October 07, 2012

Painting Questions Answered

I get a lot of emails asking how I paint furniture, what wax I use, how to mix homemade chalk paint....the list goes on! I love answering questions and I have also met some really cool people in the process. I really want to answer every email I get but I am starting to get busy and I foresee me falling behind in replying to emails as I would like.

I asked people to submit any painting, waxing, distressing questions they may have on my facebook page and on the blog. You guys came up with some great questions so lets get started!!

I have waxing problems. It seems to remove the paint.  I have used BriWax (original & clear) & MinWax Finishing Paste Wax. I can't find what is referred to as "dark" wax. What is it? HELP!!
 I use Minwax Finishing Paste and Johnson's Paste Wax and I have never had any issues with the paint coming off. I use homemade chalk paint so this might be why the paint isn't removed when I wax (chalk paint is very durable and doesn't peel like normal latex). Make sure to apply your wax in thin layers and make sure your paint is fully cured (not just dry to the touch) when you wax!  
I've always used Minwax Finishing Paste but I noticed that sometimes it would leave a hint of orange on white furniture. I came across a blog called In My Own Style and I was introduced to Johnson's Paste Wax. It's a clear wax that won't tint the color of white or light colored paint. Plus it's half the price of Minwax.  
I use these waxes on my chalk paint but I don't leave it on for as long they suggest. I work in small sections because one time it dried fast and rough so since then I work in sections.
For example, I wax all of the drawers at once, wait a few minutes, wipe of the wax on the drawers and then start on one side of the dresser and work my way around. I usually do 2-3 coats of wax per piece of furniture.
Dark wax can be hard to find at your local hardware store but it can be bought online. Dark wax gives an aged, glazed look and gives a protective finish at the same time. If you find a local Annie Sloan retailer you can buy dark wax from them. If any of you have tips for buying dark wax locally please share!
How can you age brass hardware?
This answer was given to me by a friend...he said:
"My leather smith told me to take the brass hardware, put them in a pillow case with some gravel/rocks and slam the crap out of em against the concrete. Then soak them in Vinegar, let dry, then take some heat to them. When you start if the brass has some sort of protective coating use acetone to remove it.  For the heat on the brass use flame not a heat gun".

OR, there is always spray paint!! I would go with the spray paint....
Oil Rubbed Bronze by Rustoleum is gorgeous and it gives a great black metallic look.

Does it have to be real wood furniture to refurbish?
No, it doesn't have to be real wood but real wood is easier to paint.
Laminate, MDF, pressed board....they can all be tricky to paint but it can be done. Bonding primer will be your best friend with anything that isn't real wood. I use water based Zissner Bullseye primer. You will have to do some prep work like sanding and filling holes before you prime.
When I first starting painting furniture I was so scared I would ruin whatever I touched. I spent hours searching the web and blogs with tips. Censational Girl had some great beginner tips. I don't follow all of these now, because I have found things that I personally like better, but it's a great place to start until you find what works for you!
Here are a few examples of pieces that were not real wood but came out great. 

 Do you ever put anything besides wax on a piece (say for a dining room table)?
Another way to seal furniture is polyurethane...Water-based polyurethane that is. All poly will create a yellow tint on light colored paint (not just white) but water-based poly is less likely to yellow.
If your table top is not painted I highly suggest poly but if the table is painted white I would suggest using wax to seal the top. 
Here are a few links that may help with any other questions you have about painting and sealing a kitchen table....Wills Casa, Our Vintage Home Love, Centsational Girl.

** I have used poly but I am not a huge fan of the glossy look it leaves. I prefer wax because it is more of a matte finish and there are never any brush strokes plus wax is much faster to apply! If I use poly I prefer wipe-on poly which doesn't leave brush marks and can be applied much faster than brush on poly.

