Do you like painting furniture, but hate sanding? I love painting thrifted furniture to save it from the landfill, but I despise sanding! It’s messy, tiring, and just annoying. But what if you could paint wood furniture without sanding?? Let’s learn different ways to update with paint but having to sand.
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I never really knew painting furniture without sanding was a possibility until I discovered chalk paint a few years ago. As I got more into refinishing furniture, I also discovered that paint was my favorite way to update it! Let’s look at how I upcycled these nightstands from the thrift store as an example.
How To Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding
The first question my husband asked when I told him my plan was can you paint without sanding the furniture?
The short answer: YES! The long answer is more complicated because it involves many different methods and steps to complete the process.
I found these night stands at one of my favorite thrift stores for $6.99 each. Are you kidding me? Less than $15 for some solid wood furniture pieces? Yes please! My husband asked me why, but I knew I could transform them.
Can You Paint Over Varnished Wood Without Sanding?
The next question most asked question asked was whether you can paint over varnished wood. The nightstands had a glossy finish on the top and I was able to paint over them no problem.
Can you paint over a glossy finish or varnish? YES!
The secret is I used a paint meant for cabinets with oil-enriched enamel in the paint called Valspar Cabinet and Furniture Paint.
They say that this product requires little to no prep and doesn’t require a top coat either. The finish is smooth and durable even when applied with a brush, reducing brush strokes. This cabinet and furniture paint from valspar is also scratch and scuff resistant, unlikely to fade, and resists stains.
The best part is it is able to be tinted and available in quart size cans from the hardware store. I had mine tinted to Anew Gray by Sherwin Williams.
Things to note about using this paint product is that it takes longer to dry and fully cure in between coats. It is also a thinner consistency and may require more coats.
Step-By-Step: Painting Wood Furniture Without Sanding
Here are the steps for painting without sanding furniture:
Step 1-Locate A Worthy Opponent
First thing to do is to locate a good piece of furniture. When looking, keep on eye out for pieces that are made with solid wood because that means sturdiness, and will fit your needs.
Next, look for furniture that has a good shape and lines, but may have imperfections on the surface. Don’t be deterred by scratches, dents, or even a bad paint job because the paint can be stripped.
When I found these nightstands, I knew that they were made of solid wood construction, cheap, and it was a matching set which is something I desired for the nightstands in my bedroom. Ever since I have been married, we never had matching nightstands.
My husband didn’t know it yet, but we were about to have new (to us) matching nightstands.
It is very important to thoroughly clean your furniture before you start priming or painting. I like to use hot water, soap and a sponge to really get a deep clean. Sometimes you need to clean it a couple of times to get all of the dirt and grime off.
You don’t know where a secondhand piece has been so you always want to clean it well first. Sometimes all it takes is a little elbow grease and hot water + soap, other times it is filthy and a degreaser is recommended. TSP and Krud Kutter are good degreasers that I recommend.
Make sure to remove any hardware too before cleaning (knobs, pulls, hinges, etc). If keeping the hardware, bar keepers friend is a great way to refresh old hardware and make it really shine.
Step 3-Repair Any Dings Or Scratches
The top of the nightstands had this in lay groove that I wanted to remove and the easiest way to do that was wood filler. Now, I know what you are thinking, wood filler = sanding. Yes, but only on the few areas I needed to repair or level out to prepare for paint.
I filled in the dings and scratches and the groove at the top in with wood filler. After that was dry, I sanded only as much as was necessary to smooth out the surface of the wood furniture. Then I cleaned those off so we still had a clean furniture piece before the next step.
Step 4-Make Any Modifications
My nightstands had some chunky, squatty legs that I didn’t really like. I loved the shape of them, but the chunky bottom just dated the entire piece. Antique and Vintage are two words in my love language, but those are very different from a “dated” furniture piece.
A key element of design in any style is to mix the modern and vintage. I am doing that here by replacing the trim along the bottom with trim that has clean lines and adding some different legs.
These wooden legs from Lowe’s also made them the perfect height for either side of my bed.
Step 5-Start Painting
The next step in painting wood furniture without sanding is to finally start painting! The beauty of this paint is just like painting with chalk paint, there is very little prep involved. This paint is designed to go on glossy or varnished furniture. There is no sanding required.
It also has enamel in the formulation so the final result is very durable and minimizes brush strokes. I painted most of the wooden nightstands with a foam roller, but used my favorite wooster brush in the nooks and crannies.
Step 6-Add Hardware
I knew I wanted to change the hardware, but keep the style similar to original hardware. They originally came with these drop bail drawer pulls for the two bottom drawers. For the top drawer, I picked a dainty, but also brass knobs that complimented the other hardware.
The other reason I changed the hardware is because these poor girls were a little rough looking and only had a couple pieces of their jewelry. Hardware is like the furniture’s jewelry. Don’t skip it!
FAQ About Painting Wood Furniture Without Sanding
Here are some frequently asked questions about wood furniture without sanding:
Can You Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding?
I do have a post that explores priming without sanding laminate furniture. Basically, it tests the different results of priming and sanding vs no priming and sanding laminate furniture before painting. For the best results, you should sand (or degloss in some way), prime, and then apply two coats of paint.
Can Veneer Be Painted Over Without Sanding?
Veneer is a thin piece of wood that is laid on lots of vintage furniture you might find at grandma’s house or a thrift store. If it is in good condition, it can be painted with the same valspar paint or a chalk paint.
The veneer is super thin so be careful if you have to repair it with wood filler and need to sand smooth. You don’t want to sand through the veneer, so use a high grit like 220 or 300 grit.
What Type Of Paint Do I Use For Painting Without Sanding?
I recommend using the Valspar Cabinet and Furniture Paint. I haven’t used it on anything other than these nightstands and a wood shelf in my bathroom, but I imagine it would work just the same.
Other methods for painting wood furniture without sanding:
Chalk Paint is another option, and requires the same prep as the Cabinet and Furniture paint. It does require a top coat.
Latex paint which is what most of us have on hand at home is ok to use too. Just use a deglosser and then a coat of primer before painting. Liquid Sandpaper is a great deglosser that works really well.
Mineral Paint is another option for paint without sanding the furniture. It is similar to chalk paint, but a more expensive choice. It does require a top coat.
Milk Paint is also an option. You’ll need to use a bonding agent to make it stick really well. I would still degloss the furniture before use. Milk paint also comes in a powder form to mix with water making it a water based paint. This requires several thin coats and a top coat is recommended.
I think the valspar paint is the quickest option for my project especially since it was small. I haven’t tried it on larger furniture pieces or cabinets, but I will at some point in the future and can update then on how it performs.
How To Avoid Brush Strokes
The valspar paint has enamel in the finish which I think acts as a self leveler and helps fill in the grooves you might see with a paint brush. One way to avoid brush strokes is to use a foam roller and only a brush when necessary.
Having the right tools matters as well. I always use these little angled wooster brushes in my painting projects. Painting in long, steady strokes and no back brushing can help with a smooth finish.
If there are any bumps or grooves that show up in between coats, you can lightly sand with a fine high grit sandpaper before applying another coat.
There are definitely ways to paint wood furniture without sanding. We talked about many ways, but my example with my nightstands for my bedroom used a paint by Valspar called Cabinet and Furniture Paint.
It has new technology that makes it super durable and has little to no prep or post work needed after painting. I hope this tutorial was helpful and feel free to leave comments with any questions!