How to Paint Furniture without sanding

It’s done! It’s finally done! I now own the kitchen hutch of my dreams. I’ve been wanting, craving, a hutch for years, and now I own it. I’m beyond pleased with how it turned out.

I bought this beauty at a garage sale last Saturday for $50. It’s large. Very, very large. It’s just shy of five feet wide and almost seven feet tall. The whole thing is wood except for the back panel which is a laminate panel.

Before:

After:

I did some serious research in preparation to paint this hutch. The most useful site that I found was Centsational Girl. The woman is a genius, has painted tons of things, and is so clear in her instructions. I am so glad I found her site because it’s just plain great.

One of the big reasons for the research was because I was not going to sand the entire thing down to the wood. I read lots and lots and went with a method that involved very little sanding. Painting furniture without sanding is the way to go!

Most of the big-time furniture painters are very specific on brands and types of primer/paint conditioner/polyurethane that they use. Lots of the women paint and then sell furniture in shops, so they do it for a living. I went with what the experts said.

How to paint furniture without sanding (including laminate)
What you will need:

Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer
Floetrol paint conditioner
paint thinner
Elmer’s wood filler
good quality two-inch angled brush (mine is a Purdy brush)
fine-grit sanding block, medium-grit sanding block, coarse-grit sanding block
paint of your choice
Minwax water-based Polycrylic (Varathane water-based polyurethane was also an acceptable choice)
screw driver
tack cloth or lint free rag for wiping and dusting

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 Prep the furniture
Remove all of the doors and hardware using a screwdriver. I decided that I didn’t want the doors on top at all, so I removed them and then used a Sawzall to cut the two vertical boards that the doors were attached to. I pulled out the boards but was left with holes where the boards were and where the hinges were screwed in. I followed the directions on the Elmer’s wood-filler to patch the holes and then sanded them smooth. If you are planning on changing the hardware you made need to patch the old hardware holes too. The wood filler is also great to fix large scratches and dings.

Light sanding
Use the medium-grit sanding block to rough up all surfaces you are going to paint. I didn’t paint inside of the cabinet bottoms; it’s a personal preference. You aren’t really sanding, you are just lightly scratching the surface to give the primer a better finish to adhere to. I just quickly went over the entire piece, which only took me 15 minutes. Remove all of the dust completely before moving on.

Prime
Using Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer is the key here. It’s the only primer any of the big-timers use and I have to second that it worked great. It’s the key for painting without sanding and for painting laminate furniture. At around $20 for the gallon, it’s well worth the time you save on sanding. It is oil-based, so you will need paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean your brush. And be warned – this stuff is not low-VOC. Holy stink; I had all of the windows and door open as well as a fan blowing air out the window. I opted for two coats of primer because two is better than one in this case.

Paint
Even though the primer is oil-based, you can use whatever paint you want. Most people suggested using an acrylic water-based paint. I had lots of white paint left over from painting the ceilings of our remodel, so I used that. The sheen of the paint doesn’t really matter because you are going to cover it anyhow. I added the Floetrol paint conditioner to the paint which is meant to help reduce brush marks. Just follow the instructions on the bottle. Again, I did two coats of paint. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours before moving on to the polyurethane.

Distress
If you are going for the shabby chic/vintage look then you can distress the paint. If you like it without, then skip this step. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to distress this piece or not. It was my first big painting project. I had my fair share of paint drips and brush strokes regardless of the care I took to prevent them, so I decided that distressing was a good option for me. It was painful at first to scratch up my freshly painted piece, but in the end I’m glad that I did it. I like the look, but it also will make using it easier. I don’t want to worry about a little wear and tear from the babies. Now the first scratch will blend in.

Use the coarse sandpaper block to go over the edges, and then follow up with the medium-grit sandpaper. The coarse cut though my 4 layers well and the medium fanned out the scratch lightly to make it look more real. This step was really fun once I made the plunge.

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Polyurethane
This is the protective top-coat that you don’t want to skip. This will prevent more of your paint from scratching off and really makes the piece last. Minwax and Varathane were the two main brands big-timers use. There are a few types, including a wipe on paste, that people like. Everyone seems to agree on one point though, do not use an oil based top-coat. The oil-based (and off-brands) will yellow, and on a light piece you definitely don’t want that. I did two coats of Minwax water-based Polycrylic that was semi-gloss. This is the final coat and the sheen that you pick will be what you see as the end result. I lightly sanded (with the fine-grit block) and dusted between the coats to remove drips and brush strokes.

