wax as a finish over the paint? Please let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by,