I have painted furniture, but feels rough after I am done. What have I not done right? I don’t want it to be shiny but maybe I should polyurethane it to death. Suggestions, please!!
Nobody likes to prep furniture but it's a step you shouldn't skip if you want a smooth finish. Sanding is a must but wiping off all of the dust is an even bigger must. If you aren't sure if you thoroughly wiped down everything go back with your hand and feel for any spots or dust you may have missed.
Lightly sanding between coats can lessen the chance of having rough spots. Use a high grit paper (220-300 grit sand paper) and very lightly sand that coat of paint and then use a damp cloth to wipe off the dust. Do this between each coat of paint you apply including primer. Yes,this is very time consuming but your finish will be gorgeous.
If you don't want the shiny look use wax to seal your furniture because poly can be very shiny!!
How do you deal with paint runs that you don’t catch until the paint is dry? Using chalk paint, it seems to be really bad runs that are as thick as mud and tough as glue! Any suggestions?
Paint runs are the worst but can be easy to fix. Use 220 grit sand paper and if the drip is running down then sand up (NOT side to side). Go slow and easy and it will slowly sand down. Distressing furniture makes this an easy fix because you can simply distress the area where the run is.
Take your time and pay extra attention to corners and edges because that is where runs happen the most. Another tip is not using having too much paint on your brush. It's so tempting to load the brush with paint but thinner coats are better and lessen the chance of drips!

 I have a dark dining room set that I want to paint white for my beach cottage style house.
I've never painted anything before.
Do you recommend Annie Sloan? I imagine I would need quite a bit.
I want something easy and I'm afraid of spray paint.
I have only used homemade chalk paint but if this is your first time painting something I would recommend using Annie Sloan. A quart of paint can go a long way so I would start with one quart and go from there.

Chalk paint is very, very forgiving but maybe you should practice on something small so you can get the hang of using chalk paint, sanding, distressing, and using a protective coat. If you mess up on a practice piece all you can do is learn from your mistakes.

Do you know how difficult it would be to remove waxed chalk paint if someone wanted to return to the natural wood later? Also, is a waxed surface impervious to water? I take care of a lady with Alzheimer's and both she and another lady who stays with her when I leave for a few hours tend to set things on the furniture that are sometimes wet.
It wouldn't be hard to remove paint that was sealed with wax but it can be time consuming and messy. You could either strip or sand if you wanted to return to the natural wood. I tell my clients that even though the furniture is protected you should still be careful with the surface and use coasters. 
I painted my coffee table with chalk paint and sealed with two coats of wax. It has been colored on by my three year old, has had drinks left on it without coasters and has had numerous crusty things left on it. Did I mention I have a three year old?! There have been a few water rings but I use a colorox wipe on them and come right off. However, I can't guarantee the same for your piece of furniture but I persoanlly haven't had any problems!

 I want to paint my kitchen cabinets with your
chalk paint formula. Do you think it is durable
enough for this? If so, what wax or top coat would you sugest?

I haven't painted cabinets yet (we are planning on painting ours in the next couple months) so I can't answer your question completely but I will do my best.
If you do use my chalk paint recipe make sure you are wanting to distress your cabninets. My homemade chalk paint recipe (as most homemade recipes) leaves a gritty texture and you need to sand the paint to get the smooth chalky finish. You don't have to distess with chalk paint but it is easy to do because of the texture/finish it leaves.
Here are a few links that might be able to answer your questions about painting your cabinets:
In My Own Style, bella-tucker, Vintage Restyled
Some of the recipes may be different but the more resources you have the better!
I too would like to know if poly/varnish etc. can be applied over wax. I would also like to know if you approach a piece of furniture differently in color choices or experimenting if you think you will keep it for yourself?
It is not recommended that you use poly over wax plus I don't think it would adhere that well. I'm not an expert on this so if anyone knows otherwise please let me know!
Most of the stuff I paint and post this blog is either a custom piece for a client or something I picked up and will list for sale.  
When I first started painting and selling pieces I tried to do something a little different each time. I tired to have the finished project be something that I would want to look at 24/7 in case it didn't sell.
This piece was super distressed and I don't know if I could keep this in my home today because it's just not me but it was a great piece to try something new. Thankfully, this dresser sold!
A lot of people wait for a piece to "speak to them". I don't really work that way....I usually jump in head first and try not to look back. If that fails I ask my husband for his opinion. I don't always agree with what he suggests but it does help me think outside of the box and try things I normally wouldn't.
I have only done a few pieces for our house and they were all very white, and gray and blah. My husband suggested I should paint something yellow and I thought he was nuts. We went to Lowe's later that day and found an opps paint for $5 that just happend to be yellow.
This table is in our living room and adds a great pop of color.


