How to Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding in 2023
Restoring furniture is a cheap way to amplify your style. It is often much more affordable to refinish furniture rather than purchasing new. But sanding is the worst! It is messy, time consuming and tiring. I’ve refinished wood furniture many ways, but painting is one of my favorite options! Learn how to paint wood furniture without sanding for a durable finish with these different options.
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Can you paint over wood furniture without sanding?
The number one question I get when refinishing furniture from my Instagram community is, “Can you paint over wood furniture without sanding?”
The answer is, yes! There are actually quite a few ways to refinish furniture without sanding.
I’m going to use this new Facebook Marketplace find as an example of my favorite way to paint wood furniture without sanding!
I’ve refinished quite a few pieces. Some I’ve kept wood, and some I’ve painted, but here are a few ideas if you’ve wondered how to refinish furniture!
- How to Refinish a Cane Armchair
- DIY Coffee Table Restoration
- Buffet Makeover
- How to Transform a Thrifted Coffee Table
Can you paint over varnished wood without sanding?
Often times people assume they can paint raw wood without sanding, but what about how to paint over varnished wood?
My marketplace find had a high gloss varnish on it, and I was still able to paint over it without sanding! That’s because I used a two step process that is my go-to for painting wood furniture.
The degloss and prime combo!
Deglosser is a wonderful way to substitute the sanding process. It is a much less strenuous and much faster alternative to sanding furniture to remove varnish or lacquer. Combine this step with priming and you have a beautifully prepared surface for paint to adhere to.
Paint is my number one go-to for quick and affordable makeovers, and I’ve put together an entire free guide on paint finishes! Make sure to sign up below to download this quick reference guide to help you in all your DIY needs.
Now, let’s run through the process for how I updated this thrifted cabinet. Then, I will share some alternative methods to painting furniture without sanding!
How to paint wood furniture without sanding
Let’s walk through this method of painting wood furniture without sanding step by step.
As I was doing this project in my Instagram stories, I had a lot of questions on why I did certain steps and what the reasoning behind them was. So here’s the entire process explained.
1. Find a sturdy piece of furniture with good bones
Have you ever heard the term, “Good Bones”?
When referencing furniture, good bones means that the piece is structurally sound, has good lines/details and will be a functional piece for your family.
As you can see from the before photo above, my cabinet is a solid piece of furniture and has very clean lines (aka straight and not ornate) for a modern feeling. The shelving is exactly what I was looking for to display my favorite decor and the storage underneath is very functional.
This is the first step in refinishing a piece to bring it to your style. Make sure it is solid and functional and the aesthetics will come later!
2. Clean Wood Furniture Thoroughly Before Painting
The next step to restoring wood furniture without sanding is to clean the piece thoroughly.
I like to use TSP, which is a heavy duty cleaner. It does excellently at removing years of grime, dirt and grease. This leaves your piece with a clean finish so your primer doesn’t have to work as hard.
First, clean the piece with TSP wearing durable gloves. Then, go back over the piece with clean water to clean off any film it leaves behind.
Make sure to remove doors and hardware so you can clean in all the nooks and crannies.
For a detailed cleaning process, make sure to check out this post which is applicable for prepping cabinets or wood furniture for paint.
3. Degloss Wood Furniture Instead of Sanding
The next step in this version of painting furniture without sanding is to use a deglosser.
Like I mentioned above, this is an alternative to sanding. If you’d rather not work with chemicals then sanding is the other option at this point in the process!
But since you’re here to learn how to paint furniture without sanding, I’m guessing you’ll choose the deglosser.
Wearing rubber gloves, simply rub the deglosser onto the wood with a clean lint free rag. You can also use steel wool, however I often find it is unnecessarily abrasive.
I like to cut up my husband’s old white tshirts he wears under his dress shirts for my rags! They are a great fabric and totally lint free.
After you’ve applied the deglosser, wait for the allotted time on the label and then wipe down with a clean wet rag. Each brand has a slight variation to the instructions so make sure to follow the recommendations of the brand you buy.
