Weekend Project

The hardware guys give new life to old furniture

If you’ve ever been to a garage sale, then you know the score – there’s always a piece of furniture that looks like it was beautiful it its day, but that time is long gone.

“If it’s not in great shape, you don’t want to re-stain the piece of furniture because it isn’t worth your time or money,” Mike Frentz says.

But if the piece really speaks to you, there is something you can do – paint it.

It’s inexpensive and easy to do, and you could end up with a really nice accent piece.

Let’s say you’ve picked up an old end table with great lines, but a worn finish for a few bucks. A few coats of paint will give the table a new life. Whether it is painted or stained and varnished makes no difference – you’ll want to follow the same procedure, Mike says.

Here’s what you’ll need before you get started:

TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)

Medium sandpaper

BIN Primer sealer

Disposable gloves

Denatured alcohol

Inexpensive pure bristle brushes

Paint, acrylic latex-based

4-aught (0000) steel wool

tack cloth

MinWax® Clear Polyurethane

Now that you’ve got all your materials together, it’s time to do is prepare surface.


“Wash the surface really well using some TSP mixed with water,” Mike says. “A sponge will work fine, but a scrub brush will remove more of the grime and get into the grooves and crevices better.”

Now let the table dry really well – even overnight would be fine.

Now use the medium grain sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges where the table is chipped, gouged or paint is flaking. “TSP will usually get rid of any loose paint, but going over the piece with sand paper will get any remaining flakes and smooth it out.”

Next you’ll want to prime the table for painting. The best product for this is called BIN. It is an alcohol-based primer/sealer that seals the old stain or paint already on the surface so that it doesn’t bleed through. The primer also helps the finish coat adhere to the surface.

Put on your disposable gloves and use the pure bristle brush (BIN will melt a foam brush) to apply an even coat on the table’s surfaces.

“This stuff smells awful, so make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area,” Mike says. “It also dries fast and won’t look like it covered the piece very well. Even though it’s a blotchy white, it’s okay.”

Again, let the table sit until the primer has completely dried (one hour) and then you’ll be ready to start painting.

When it comes to choosing paint, the color is up to you, but Mike recommends using an acrylic enamel, especially if the piece you are painting is going to be used a lot around the house.

“The acrylic enamel will give it a really nice finish that’s also durable and can withstand a lot of wear.”

You’re going to want to buy enough paint to apply at least two coats, preferably three for a really durable finish.

Apply the first coat of paint and let the piece dry for at least 8 hours. “The drying time between coats is really important,” Mike says. “If you don’t let it dry long enough, your next coat won’t go on smoothly.”

After the piece is dry, use 4-aught steel wool or 3M Scotch Brite® and lightly rub the entire surface of the piece to get rid of any roughness or little particles in the paint. If you don’t want to use real steel wool, you can use synthetic steel wool which is more durable. “It won’t fall apart in your hands or leave any little steel particles on your furniture.”

Once you’ve smoothed out the surface, use a tack cloth to pick up any remaining dust or particles.

Then apply your second coat of paint which will come out super smooth, Mike says -- almost like a glazed enamel surface. Let this coat dry for at least 8 hours.

If you want to apply a third coat of paint, which Mike recommends for durability, then rub the surface with the wool again, wipe down with the tack cloth and then paint and let dry.

Either way, once you’ve applied your final coat, let the paint dry, but then make sure you don’t rub it down with the wool again.

Once your final coat is dry, it’s a good idea to apply a clear finish to add durability. Mike recommends MinWax® Clear Acrylic Polyurethane for a final coat. “It adds durability and protect the piece from water damage or other wear and tear.”