I have a question about spray painting. I like to use spray paint for small items such as mirror frames. The problem is that sometimes the paint will wrinkle up during the second coat. The funny thing is, it won't always happen. Like I will be spraying something and the paint will wrinkle, and then I will pick up the next item (same environment, same paint can, same everything) and it won't wrinkle! What is up with that?

How can I make spray painting easier and more professional looking?
Girl, I have one paint enemy and it's name is spray paint. I know exactly what you mean when you say the paint wrinkles....and this is one of the reasons it is my enemy! I have read all of the tips, tried all of the tips, and failed miserably. To be honest, I think I am too impatient to use spray paint.
I will say that I think the quality of spray paint makes a difference. When I used the Valspar spray paint (the one that was about $3) and I noticed it wouldn't work as well. I started using Rustoleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint (the one that is about $7 a can) and I love it. I only use it for hardware but it works great.
Since I really can't answer your question the way I would like to I have included a great link that might be able to help! All Things Thrifty, Classy Clutter, BHG
What do you do to the inside of the drawers? Do you paint them as well?
I don't paint the inside of the drawers but I do sometimes line them with fabric. I only line them if they aren't very pretty or have old pen or scuff marks on the inside. If the drawers are in good shape I just wipe them out with a damp cloth and clean them up a little.
I want to know how do you remove the veneer on top of the dresser before repainting a dresser? 
Removing veneer sounds scary but it's easier than you think. I did a blog post on removing veneer  and it gives you great step by step tips.
I hope I answered all of the questions and I hope my answers helped.
I am working on a Chalk Paint 101 post that I hope to have up soon.  
When I started painting furniture I made a lot of mistakes. There were drips, uneven coats of paint, the back of a leg forgot to get painted....you get the idea.
I am still learning new things but that is the fun part. I truly believe in jumping in and just doing. Don't over think it, don't over analyze it, just roll up your sleeves and get to work. People are afraid they will mess up a piece of furniture. You really can't mess it up....that's why they have paint stripper and sand paper. Whatever you do can be undone so go make some ugly furniture pretty!
Linking up to:




  1. Wow. Thanks so much for all of this advice. Your work is just gorgeous.


  2. Hello,

    I wanted to talk about your comment on Johnson's paste wax wiping the finish away. That has happened to me as well.....but only when it was spray painted or did not have 2 solid coats of paint on it.

    I spray paint furniture daily for my business. I love Valspar spray paint the best. Do not use cheap stuff! You get what you pay for. Their cans are easy to use. I think that these couple of ideas would make it easier for most people to spray paint. People want to hold it to close and stay to long in one place. I always use satin finish. Shake, shake and shake the can. When it says hold 12 inches away, I think at least that far. Keep moving, moving. Recoat after 15 minutes. I always finish with paste wax. I personally have done our family kitchen set this way. It has looked great for 3 years of solid use. Oh and I have 3 rough 7 year old children.


  3. Great tips! Thanks for including us. It's insanely appreciated!

  4. Lots of great info in this post.


  5. I'm going to have to print all your so very helpful tips. I've done some re-habbing on pieces but not as successful as I'd hoped. Think I'm not sanding enough or using correct type of paint. Hate sanding but know I Have to. Maybe I can get hubs to do some of it. If it doesn't meet his standards he'll kinda take over and do it.
    I'm a new subscriber and had a good time looking at all on your blog. Really enjoyed.

  6. What a great tip on the veneer removal! Thanks for sharing!

  7. So much great information! Thanks so much!

    Linda at The French Hens Nest

  8. I unfortunately did not know the Minwax Paste would yellow my newly chalk painted white dresser. So unhappy! Now it just looks so yellow and awful. What are my options with it? Any quick fixes? If I sand it and start from scratch I have to repaint and distress and wax all over again correct? What a mess.

    1. I had the same result. I was beyond mad because it looked fine before I sealed it. I had some success using a fine and medium sanding block but someone suggested steel wool. Have not tried it. I am too angry.

  9. This is great! Thanks so much for the Q & A.

  10. Question!

    I have just used Minwax Finishiing Paste (2-3 coats) on my daughters bed. I have been told to let is sit for almost a month and I'm not sure what the verdict is on when I can use it. Honestly, I really need it! What is the earliest you can use furniture after the paste has been applied?