Once you’ve cleaned and deglossed your furniture piece, you will want to decide if you’re keeping the existing hardware or not.
Patching Old Hardware Holes
I wanted to update the pulls on my piece and found that the new hardware didn’t line up with the existing screw holes.
This is an easy fix!
Simply use wood filler to fill the existing holes, sand down the surface flush, and then drill new holes in the position you need for your new hardware. I like to drill these holes before I prime and paint so I don’t mar up a freshly painted surface later.
I used these classic matte black pulls for my cabinet makeover.
I love that they come in various sizes and finishes. I chose the 6″ version for the long upper cabinet doors and the 3″ version for the shorter lower cabinet doors. The 12″ option would be beautiful to make a big statement as well on tall doors!
4. The Key For How To Paint Furniture Without Sanding: Prime
The next step is to prime!
I’m always asked, “Do I need to prime furniture before painting?” And the answer isn’t exactly straight forward.
For this method, yes you do. But I will share a few other methods at the end of this article that don’t require a priming step!
Best Primers for Painting Wood Without Sanding
Since I am using a latex paint, a quality bonding primer is necessary. Latex paint is versatile since it comes in many finishes and colors, but it isn’t the most durable option for furniture.
So priming first will ensure a long lasting finish.
I like both Kilz bonding primer and Zinsser Oil Based primer for use on furniture.
For this piece, I used oil based because it was what I had on hand. I traditionally like to work with water based paints for easy clean up but oil based is a great option as well!
One thing to look out for is that your primer works with TSP. Some primers say not to use TSP prior because it cannot adhere to a piece that has been cleaned this way. So make sure to read your labels to avoid heart ache down the road.
5. Paint Wood Furniture
You’ve made it!
All 4 of these preparation steps are necessary for a quality and durable paint finish when using latex paint.
If you skip the cleaning, deglosser or primer, then your paint will only have a slippery/grimy surface to try to adhere to. And paint does not do that well on it’s own!
By taking the time to do a quality job on the preparation steps, you’ll benefit greatly in the long run.
While you only need to apply one coat of primer, you will want to apply two coats of paint. The image above shows one coat of paint and, as you can see, it is a streaky finish. This is typical of latex paint and why I always recommend two coats for your topcoat.
I chose to use the color Black by Rustoleum which you can buy online at Walmart.
This is a bit of a chameleon color. I used it in my son’s room to makeover his loft beds. You can see that amazing transformation in this post!
In his room it looks like a true black. However, on this cabinet it pulls more of a charcoal with navy undertones. Lighting is everything with paint so I always recommend color samples!
When using latex paint, a semi gloss or gloss are the most durable finishes on furniture.
I used eggshell because it was what I already had on hand and I am waiting to see if I need to add a topcoat. So far, it has been 5 months since I used the same paint on my son’s loft beds and they haven’t shown a scratch or ding!
I’m hopeful that the cabinet will be the same. If it ends up showing wear and tear then I will simply touch up those areas and then apply a matte poly for more durability.
How to paint laminate furniture
My cabinet was solid wood, but more often than not, thrifted furniture is laminate. So the question becomes, “Can I paint laminate furniture without sanding too?” Yes!
By using the same method as above, you can paint laminate furniture without sanding. Simply make sure the laminate itself is in good condition and isn’t cracking or chipped.
The priming step is the most important for painting laminate furniture since you don’t want to sand an already delicate surface. Take care to follow these same steps and your laminate furniture will turn out just as beautiful.
(Side note: see how I built this DIY beam header in this post!)
How to Paint Veneer Furniture Without Sanding
Similarly to laminate furniture, older pieces of furniture often have a delicate top wood veneer.
You can paint veneer furniture without sanding with the same steps as solid wood furniture.
However, if you have to do any touch up sanding, make sure to use a very fine grit sandpaper so you don’t damage the veneer.
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that you dry your wood furniture well during the cleaning step as water can cause veneer to curl.
What paint do I use for furniture?
