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  • Melissa Geskie

Proper Prep - What do you need before furniture paint?

What is "proper prep"? I hear this term thrown around a lot in the furniture world. It's not a bad four letter word, just one that people really don't like to hear! For me proper prep means putting in the hard work before I paint in order to make my project be as successful as possible.

Products Used

"Proper prep" or preparation before you paint is essential. It's one of the most important steps in furniture painting! Let's got over my process so you can understand what it really means.

Step one: Assess your piece. Since I buy majority of my items sight unseen from the auction this is very important. I check all the drawers for repairs as well as the interior of the piece. Check trim to make sure its not loose or missing. Inspect for any veneer issues, is it loose? Missing? Needs repair or to be replaced? Then I remove all hardware and set it aside.

Step two: Clean your piece. This is something a lot of people skip, and let me tell you - even if it looks clean you still need to clean it again, and again. I remove the drawers and clean my piece inside and out with White Lightning or Pristine Clean. This powder based cleaner can be mixed into a bucket with warm water or a spray bottle. I like to use a old spray bottle to clean with and save the remaining cleaner for another day or spills. Rinse your cleaner with water to remove any residue.

White Lightning will de-grease and remove all debris from your furniture, kitchen cabinets or whatever you want to paint. It will prep your piece and help you achieve the best outcome for your painted masterpiece! After cleaning I always scuff sand the wood. What's a scuff sand? It is a rough up of the wood surface with sand paper. This allows some "tooth" some grip for your paint to grab onto. Wipe after a light sand. This is just a simple scuff up of the wood, not a sand back to remove any stains or reveal raw wood.

Step three: Repair work. For simple repairs like replacing a missing spot of veneer or trim I use Dixie Belle Mud. Mud comes in three colors, White, Black and Brown. Mud can be applied with a finger or spatula. I fill in holes, or large scratches with mud. Mud can be sealed before paint with Boss or Clear Coat. This prevents it from reactivating since its a water based product. If you are replacing hardware and plan to drill new holes you can use your Mud to fill them then sand all Mud repairs back to flat. This is the time to glue and clamp any broken or loose pieces of wood.

The color of the Mud does not matter if you are painting over top of the product. If you plan on staining the wood please choose a like minded color of Mud. If you happen to have a larger area like a corner that needs rebuilding a product such as Bondo or Wood Filler should be considered for strength. Another possibility for trim replacement is to use a Woodubend trim or moulding. Woodubend is my secret trick for fixing many repairs on furniture! For a video about Woodubend and how to use it please click here.

Step four: Butta! Dixie Belle makes a wonderful salve called Big Mama's Butta. I use this salve to condition the interior of my drawers, and on any wood on wood glides. This makes drawers very easy to open and close. Enhance wood grain and revive, soften and protect leather and other surfaces with Big Mama's Butta! This unique blend of all natural Hemp Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Beeswax and Carnauba Wax is buttery, water-resistant and easy to apply! Available scented and unscented, Orange Grove and Suzanne's Garden. Scented Big Mama's Butta neutralizes odors! Both scented and unscented are great for adding extra glide to sticky drawers! Want to learn more? Click here for a video!

Step five: This is where you need to learn a bit about the type of piece your working on. What type of wood? Plastic? Red or pine? As a seasoned artist it's easy to assess. As a beginner it might be a little harder. Why do we need to do this? There are tannins in wood. Old stain and old wood bleed tannins. I love tannins in my wine, not in my wood. So what is it? Tan or brownish discoloration on the paint surface. Tannins exist in many woods, most notably cedar and redwood and can bleed through to the surface, leaving a yellowish-brown stain on the surface. These stains are more noticeable on lighter paint colors when you seal your furniture. Basically the old wood bleeds a stain through your paint and onto the surface. You usually don't even see this happen until you apply a top coat. And let me tell you it's super disappointing when this happens and you think you were done with your project! Heres a handy tip, if you are painting a light color, cream, white to tan or so - use a Boss primer to be safe. The darker colors of paint will not show a bleed as much.

Alright, now you know what it do you prevent it from happening? Boss primer is the key! It's your stain blocker! Boss comes in three colors, Clear, White and Grey. I use Clear when I plan on sanding back to show wood in a distressed manner. I use White when painting light colors, and Grey for brightly pigmented colors like Pink or Orange. In two coats, BOSS tackles tough set in stains including permanent marker, water stains, and much more. BOSS even masks smoke odors and nicotine smells. Clean first with White Lightning and then apply BOSS. Allow to dry approximately one hour. Apply a second coat of BOSS and allow to dry for one hour before painting with Dixie Belle Paint. For a video of me applying Boss please click here.

Is your furniture plastic? Super shiny or Formica? If so your paint won't stick. Trust me. If you want to paint over top of a plastic like surface you will need Slick Stick! Slick stick is your bonder for slick and shiny surfaces. I use this product on furniture that is plastic or very shiny. Slick Stick allows you to paint shiny, slick, or slippery surfaces with ease! Surfaces like PVC, glass, Formica, laminate, metal, and more are easily painted and stay painted.

Slick Stick is a problem solving product and not needed for every project.

First, clean your piece with White Lightning. Paint one coat of Slick Stick and let dry for 2-4 hours. Apply a second coat of Slick Stick and let dry overnight. I like to use a disposable foam roller to apply this product then throw it away. Slick Stick should not go down the drain. For a video of me applying Slick Stick click here.

Phew....that was a lot of information. I hope that it helps prepare you for what needs to be done before you paint. The more you know, the better you can prepare your items. Your masterpiece is can jump in and paint now!

Want to see how this piece turned out? It's a gorgeous custom blend of greens, it looks beautiful!

Thanks for joining me on this painting journey!


You can purchase your Dixie Belle Paint products here!

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