  11. I couldn't find johnson's wax so I used trewax soft paste wax. I have used it successfully in the past but on my lower kitchen cabinets, navy blue, I am finding milky white streaks or spots daily. It looks like maybe something splattered milk but I know this isn't the case. The first day after painting and waxing I noticed it but wiped it with a clean damp rag followed by a quick buffing with the wax rag. The next day I found more in splatters in other areas so it isn't coming from underneath. The kitchen is a mess and almost uninhabitable as I have been painting cabinets all week. For this reason, I know it is quite possible these milky spots could be splatters from wiped up spills. I don't believe the spills were just left unwiped as there is no food/drink but just a milky white haze. I know I can't always clean and buff every little spot at all times and need a remedy. I don't know if it is because I didn't buff enough, too much/too little wax. Or just need to figure out how to remove wax and poly. Uggh...please help. I have so much time invested and love the colors in the kitchen and the feel of the chalk paint but not loving the upkeep.

  12. Not sure why my comment is signing is as my daughter's profile. I am so computer illiterate. If you respond, could you send it to kahlanne@msn.com or I fear I won't get it.

  13. We have 19 rural style heavy metal mailboxes in our condominium complex. Last year we had them painted. The painter used Rustoleum spray enamel. The manufacturer used baked on enamel at the factory. We have 1 new one and 18 repainted ones.

    The new one stays perfectly clean over time, but the repainted ones attract heavy dirt. WHY? is there a coating that can retard the dirt accumulation?

  14. Hi - great post. I may do a "readers questions" post as well - great idea. I have a dark wax product to suggest...it's by Liberon. I usually have only used it for my Venetian Plaster walls, but it works on furniture as well. Better to have a clear on first though. This way yiu won't get dark patches.

    Linda Leyble

  15. Wiping poly is just 50% poly, 50% mineral spirits. Don't waste your money on the premade stuff.

  16. Wiping poly is just 50% poly, 50% mineral spirits. Don't waste your money on the premade stuff.

  17. Thanks for sharing. I love the reflection photo! Your words and photos just made anxious, laundry list making me smile.
    Flush door Manufacturer in India, Veneer Manufacturer in India

  18. Ace hardware in Southern California carries the brand Briwax. They carry 4 different shades of Briwax including clear and the dark wax.

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  20. Excellent answers, Helen! It all comes down to the brand, class, and application. The stroke and the technique are equally as important as the kind of paint used. For me, it’s best to try and experiment with different colors and brands, and try various applications. Gives you a wider spectrum of choices to look into!

    Richmond Gordon @ CertaPro Painters

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  24. I get a lot of emails asking how I paint furniture, what wax I use, how to mix ... imetaldiningchairs.blogspot.com

  25. It's a clear wax that won't tint the color of white or light colored paint. ... itallwhite.blogspot.com

  26. Thank you for the information on Minwax vs SC Johnson Paste Wax. I almost waxed a white piece with Minwax. I will be linking your blog to my post. Thanks again!

  27. Hello,

    Great post. Thank you for really useful tips .We just painted our table and chairs and did so when it was a little too warm. Although we did 3 light coats, it seems to have dried “rough”. We wanted a smooth finish and are not sure what to do in order to fix the obvious paint strokes. Sanding it didn’t seem to help much. What can we do?!


  28. i like your post thanks for all this ideas because that help me
    wicker furniture

  29. I love reading such type of blogs that impart great knowledge to people. This one is really like that.

  30. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that i have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. used office cubicles ft lauderdale

  31. Hi, I cannot find any site to answer my question. Can I use paste wax or anything to give my 2 year old bedroom dresser more shine? I let saleswoman talk me into buying new fine expensive distressed furniture. I found out once delivered, I wish I had not bought,after waiting 23 years to buy, because it does not have very much shine on dresser.
    Please help. Thanks so much.

    1. My story exactly - everything is the same story as if I wrote it. I feel so stupid for letting someone talk me into it!! Please help find help.

    2. My story exactly - everything is the same story as if I wrote it. I feel so stupid for letting someone talk me into it!! Please help find help.

    3. I am rewriting my reply. I, too, did exactly the same as Sarah. After 20 something years, I allowed a salesperson to talk me into fine expensive distressed furniture. Now, I regret it.
      Please if someone knows what to do to make it shine more.
      I am sick over it. I feel so stupid and so disappointed. Anyone, please help,anything.

