I get messages on a semi regular basis asking me how a paint furniture. I always have a two fold response. First of all, what kinda of finish are you going for? Glossy clean looking? Or a more rustic distressed matte look? Then I ask what kind of furniture is it. Is it something that is super shiny and finished already? Or is it something that you found on a curb and it's pretty beat up?
Although I ask these questions, my recommendation is generally the same. To paint furniture, especially for someone who hasn't done it before, I recommend a chalk paint. You are certainly able to use a latex or oil based paint. I've done it many times myself. However, those types of paints are definitely on the fineky side. So unless I have a paint sprayer, time to spend fixing brush or roller marks, and time to sand and prime the surface, I would use chalk paint.
So, why chalk paint? First of all, let's clear up something. This is NOT chalkboard paint. Chalk paint is a paint with calcium carbonate added, which you may guess, is chalk. That addition (plus I'm sure many others) make it so you can paint a surface without sanding or priming. The paint goes on thick (less coats and less paint) and does a fantastic job covering. Now, it's a matte finish and can show brush marks very easily, so you have to be into that look for it to work. You can finish the top of the paint with a wax coat or a poly (although wax is generally recommended). It's pretty durable once it's got a wax layer on, but it distresses easy before then. I painted my bathroom vanity with it and only topped with wax and a year and half later it still looks good.
The "gold" standard with chalk paint is Annie Sloan. I have often blogged about her paint (Check them out here, here and here). I love her paint but at around $50.00 for just a quart, it's spendy. Although, to be fair, that paint stretches super far. I have used just a sample pot (usually priced at $10.00) to paint an entire end table before. It's also only sold through exclusive retailers, so it can be hard to track down.
The chalk paint market has really expanded in the past couple of years as it becomes more and more popular to use the paint. Wal-Mart has two in house brands (usually located near the spray paint in the paint section and near the acrylic paint in the craft section). I have used those and actually don't mind them. They cover fairly well, and the antiquing wax does work well (almost too well). Check out my project with the Wal-Mart paint here.
I have made my own chalk paint using some unsanded grout. It works well for craft projects but is too lumpy (at least how I make it) for a larger display piece. Click here for the post about making your own chalk paint.
Anyways, I give you this background so you know what type of paint I'm talking about and that I've been around the block a couple of times when it comes to painting furniture. I think at last count, I have painted around 150 pieces of furniture in the past 5 years.
Lowe's/Valspar recently came out with their own version of chalk paint. At $30.00 a quart, it's middle of the road price wise. It has about 60 different colors. I needed to repaint an end table that was painted with latex paint a couple of years ago (and bad quality paint at that) and was starting to stain and flake. So I decided this was the perfect project to try out the new Valspar chalk paint.
Since this was an experiment and I didn't mind messing with the end table a bit, I took two different approaches. On the top, I left the old yellow latex paint. I sanded it so the shiny sheen was gone (so very light easy sanding) and then simply wiped it down.
The table looked okay right after I finished it. After a few years it looked nothing like this anymore.
On the rest of the table, I actually scraped off all the old paint so I was down to the original brown/red finish. I then sanded more heavily and wiped everything down. This way, we can see how the paint performs on top of old light color paint and how it performs on a dark unfinished wood.
The very first "before" picture. The wood has a redish/brown hue.
Like other chalk paints, this one also claims that no sanding or priming is needed. Sanding is usually done to give your paint a rough surface to stick to. Primer is two fold. It gives a rougher finish to paint to stick to, but also prevents bleeding through. You'll see why that distinction is important as I start to paint.
When I opened the paint, I noticed it did have the typical thicker chalky appearance which is good. However, the paint doesn't go on thick. It ran in a couple of different places, which was surprising. Other brands are usually thick enough you don't have to worry about running.
The color is called "Beaded Reticule"
I did one coat on the entire piece and quickly realized that the paint was too thin to cover in just one coat. Annie Sloan has always covered in 1 coat for me apart from one dresser going from red to white which I had to do two coats.
Like other chalk paints, it also shows brush marks very easily. I noticed on my second coat that a regular bristle brush does much better than a foam brush when it comes to running. Good to know for future projects.
The top with the old yellow paint was covered in about 3 coats.
However, this is how my bottom shelf looks after SEVEN coats. Yes. SEVEN. That's terrible terrible coverage. The bottom could have certainly used a primer first to keep the redish wood from bleeding through. I finally gave up after seven and decided since there's a big basket that sits on this shelf, so I wasn't going to get worked up if it showed through. I decided to finish with poly rather than wax because I felt the paint didn't quite feel right to be covered with a top layer of wax. It was too much like latex paint.
Another fun fact, Annie Sloan dries super (super) fast. Sometimes that's almost a problem because I can't get a large surface done before it's started drying. The Valspar paint does not. It took about 2 hours to dry, much like latex paint.
So, over-all, the main reason you pick chalk paint is to: 1) paint without priming or sanding, 2) cover in less coats, 3) finish quickly. The Valspar paint failed at most of these. I do like the finished color and product, but since it worked much like latex paint, I could have used a semi-gloss or matte finish paint, had more color options and paid 1/3 the cost.