How to bring new life to furniture using Chalk Paint.

Finding that Perfect Piece

As you start on your journey to have the perfect statement piece in your house it’s important to remember that paint or finish can only do so much. It’s nearly impossible to turn a pressed wood or laminate piece into a beautiful statement piece. You have to start with furniture that have the bones you are looking for. A quality piece that had it’s day but just needs some TLC. Finding that piece can sometimes be difficult. In a previous post I discuss where I go to find my pieces without spending an arm and a leg. Check it out here.

chalkpaintbeforeFor this project I found this beautiful piece of furniture at my local Goodwill. It set me back $100. I have to say that I was quite shocked to see it priced so high. In my experience, prices are never predictable at Goodwill. I have 2 antique dining buffet pieces, they came from the same location, and I paid $20 for one and $100 for the other. I can’t figure that one out.

The structure of the piece was solid and in good shape although there was damage to the finish, specifically on the top. It was the perfect candidate for a little chalk paint restoration project.

Now that you have your Piece, where do you begin?

There are several questions you need to ask yourself when considering how to makeover a piece of furniture.

  • What kind of condition is it in?
  • Does it have sentimental value?
  • Where is it going to be used?
  • What style of finish am I going for?
  • What color should I paint it?
  • What color should I stain it?
  • Do I distress it or not?
  • How much do I love this piece of furniture in its original/natural state?

Many times these questions are difficult to answer however you have to go through the
exercise and decide or you may end up with something you don’t love.187416

Personally, I am a firm believer  in cheap, functional, and beautiful. I have to say, if the piece is in perfect condition, I am probably going to leave it in its original condition, and let it be. That said, I also want to love it, so you must decide. If the piece has any kind of sentimental value to you or your family, you have to ask yourself, will I still love it 20 years from now chalk painted?

“To Chalk Paint or Not to Chalk Paint. That’s the question.”

Chalk paint is not the only option for bringing new life back to a piece of furniture. However, I will say that it is the easiest and fastest. Refinishing a piece of furniture professionally can cost you upwards of $600 depending on the piece. It can be worth 187430
every penny, but not everyone can afford it or even wants that look.

Typically the pieces that I come across have huge scratches, major blemishes, including chunks of wood missing, water damage, and sun damage. Those pieces call out to me to be chalk painted and the decision is easy.

In the end, refinishing it by yourself is a much cheeper solution. If you have the time and drive, and a piece that you can afford to make a mistake on (i.e. not grandmas family heirloom) chalk paint is a great option.

I also plan on using this specific piece in a lower traffic area. When using chalk paint I prefer to use them on pieces that do not experience a lot of wear and tear. I know that people do chalk paint areas like their kitchen cabinets, but I tend to avoid this. Also in the same vein I decided to Distress this piece. The thing I like about distressing my pieces is that because we move a lot, have 4 kids, and a vacuum cleaner, my furniture tends to get abused. That said when they are distressed and made to look worn, they tend to be more forgiving when new blemishes show up.

Let the chalk fly

I start by wiping down my project and ridding it of dirt and dust. One of the advantages of using chalk paint is that there is no need to pre-sand an item. If I know that the piece is going to be made to look distressed I just kind of slap the paint on and even miss spots here and there. If a smother more uniform look is desired then I would paint smooth even brush strokes. For this particular piece, I only did one coat of paint since I liked the original color and intended to allow a lot of that to be exposed when I was all finished.


It’s sanding time

After the chalk paint dried (which is usually anywhere from 20 min to an hour depending on how thick you put it on. I then sand the piece strategically, but yet chalkpaintsanding3chalkpaintsanding5sporadically. I try to spread things out so that all the worn spots are not in one location. Take a step back every now and then and see where it needs it. Also I try to sand off the chalk paint in the places where it would be obvious to wear marks, such as corners, edges, and surfaces that protrude out farther than others. Also, if the piece has beautiful chalkpaintsanding2detailing, try not to paint every crevice.  If it makes you nervous, practice on a picture frame that has lots of detail. That will give you an idea of how much paint to use and how hard to push with your chalkpaintsanding4brush on a single application. The nice thing about chalk paint is, if you sanded off too much in one spot, you can slap a little more paint on in that spot only and it won’t look splotchy. It’s as easy as that. I usually use 150 grit sand paper on a single coat application. If I  do 3 or more coats of paint, I will lightly use a mouse sander to get through the layers and expose the wood. I will say that you don’t want to over sand if you are trying not to sand off the original finish, only if you are trying to sand through it. With practice you’ll get the hang of it. You will need to make sure you lightly sand over the entire piece to smooth out some of your brush strokes.

Its wax time

chalkpaintwax2Lastly is the wax application. Since I went with white paint there’s basically 3 options to finish it. Either waxing it via clear wax or dark wax, or a water based clear coat. Oil based clear coat WILL yellow over time. If I had chosen to paint my piece black, a dark color oil base is an option because the yellowing effect will not be so apparent. Oil base is stronger and will hold up longer than water base. They are working to improve the durability of water base products. Also something to consider, waxing a piece means that chalkpaintwax3your project will be finished a whole lot faster. Using clear coats requires at least 2 coats, with a 24 hour dry time between coats and is overall more time consuming. Most of my pieces are more for looks and not as abused as kitchen cabinets and hold up quite nicely using wax as my final coat.

On this project I used a dark wax. Dark wax is a nice option for getting an antique feel (I call it old world feel, reminds me of an old map). That said, Dark wax is way to strong to use on its own. I have tried it, and it is my least favorite piece I have done. To me it looks dirty and antique. So I always dilute it with clear wax. I will mix them together before applying on a paper plate. Usually 3 parts clear wax to 1 part dark wax. I then apply by rubbing it in with an old cloth, preferably tee shirt material. You rub it on, and rub it in. The more you rub the shinier the finish will become. “Wax on” without the “Wax off” if you will.

Time to show off the hard work




I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Happy restoring.


4 Comments on “How to bring new life to furniture using Chalk Paint.

    • I like Annie Sloan but it costs $36 a quart and is much harder to find. Rustoleum i can get at my local hardware store and is half the price. The colors are different between the two so sometimes it depends on what color I use but primarily I use rustoleum.

  1. I was not aware Rustolium made a chalk paint. I am brand new at this chalk painting I recently bought 6 sample paints with clear and dark wax. I have a couple of small table i want to try I have watched well over a dozen tutorials time to go for it. My only question what do I use to clean the piece before applying paint?

  2. Hey there Jean. Rustolium’s line is fairly new. I first tried it simply because it was available at my local hardware store and it was a 30 min drive each way to get Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, plus the Rustolium was about half the price. That said, I’ve used it on about 5 different pieces now and seems to work just fine.

    For cleaning, I started with a vacuum to get the loose pieces in the corners and crevices and then used a damp cloth to wipe it down. Make sure to let it dry before starting to paint.

    Good luck. You can do it. Its crazy how easy it really is. If you sand too much just add more paint and keep going! You got this.

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