How to Paint Furniture without sanding


If you’ve ever wondered how to paint furniture, this easy tutorial is for you! My step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of giving old furniture new life with a can of paint and a few other handy tools.

How to Paint Furniture

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.


How to Paint Furniture


How to Paint Furniture

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

How to Paint Furniture

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 may need to patch the old hardware holes too. The wood filler is also great to fix large scratches and dings.

How to Paint Furniture

Light sanding

Use the medium-grit sanding block to rough up all surfaces you are going to paint. I didn’t paint the 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.

How to Paint Furniture


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 agree 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.

How to Paint Furniture


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.

How to Paint Furniture


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 through 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.

How to Paint Furniture

How to Paint Furniture


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.

How to Paint Furniture

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.

How to Paint Furniture

How to Paint Furniture

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

How to Paint Furniture

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

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90 Responses
  1. Beforea

    Haha and I typically dp the exact opposite. I find a tired piece of furniture that somebody painted, remove all that paint, sand, stain and varnish. I think any furniture looks classier this way. Then I would – depending on the mood- decoupage something onto the piece, depending how I feel. I guess it is a good thing that people make their items their own, but I could never understand why you would take a gorgeous hutch like that and paint over that gorgeous wooden finish.

  2. I want to paint my wood bedroom furniture white but was dreading the thought of having to sand, first. Can’t wait to try this technique. I hope it turns out okay for me! Thanks.

  3. Oh finally i can paint my desk without sanding. Went to home depot and unfortunately they couldn’t point me to anything i can use without sanding. Thanks for sharing this super helpful information. This is going to save me a looot of work and energy. :)

  4. Hela

    Ughhhh I did the sanding method and went with a paint with primer and I am not happy. The lady convinced me I would need a primer since the paint is also a primer. Even though the dresser is fully covered and looks great at first certain angles you can see the spots I sanded. ?I will definitely go out and buy primer today for the rest of my pieces.

  5. Liz

    Hi! Just found This post and I’m so grateful! I’m turning an entertainment center into a toy storage / desk for my playroom. I’m a littler nervous to do it white bc I feel like the poly almost always makes it yellow. Did you experience that at all with this piece? Thanks!

    1. I’ve had this piece for four years now and it’s still perfect! I wrote about the type of poly that doesn’t go yellow, so read close! You will LOVE working on your own furniture!

  6. Sue

    Beautiful job! Thank you very much fun for your detailed posting. I am going to try this method with a dining set I have. Fingers crossed! ?

  7. Theresa

    Just what I needed to see-my sister discouraged me from redoing my dark brown hutch bc I’d have to strip the varnish she said. I’ll try this and am sure it will be great. Thanks! You’re very encouraging! Theresa of Maine

  8. Ruth M.

    You are right. The most important step is using a good quality primer. Zinsser makes an excellent product, and I used it to prime my ugly dark oak kitchen cabinets before painting them white. It’s amazing how primer can smooth out a finish and cover small crevices. And it is a must before painting any surface. For instance, if the surface were painted with an old oil-based paint and you tried to paint over with a water-based paint, the result would be a peeling mess. So my motto has always been,”When in doubt, prime it out.”

    Painting old furniture as you have done really brightens it up and removes that “dated” look. Great job!

  9. Donna

    I have the exact same china cabinet. It was the first piece I painted, it was so heavy and dark.. I did sand mine, left the doors on, painted it all white except the inside, I painted that light gray with sparkles and I did replace the inside paneling with plywood. Yours is a great inspiration.

  10. John

    You seem like you have a great blog, but I can’t help but notice (as I was looking for specific advice on how to NOT sand before painting wood furniture) that the step after removing hardware was… light sanding. 🙂

  11. I’m so impressed and just found your site.Thank you for sharing some of your tips.Great short and to the point tutorial, definitely has me ready to take on some of my painting projects!!!!

  12. Athena

    Loved it! Thought you did a great job! I just inherited a very traditional looking dining room set and you have encouraged me to convert the pieces, i’m going for it!

  13. Catriona

    Thank you for the clear advice. Just what I was looking for to help rehab a scratched verathaned coffee table am finishing in “eggplant”, a dark purple.

  14. Sarah Hendricks

    Very nice! You did a wonderful job and should be very proud of yourself. My grown son and I are in the process of turning a Goodwill hutch into an island for my kitchen. We have cut the top to make room for installing 2 more drawers, added a shelf unit with a glass-fronted door off one end to use for displaying curios, and have raised the whole thing a little higher so is a comfortable height for a standing work area. We are making the top 12 inches wider than the hutch in order to have an eating space across the back of the island. We’re covering most of it with wainscotting, so only the doors and drawer fronts will need to be refinished. I appreciate your sharing your tips for getting a quality finish. When this project is finished, I will be re-doing another Goodwill cabinet which I use as a coffee/tea center. I, too, LOVE re-doing things!

    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!

  15. Bonnie

    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!

  16. Laverne tremblay

    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

      1. Mary

        I have this exact one as well, got it for $50 too! It is sitting in my garage until the weather is nice enough to tackle this project outdoors. Thank you so much for the inspiration to remove the doors! I am going to remove the shelf as well, and make the back panel a large chalkboard!

  17. Jan

    Love love love your hutch…I have a dresser..with a top that comes off..has shelves on each 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 will help so much!

    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.

  18. B

    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. Sabrina

        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 🙂

  19. N. Curtain

    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. Mike blount

    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.

  21. Gwendolyn Ewert

    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!!

  22. Cheryl

    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!

  23. caroline

    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. Melissa

      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. caroline

        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.

  24. Katie

    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!

  25. Rachel

    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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. Esmeralda Alvarado

    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!

  29. Carol J. Gumm

    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.

  30. Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes

    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!


  31. Linda

    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

  32. Aimee -

    This is fabulous! I’d love to have you share it at my party that opens Saturday night! Pinning it right now! XO, Aimee

  33. Lottieberry

    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 🙂

  34. Sherry

    This is so beautiful! I’m about to paint some furniture and I am so glad I found your blog. This helps me so much!

  35. Sherry

    This is so beautiful! I’m about to paint some furniture and I am so glad I found your blog. This helps me so much!

  36. 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.

  37. 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! 🙂

  38. Hilary

    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!

  39. Virginia Callister

    Good job. It’s adorable. I love doing this sort of thing and I’m always reading up on how to do it. I love it!

  40. Vanessa Barker

    That is BEAUTIFUL. I’m so jealous. I want one like that in my house…when I have a house big enough for one!

  41. 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

  42. 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.

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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