    4. I am rewriting my reply. I, too, did exactly the same as Sarah. After 20 something years, I allowed a salesperson to talk me into fine expensive distressed furniture. Now, I regret it.
      Please if someone knows what to do to make it shine more.
      I am sick over it. I feel so stupid and so disappointed. Anyone, please help,anything.

  32. Wow! Such beautiful photos. Since we've arrived in Calgary I've appreciated the tips and suggestions that I've found on your blog. Thanks! check my blog

  33. شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض وجدة والقصيم
    تلجا الكثير من السيدات من فترات الى اخر الى القيام باعمال التجديد للمنزل من خلال تغير قطع من الاثاث حتى يظهر المنزل بابهى صورة لة واحسن ما ترى ، ولكن يكن هناك مشكلة تظهر فى المكان وهى التعرض الى قطع العفش المستعملة التى اصبح لا فائدة لة ، فشركة المستقبل افضل الشركات التى تعمل على
    شراء اثاث مستعمل
    بقطع اخرى جديدة كما تريد ان تختارة فى مقابل اسعار مميزة ترضى عملائنا الكرام . تعمل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض على شراء كل انواع الاثاث المتواجد فى المكان من غرف النوم – السفرة – النيش – الكراسى – الدواليب ...من القطع الاثاث وبالاضافة الى المفروشات ايضا من الممكن ان يتم استبدالة من السجاد والمجالس والستائر و... والاجهزة الكهربائية من الشفاطات والتليفزيونات والغسالات ...فى مقابل افضل القطع التى يطلبة بانسب الاسعار وبالاضافة الى اننا نتحمل الانتقال من خلال السيارات الخاصة بالشركة الى المكان المراد الانتقال الية ، فكل ما عليك هو الاتصال بنا لشراء الاثاث وكل ما تستغنى عنة واسعارنا ستكون فى مرضية للطرفين . لا تقتصر شركة المستقبل على القيام باعمال الشراء فقط بل تهتم الشركة بخدمات البيع فنحن متخصصين فى جميع انواع الاثاث المستعمل فى مقابل افضل الاسعار الممكنة ، تقوم الشركة بشراء اى قطعة من الاثاث الكثيرة والمتعددة والمختلفة فى الحجم مهما
    شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض
    كانت حالتة فيتم تقييم الاسعار فى مقابل جودتة ونوع المادة المصنوع منها الاثاث وقدرتة على التحمل ومن الممكن ان تصلح للاستخدام مرة اخرى ام لا ، فكلما ارتفعت قيمة قطعة الاثاث كلما ارتفعت الاسعار ، نحن نقدم الخدمات الحصرية التى توفر كل ما تريدة مخصصة للاثاث المستعمل نتعامل بمصداقية وبمنتهى الشفافية فاسعار الشركة لا نتغالى ولا يوجد مثيل لة فى الاسواق عن الاسعار السائدة المتواجدة الان .
    محلات شراء الاثاث المستعمل
    لماذا شركة المستقبل فى شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض ؟ لسنا الوحيدون المتواجدون فى الاسواق ، لكن شركة المستقبل تهتم بمجال البيع والشراء مع تقديم افضل الاسعار وارخصها والعمل على استيراد التحف والاثاث الراقى الذى يتناسب مع جميع الاذواق والتى تتناسب مع ديكورات الفلل والمنازل والشركات والفنادق .
    شراء اثاث مستعمل جدة
    تهتم الشركة بالاسعار الحقيقية التى تقدمة لكم دون ان يتم خصم اسعار المصاريف للشحن والنقل و مصاريف التغليف والعمالة المراد القيام بهذه المهمة ، فشركة المستقبل على اتم استعدلد للقيام باعمال الشراء لاى قطعة من الاثاث والوصول الى اى مكان فى الرياض وخارج الرياض من اجل ان يتم التخلص من الفوضى من شان الاثاث المستعمل . لا تكتفى شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بجدة باعمال الشراء فقط بل تقوم باعمال البيع للاثاث نظرا لان هناك مقارنة كبيرة فى الاسعار وتهتم بتقديم خدمات مميزة فى اعمال البيع لا تستطيع ان يتم تفريقة عن القطع الجديدة .

  34. I have found that if I want a piece to have a waterproof top on it then I go ahead and put urethane over the top of the paint and then I lightly sand them with a high grit (300-440) sandpaper and then I wax over that! Waterproof AND a great antique look all in one!