Monday, July 16, 2012

Sanding and Priming and Painting, Oh My!

Sorry about not writing sooner. This project has taken quite a bit of time so far and I've only finished 4 chairs. Plus, with a poorly baby who screams all during the night and then gives his mother his stuffed-up nose, headache, and fever, I haven't felt like doing much more than lying in bed and feeling sorry for the both of us. You can feel sorry for us too, if you want.

While I did get my instructions for painting the chairs from this YHL tutorial, I will quickly go through the steps I followed and the materials I used, because - what with being in another country and all - it's worth citing a few of the differences that cropped up.

Step One: Sanding. I grabbed a washable sanding block that had 2 sides of 60-grit and 2 sides of 100-grit. You only need to rough up the chair a little so that the primer has something to stick to, but you do want to make sure you get as much of the surface area as possible. Sometimes, with chairs like mine, this does involve a bit of sanding that doesn't follow the grain of the wood, but that's okay. Also, it's good to know what sort of finish, if any, the furniture has first. My chairs - like the farmhouse table and the dresser - are unfinished, so that made my life that much easier. Wipe the sanded chairs down with a dusting cloth. Oh! And make sure you get the chairs completely clean and dusted. Otherwise, any leftover dirt or dust can get in the primer and stain it. Then, you have to add more coats of primer, and worry about it staining the paint, or coming through when you put a top coat's just more hassle than it's worth not to be thorough with that part.

Step Two: get a good space to paint. We have a very small flat, so I unfurled a bin liner and set my chairs on the table. I could still have the living room windows open to ventilate the space, and it was actually quite nice for my abused back that spends so much time bent over walking and picking up my hefty little boy to have the chairs so high. I didn't feel like a hunchback during the whole painting process, which helped, I'm sure.

Step Three: get to priming. This is important: use thin coats. I'll say it again in my internet yelling voice: USE THIN COATS! Thin coats are brilliant because while they may seem to take more time because you have to apply more coats of paint or primer than otherwise to get good coverage, thin coats reduce brush lines, don't drip and gloop, and dry faster than sloppy thick coats of primer. With these chairs, I used 2 coats of primer. With the chairs I painted on Sunday, 3 coats were the order of the day thanks to a slight bit of staining.

Another point: I know that the YHL instructions mention getting an oil-based primer for better stain-blocking. If you're in the UK like we are, this isn't really a readily-available option. I checked the primer aisle of B&Q for 10 minutes with Ethan slobbering on the handle of the shopping trolley and everything was water-based. So I forgot about it and just used the primer I had at home from my last furniture refinishing project...that stuff was water-based anyway. And to be honest, if you're really good about getting the piece you're painting clean, it doesn't make much of a difference.

Step Four: start painting! This step was the most fun for me. The Husband was sitting at the computer desk with Ethan while I did this, and he kept smiling at me when I told him, "I'm just so impatient to see the colour on them!" But be patient. It's always best to follow the instructions on your cans when it comes to drying time between coats. Again: thin coats are the key. And let me just say, that Tea Cosy colour from Valspar looks amazing on the chairs! We're both really pleased at how this project is turning out. Just wait until I can get a picture of all the chairs painted and sitting round the table. We can all bask in the awesomeness together.

Step Five: top coat. YHL suggest a water-based polyurethane top coat for durability and easy clean-up. What B&Q had available to me was labelled as a clear, quick-dry, water-based varnish. With two wafer thin coats(spot the Monty Python reference!), this stuff worked a treat. Because chairs have far less surface area than walls (yes, obviously), I only got three tester pots of my Valspar paint rather than a huge 1 or 2.5 litre bucket. Only catch? The tester pots from B&Q are always matt finish. Adding the clear varnish on top of that adds just the right amount of shine and really sets off the colour of the chairs brilliantly. But especially with this step, make sure you do use those wafer thin coats when you're painting the varnish on. Nothing makes the chair look more like amateur hour on HGTV than having cloudy gloops and drips of varnish pooling at the joins of your furniture, or in the grooves of some of the decorative carving. Also, go slowly so you don't have awkward little bubbles in the varnish either.

I took this last picture just to show that when you're in the midst of the colour-picking process the paint chips from the store really do offer the best approximation of the colour you're getting. Don't get me wrong, I love using Teh Interwebz to shop just as much as the next gal, but sometimes making the slog out to the store is the best option. In our case, it gives you an excuse to get out of the house and play with all the fun things in the home improvements store...which is never a bad idea. Enjoy your own painting adventures!


  1. Hi, I am following your tutorial and have just spent AGES sanding and cleaning six chairs! After two coats of primer though, the original patchy stain is still showing through. After a year of using these, was the water-based primer enough? Is your colour coat still solid looking?



    1. Hi Helena! Glad you're finding the tutorial useful! I know what you mean about it taking ages, but yeah: a year on, the chairs still look just as good. Those 2 coats of the water-based primer have held up just fine so far, so don't feel too worried. Good luck; hope it turns out lovely!