Step-by-Step Refnishing Guide

Give old furniture a new look with these easy-to-follow guide.

Paint wood

STEP 1: Lay the foundation

Before you can achieve a new look, erase all traces of the previous finish.

Strip and Prep: Remove old paint, rust, varnish, grease and dirt using a paint scraper, then scuff surface with 220-grit sandpaper.

Apply Primer: This special paint sticks to difficult surfaces, ensuring that your topcoat goes on smoothly. Keep in mind that latex paint works over oil-based primer, but not vice versa.


STEP 2: Pick a paint for the job

Choosing a color is important, but so is selecting the right formula.

Oil or water? Oil-based products are more durable, but they dry slowly, emit a strong odor and are less eco-friendly. Premium water-based products are nearly as tough as oil and easier to apply, and cleanup requires only water, not paint thinner. Check recommendations for the material you’re finishing; unless it specifies oil, go with water-based.


STEP 3: Tackle the project

Follow these tips and pointers to revitalize an array of household items.

  • Use a paintbrush on flat surfaces, or a roller on large expanses.
  • When refinishing an uneven surface, opt for spray paint. Work outdoors when possible. If working indoors, make sure the room is well ventilated, and wear a paper painter’s mask.
  • Paint can be absorbed through the skin, so wash off smudges quickly.