Now, on to the other methods for how to paint furniture without sanding!
The method above uses primer and latex paint, but what if you don’t want to prime too? There are a few other paint options you can choose from.
- Chalk Paint: Boasts a no-prep reputation, however the finish options and colors are limited. Top coat highly recommended.
- Mineral Paint: Similar to chalk paint, but often more expensive. Top coat recommended.
- Milk Paint with bonding agent: Also does not require sanding or priming, however the colors are limited and you have to mix your paint/bonding agent well.
All three of these types of paint are a great alternative to latex paint. However, most of them do require a top coat.
So if you’re trying to avoid an extra step of painting, then they don’t quite accomplish that. Whether you are painting a prime coat or a top coat, it’s still an extra coat of painting something!
This is why I personally prefer latex. It is more affordable than chalk, mineral or milk paint and isn’t any additional work in the long run.
However, I know many people who swear by these non-latex paint options and they do produce a beautiful result as well! It’s simply a preference as they will all work wonderfully to update your wood furniture with paint.
How do you paint furniture without brush marks?
As you can see, I used a paint brush to do my cabinet makeover. This is a typical tool and I prefer it over small foam rollers. I think it gives a better finish and you have more control over the paint application.
I use this short handle angled brush for most of my projects and it is highly recommended.
You can see all of my favorite DIY paint tools in my Amazon Storefront for quick purchasing!
I had so many people ask how I can paint furniture without seeing the brush strokes. And I actually have a very detailed article on how to paint without brush strokes already on the blog!
This post is geared towards painting trim without brush strokes, but all of the painting techniques apply just the same to painting furniture.
Make sure you head there next to get my best tips and avoid those pesky brush strokes!
You Might Also Be Interested In
If you’re looking for more painting projects, I have a ton of resources on the blog to help you.
- How to Modernize a Home with Painted Trim
- Painting Interior Doors: Pros & Cons of Brush vs. Paint Sprayer
- How to Paint Shiplap
- How to Paint Windows Without Tape
- How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets
- How to Paint a Tile Backsplash
- How to Paint a Room Fast in 5 Steps
- How to Paint a Deck
- How to Paint an Upholstered Bed Frame
I hope this article on how to paint wood furniture without sanding has been helpful to you! DIY is one of my favorite topics on the blog and over on Instagram and YouTube.
You can find my shoppable home decor linked for you via the images below!
Thanks for stopping by the blog today! Make sure to subscribe to get my Grace Notes directly to your inbox and to access all my insider perks. You can also follow along daily on Instagram and weekly on YouTube!
See you next time!
This turned out beautifully, but you are using some very dangerous chemicals so I hope you are wearing a respirator mask and eye goggles while using them. Stay safe!
Beautiful transformation. Your posts are always so interesting. Thank you
Thank you so much!
Do you ever spray any of your projects and if so what supplies do you use or recommend?
The only suggestion I would add is to use gray tinted primer under dark or intense colors. I think it gives a truer end result.
Great job on the hutch, nice find!
You did a fantastic job on that gorgeous piece! I love the choice of hardware and the fact that it is soooo perfect where you placed the cabinet! It is especially awesome with the glass on the sides, too.
Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Easter week.
Thank you so much!
I’m tackling a buffet table this weekend. I have a question though. Do I have to use TSP first and then the deglosser before priming? I don’t want to sand!
Thanks for inspiring me to paint!
Yes! TSP will clean any residue off, then the deglosser takes off the glossy surface so the paint can adhere best. Definitely prime for best durability!
Excellent. I love your freedom of playing around with your media until you find what works out!!! It all fell into place perfectly. A truly enjoyable relaxed graceful approach! Good for you!!!
Thanks for sharing your opinion, it sure will help me a lot.
You did an amazing job on that beautiful item! I adore the hardware you chose, as well as the fact that the cabinet is in the ideal spot! It’s much more impressive with the glass on the sides.
Thank you so much!
Hi. I am looking at painting my china hutch. Are the chemicals in all the products safe for in your homes after it is done?