If you are finishing a desk or table top that will get lots of wear and tear, 4-6 coats of polyurethane is suggested.

It was recommended that you wait for 24 hours before using the piece. I let the hutch cure over the weekend and now it’s ready to use.

Be sure to read labels, wear old clothes, and paint in a well ventilated area.

The hutch didn’t turn out flawless- it had its share of drips, brush strokes, and dust that I polyurethaned to it, but it was well worth the effort.

I really, really liked doing this and can see myself getting into the business side of this hobby in the future. Most of the ladies who do this to sell their pieces own spray guns which would make the process 10 times faster and make the end result much, much smoother. Purchasing a spray gun is something that I will consider looking into in the future.

Here is a price breakdown if you are interested:
Garage sale Hutch: $50
Zinsser Primer: $20
Sanding blocks: $7
Floetrol: $8
Paint thinner: $4
Minwax Polycrylic: $17
Brush: had
Paint: had
Hardware: used what it came with

Total: $106

Thanks for reading! I hope you love this piece as much as I do. Has anyone else painted a piece of furniture before?


85 comments on “How to Paint Furniture without sanding

  1. This is so stinkin’ beautiful! It looks so much lighter in the after shot than the before shot, like the hutch shed about 100 pounds :) I love love love the yellow with the white too! You are amazing.

  2. I love it! Can I make a request? :) Could you sometime post a pic of the kitchen now with the hutch in place so I can see the beautiful touch it added altogether? I have a hard time getting the vision of how to do a whole room and how to make pieces work in it. Thanks Provo friend! – Lindsey Havican

  3. This is absolutely beautiful, and I would love to have it in my kitchen. I’m planning on re-doing a table this summer and this post will definitely help!

  4. It looks great! I have only used oil based primer once in my life and it made me so sick and dizzy. Glad you got it finished and in the kitchen! :)

  5. Hi Melissa! Your hutch turned out beautiful. Just the right amount of distressing and I love the yellow. Thanks for linking to the Home Decor and Organizing Link Party. I’m featuring this today.

  6. Hi Melissa, I’m visiting via the red, white, and you blog hop. I really like this post and I really appreciate what you are doing on your blog. I cannot imagine remodling my own home by myself or with my hubby. It would probably ruin our marriage so you and your family are pretty strong! Thanks for the painting tips, the photos, and for even listing your prices at the end. So helpful! Your hutch came out so beautiful! Thanks and have a wonderful day :)

  7. Great tutorial and your hutch turned out lovely. I love how you broke everything down, even to the costs. Thanks for sharing. I am your newest follower. Come by to say hello and follow along. Linda

  8. I’ve just popped over from Debbie’s, I saw your post on the Linky party! Wow, your hutch looks beautiful! You’ve given me an idea for our cottage kitchen . . . I was just complaining about lack of space! I’m going to pin and follow! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Mary

  9. At first congrats for this hutch! You turned it out very well in fact you gave it to new life. The white and yellow back ground color are matching very well. I love white too much and recently painted some old pieces whit white color to match with my new existing white painted furniture and hope to get my desired look. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  10. I’m painting my kitchen table black and I’m on the stage of putting a layer of protectant on it along with a hutch I painted black. would you recommend using the minwax polycrylic on both pieces? Your the only site i’ve found that can only relate. Thank you!

  11. I read a lot about the protectant layer and you definitely want it on both. It will keep it from scratching or chipping anytime it needs moved. It will also make it so that the paint won’t come off when washed. Some of the site I looked as said that table tops,because of there extensive use could use 4-10 coats too, just depending on how durable you want it to be. Does that answer your question?? Good luck!

  12. Your hutch turned out lovely! I painted a similar style breakfront this past Labor Day weekend. It was from my good friends mothers house, a cheap piece of late 70’s early 80’s furniture. Crappy paneling on the back and the middle door of the top and bottom didn’t open. That wasnt’ going to work for me, it had to be completely functional. I pried off the middle door and when I replaced the hardware, included enough to hinge those two.
    I didn’t distress mine, but added a brown/black glaze to it. The inside was spray painted white with Rustoleum and I added a sheet of white wainscott to the back of it.
    I’m absolutely in love with my “new” Tiffany blue, glazed breakfront. I also added LED lighting to the top as it has glass shelves. LOVE it!
    Yours turned out beautiful! I love the yellow back and the shutter style doors.

