How to PREP for a durable finish

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One of the things I see a lot are questions about how to prep a piece of furniture before painting or staining.  Some say they never do any prep but personally I don’t recommend it!  Why go through all the trouble of painting an entire piece, your time plus expense of the paint, to have it start coming off in a few months.  No matter what paint you use I highly recommend following the steps below to make sure you have a long lasting, durable finish.

  • First step – Clean your piece with a degreaser.  I use Fusion TSP.  The reason I use Fusion is because it’s non-toxic, doesn’t require me wearing gloves or rinsing my piece after.  If you use another type of degreaser please make sure that you rinse you piece off with water before going to the next step.  Some degreasers can create a resist and will keep your paint from sticking.  The reason you clean first is that you do not want to sand existing oils and dirt on the surface into the grain of the wood.
  • Second – Scuff Sand your piece with 150-220 grit sandpaper.  I use the Fusion sanding pads. You can use any type of 150-220 grit sandpaper that you have on hand.  The goal is to put micro scratches in the surface and give your paint something to stick to.  Think of your paint like a glove that you’ll be putting over the surface.  You want to give the surface tooth so that the glove sticks.  If it has nooks and crannies you can’t get into to sand no worries.  As long as you scuff up as much as you can.  No need to do a heavy sanding or remove all of the existing finish unless you are planning to stain with a penetrating stain like Fusion Stain & Finishing Oil.  Remember that any chips in the existing finish may show through your new finish so make sure to sand them smooth.
  • Third – Use a tack cloth or damp rag to wipe off all saw dust residue.
  • Forth – READY TO PAINT!

I hope these steps help you with your next project so that you’ll have a durable piece to pass down in your family or to sell to a client.  Happy Painting!

Below is a video I did on how to Prep your piece if you’re more of a visual learner like I am!

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  1. Thank you, Selina! Great tips! One question for you – when would you need to use Ultra Grip? I actually purchased it to use on some bedside tables that have a commercially painted surface because the first piece I did (a small cabinet) had a similar finish but the Fusion paint didn’t stick well, even though I cleaned it first with Fusion TSP and scuff sanded with the Fusion sandpaper as you have suggested.

    1. Terri, ultra grip is made to help paint bond to difficult surfaces. If it’s high gloss or is non-porous like Formica or glass. Sounds like your factory finish may be one of those difficult surfaces. Clean, scuff sand, wipe and apply one thin coat of UG before painting. Glad the post was helpful!

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