Read this before you paint "unfinished" IKEA furniture or previously stained pieces! That clear coat makes painting over polyurethane or varnish impossible unless you follow these three simple tips!
There's nothing worse than putting hours of effort into painting a newly acquired piece of furniture, only to have it scratch and peel off at the slightest touch! With some prep work and these simple tips, you can successfully paint over polyurethane or other finished wood and give your furniture or trim a whole new look!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Refinishing old furniture is a great way to keep it out of the landfill and give it new life. But it can take a lot of work to make it look great again! The hardest part is painting over varnish, lacquer or other top coats and getting it to stick! Trust me, I've been there!
I recently bought what I thought were unfinished IKEA Trofast drawer units for my son's IKEA Lego table. Little did I know, but they had a clear coat of varnish over the raw wood! I didn't realize it until I had applied the first coat of paint, which scratched off under my fingernail easily.
So frustrating! The only way to fix it was to sand off all the paint and try again (or if you're lazy like me, just buy a new one!) With the right preparation, the paint turned out beautifully!
Another problem that can arise when painting over varnished wood is that the tannins can still bleed through, leaving you with a blotchy finish. Oak is the biggest culprit, and can make white paint turn orange over time!
When I painted my ugly melamine cabinets with oak trim, I found that the grab bars and side panels weren't as crisp white as the rest of the doors. It took a coat of the right primer to block the tannins from bleeding through.
Want to learn my tricks? Here's how to successfully paint over polyurethane or other finished wood!
I know, I know, no one likes to sand! It's one of my least favorite tasks in any DIY project. But the easiest way to remove that shiny top coat of lacquer or varnish is to rough it up with some sandpaper.
Sanding is especially important if you plan to stain the wood a different color instead of painting it. The stain can't be absorbed into the wood if there's a layer of protective coating on it!
When I refinished my dining table, I used progressively finer grits of sandpaper to restore the wood to a smooth finish. With just a few passes of the sander, all that yellowed varnish was removed (along with scratches, dents and gunk)!
But how do you sand curved pieces or intricate details? Try these contour sanding grips for things like spindles or round table legs.
So you want to paint furniture without sanding? Then you need this stuff! Deglosser is basically liquid sandpaper. It's great for all those nooks and crannies or intricate details, or if you have a large piece that would take forever to sand.
It's always a good idea to test the deglosser on an inconspicuous area of your project first to make sure it doesn't ruin the wood. To apply, just saturate a lint-free rag with the solution and wipe it over the surface. Let it dry, then you're ready to paint! You don't even have to rinse off the deglosser first! Bonus!
When I painted my melamine cabinets, I used the deglosser in the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit to clean and rough up the surface for painting. I was worried that the paint wouldn't adhere to the slick plastic laminate, but it worked like a charm! After two years, it still looks great!
My final tip for painting varnished wood is to use a high quality bonding primer first. Not only will it ensure that your paint will stick, but it will take less coats to get full coverage! I've used two types of bonding primer for different situations.
Zinsser B-I-N primer is a shellac based primer that will stop tannin bleed in its tracks! It requires mineral spirits to clean up, so be sure to keep some on hand for any potential spills or drips. This is what I used on the oak sections of my kitchen cabinets.
The other primer I recommend is INSL-X Stix bonding primer. This stuff will stick to anything, including tile! It's what I used when I painted my tile floor and the IKEA Trofast drawer units, and it's held up amazingly well!
For the best finish, give the primer a quick sanding with 220 grit sandpaper and clean off the dust with a tack cloth before starting to paint. This will remove any brush strokes and give you the flawless look you want!
Now that you know how to paint over polyurethane and other clear top coat finishes, you can tackle that piece of furniture that's been sitting in the garage for ages! 😉
Want more DIY tips like this one? Keep up to date with my latest posts about DIY projects, woodworking and more by following me on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. You can also sign up for my email list below and get the latest post delivered to your inbox, plus exclusive access to my woodworking plans library!
Want more DIY projects?
Subscribe to get project ideas, home improvement tips, woodworking plans and more delivered straight to your inbox!