  13. Your post has been the most helpful so far! I knew there just had to be a way to skip the serious sanding – when you want something that’s fresh and cute but still old, this is the way to go!

  14. I am just about to start working on an adorable writing desk that I found on Craigslist several weeks ago, and this post was extremely helpful! Thanks so much!

  15. I just finished painting a desk and tried to seal it with the Minwax Polycrylic clear semi-gloss, water based. So strange, because it turned the drawer I tried yellow! Have you heard of this happening? I wonder if it’s because I used a glossy wall paint I was using on the wall trim.

    1. Everything I read about yellowing had to do with the very last coat of polycrylic that you use to seal the piece. Everyone used an oil-based finishing coat because the water-based are a lot more likely to yellow. Did it yellow before you did the last coat of sealer or did it do it before?! No one likes a yellow piece that’s meant to be white… let’s figure this out!!!

      1. It yellowed almost immediately! So strange. I used a Sherwin Williams Promar 200 latex glossy paint on the desk. Fortunately, I realized it was yellowing right away, so I stopped. I did some research last night and decided to try a spray paint. I used Krylon Crystal Clear indoor/outdoor, and it worked great. Was super easy. I might do a second coat in a few areas.

  16. Love it! I did a $25 tall armoire that was definitely “Old Spanish” looking, a few years ago. It was all wood & painted it white & distressed it, didn’t polyurethane it which I wish I had. It was used for 2 years at her College apt. & upon graduation & her relocating, I’ve got the piece back. Trying to decide what color to paint it for guest bedroom…Thinking dark taupe (leftover from outdoor trim)…and then distressing. I might paint it dark brown 1st coat, so distressing will look better….You’ve encouraged me with your great tutorial! Thx!

  17. You did a sensational, awesome job! Thank you for the info. I also thoroughly dislike the enormous job of SANDING. BEAUTIFUL! You’d be welcome to come to my house & perform some wonder works!!

  18. My Wife and myself follow your blog but we buy, fix and paint furniture. In Orlando it is hard to sell China Hutches but maybe I should take off the doors. We do see people taking the glass out of the doors and replacing them with chicken wire. Anyhow love your work and wish we could do better on selling hutches.

  19. I have a built-in china cabinet in my dining room. While it’s great feature (not taking up additional space in the room) it was constructed with stripey, mahogany veneer (circa 1965?) so looked very dated. I purchased some beautiful Galway crystal wine glasses in Ireland one year ago and refused to display them until I made over the china cabinet. I had been contemplating this for a long time, but having small children prevented me from tackling the really large projects. So when I had a week off work last November, I decided it was now or never! I sanded, primed, painted the entire unit white, except for the back board, which I did in a fresh, apple green (not to be confused with lime green!) I replaced the old copper-finish knobs with glass knobs. I am SO pleased with it! The lighter colors really highlight my glassware and brighten up the room. I have posted my before & after on Pinterest.

  20. I have the exact same piece of furniture I’m about to redo!!! I also paid $50 for mine! Soooo glad I came across this. You just made the whole job easier, thank you :)

      1. Still ongoing, it’s had to take a back burner for a couple of weeks. I’ll definitely send a pic when it’s done :)

  21. I have a old dresser I want to do the same thing too, never have I done anything like this ! I love your page !

    1. I’m sure it does! I just helped a girl friend on a piece of furniture last weekend. We were in here garage with the door fully open and all the windows open and we still wouldn’t let any of the kids play near us. So stinky! Work in a well ventilated area or outside and have a fan going too! You can use low VOC paint and top coat though.

  22. Love love love your hutch…I have a dresser..with a top that comes off..has shelves on each side..now that I have seen how you did yours…I will try & do mine for the kitchen…You did an excellent job..with pics & explaining…thanks so much for posting..it will help so much!

  23. I have this exact china cabinet and I painted mine white with a blue background. My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it home. Love the yellow

  24. Love your project. I have a dining room side table in the color forest green with stenciling, which the top is badly scratched from many years of use. I got it from an aunt. I’ve been putting it off in stripping and painting it. Your project is an inspiration that I will finally try to tackle my own project. Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I just went to Home Depot and picked up a light color of paint on their “mistint” shelf. I asked them to recolor it to yellow. So this makes the paint really cheap, but it’s also not a specific color because I started with paint that already had colorant in it. Does that make sense? It’s a great option if you don’t mind the color not being just perfect!

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