If you use indoor paint then yes. I wouldn’t use an exterior paint inside.
A very good idea to update old wooden furniture. The main thing is that the furniture is of high quality. I am thinking of doing the same with the furniture in one of my rooms. The truth is a little scary that it might not turn out the way I intended.
Hi there – for high use furniture like a desk or shelf, do you recommend a clear coat over latex? Or do you think two coats of latex over prime should do it? Thanks, great article!
The risk of adding a clear coat over latex is that it can yellow or flake over time. I’d stick with a good primer and paint and then you can touch up any dings easier with fresh paint. Paint won’t go over a clear coat well.
I’m converting a dresser into a vanity for my son’s remodeled bathroom. I’m thinking I should use high gloss paint due to it being a wet area and being cleaned a lot. What would you recommend?
I would agree! Just note that high gloss paint will show all smudges and dust particles. So there is definitely a toss up between durability and visual impact. The lighter the color the less it will show. Best of luck on the project!
Hi I want to turn an Ikea white bed (I think it’s laminated cheap stuff) in espresso, I have to follow the same steps? , I need to use prime too??, asking because it’s white already??
Yes! Primer is giving the piece the right foundation to accept the paint. It doesn’t have anything to do with the color. So you’ll definitely want to prime laminate otherwise your paint won’t grip the surface and will chip and flake down the road.
I enjoyed reading your process, and early on I did most of this to restore old furniture. However, as the years have passed I have found out that many of the products were bad for my lungs, skin and the environment. So I had basically stopped my refinishing.
Yet, one day I was on Pinterest and I saw information on Heirloom Traditional paints. I started watching their videos on YouTube, FB, IG and of course the links on Pinterest. After watching it all I decided to give it a try and get a sample free and their basics to start.
I can now say I am back into refinishing furniture, painting my doors, or just painting anything I want. It has no fumes, it has never caused a skin rash, and after “re-learning” how to paint with their method I haven’t had anything turn out badly.
No I am not an employee or co-owner, I am a part time crafter when my health allows me. I just feel that their products are easy to use, environmentally friendly and very durable.
I would love for you to give it a try and see what you think.
Have you used a paint that includes primer? Does this save a step? Are the results the same?
Great question! I would not use a paint and primer in one. The primer is the most important step in this process if you aren’t planning to sand. So a high quality primer should be used before painting.
Hi, can this process be done indoors?
Yep! I did my cabinet indoors, in fact.
Thanks so much , am blessed.
Hello, I am painting a bed frame that I found at a thrift store. I’m almost positive it’s a Laminate peice. Should I still use the cleaner chemical you suggested, before using the primer? The chemical won’t hurt the laminate ?
Nope, it should be just fine! Good luck on the project!
I find this to be very helpful, especially to newbies. I’ve painted for quite a while and I love fusion mineral paint. It gives a nice low sheen luster and DOES NOT require a top coat. I know you mentioned mineral paints require a top coat so I wanted to let you know that Fusion does not. I’m not sure if others as this is the only one I’ve used. They do sell a top coat for more durability but it is a great paint that dries quickly and very hard. I’ve also used latex and chalk along with furniture and cabinet paint. Fusion is a bit more expensive but is a great product. Thanks again for your information.
Thank you for that tip Carla! I’m sure many will find it helpful!
Painting wood furniture can be a great way to refresh and update the look of your home, and this article provides some helpful tips and techniques for painting without sanding. I appreciate the step-by-step instructions and the emphasis on using high-quality materials and taking the time to properly prepare the surface. This article can be a great resource for anyone who is looking to tackle a DIY furniture painting project.
Thanks for sharing these tips and making our lives easier. Keep it up!
Thanks for sharing this blog. Keep it uP!
I’ll be tackling my first furniture paint job soon. I bought a new (from a furniture store, not used) light wood colored table for my son. I want to paint it grey to match his aesthetic. Do I need to do the same cleaning and deglossing you did?
Love the outcome of your project!
Yep! Prep is key to long lasting results.