Help me help my coffee table, Furniture Repainting Edition.
April 25, 2013 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I found this coffee table on Craigslist for $15. While structurally it's pretty sound, the previous owners painted it; it looks like they may have just spray painted the poor thing without a drop of primer or sealant, because the top is chipping (see photos). Not ever one to leave passable alone, I decided that I had to repaint it. I've read as many furniture painting tutorials as I could get my hands on - the best seemed to be DIY on the Cheap, Young House Love, Centsational Girl, and Mouse House - and I still have a few questions for you guys.

First off, my vision for the thing - I want it to look rather like a peacock feather (think Whistler's Peacock Room, but in coffee table form). I bought a stencil that I plan to use on the table top and bottom board. I want the lines between the shapes to be gold, the quatrefoils to be teal, and the star-like shapes to be green. As for the sides and legs, I'm still soliciting opinions on that. I think I want the five small pieces of wood on the sides to be gold, with the rest being some combination of teal and green. I think possibly the legs gold, the drawer green, and the rest teal.

Now, to accomplish said vision. The main question I have is about the gold paint. I was considering using gold spray paint, but I only have about 7.5 inches of clearance between the board on the bottom and the underside of the table. Will I be able to spray paint the bottom board if I angle the can, or should I just use a non-spray paint?

Second question, which primer should I use? Kilz or Zinsser Cover Stain? I'll use spray primer if you guys think it's feasible to reach the bottom board with spray paint.

Third question, about how much paint will I need? I want to buy all of my supplies from Home Depot, and I don't think I'll need a ton of paint for a 22-inch by 38-inch coffee table. I was thinking two sample pots each of the teal and green at 8 oz. should have me covered, as I'm mostly using those colors for stenciling. I'm going to be using the most gold, as it's my base color. If I do use gold spray paint, how many cans (at 11 oz.) will I need to get even coats on the table top, bottom board, legs, and side pieces?

Finally, I'd like to solicit any general advice you guys have for this project. I'm an absolute beginner at this stuff, so any tips and tricks would be much appreciated. I plan on sanding it down thoroughly beforehand and finishing off with Miniwax Polycrilic in Satin. I don't plan on sanding between paint layers, though, partly because I've got the added complication of stenciling.

I'll be sure to post pictures of the finished product for you guys!
posted by Devika to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Aren't you going to sand it first?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I spent most of last year buying furniture on Craigslist and refinishing it, with much trial and error. The desk I am typing on at this moment is a refinished vanity table. (Kilz primer, Winter Gray spray paint and silver-and-white bird knobs, fyi.)

My tips:

(1) Is the table solid wood or does it have laminate sections? Because - if it has laminate - you can't sand it. On the bright side, if you're using an all-surface spray primer, I think sanding is overrated. Blasphemous, I know. But it takes forever and doesn't make a shit ton of difference on the final product. I stressed for days over whether or not to sand my daughter's bed (which is a kind of shutter-style thing, with a million small slats along the headboard) and decided to go with "no" and, though it's only been a year, there isn't a nick or peel on the thing yet. And it's being abused by a toddler daily. So I'd say... clean it well, maybe run some sandpaper over to get off any glossy finish, then get spraying.
(2) Cleaning, on the other hand, is NOT overrated. Spray paint will gunk and bubble in a nasty way if there is any dust or sawdust or sticky junk on the surface, so be absolutely sure to get all that off before you start.
(3) Kilz is great. I haven't used any others though, so I can't really compare.
(4) Yes, just angle the can from the side to get the bottom. You don't want to spray too close to your surface anyway or you'll have bubbles and marks. Multiple thin coats, sprayed from further away works better.
(5) You will need TONS of primer (particularly if you follow my suggestion and don't sand very well). I would guess 5 cans. The more you prime the better it will look. Don't paint until it's white! I only sand between coats if there are lumps and bumps, and then it's just a quick once-over to smooth it out and touch up. If you sand off any lumps, WIPE OFF THE PAINT DUST with a damp paper towel and let it dry before re-painting. Can you tell I've made that mistake? Ugh.
(6) If you get it really solidly white with primer first, you'll probably only need 2 cans of gold, but that's a guess. I used half a can of silver to paint the chair I am sitting on right now, but I sanded and primed that one to a light pine-wood first (and half the silver has chipped off now anyway... I call it "shabby chic," but who am I kidding, It's going to be redone soon).

So: tl/dr - make sure your surface is dust-free, lots of primer, light even coats, let dry between (20-30 minutes is usually fine for me, I live in a desert ymmv) and good luck!
posted by celtalitha at 6:38 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and for the record, I've never used a poly over my projects, but I probably would if I did another metallic (see the note re. chipping silver chair). I think metallics finish differently from other types of paint... that might be something to look into a little more.
posted by celtalitha at 6:41 PM on April 25, 2013

Before sanding, you might want to try scraping instead, since there are a lot of flat surfaces. This means using a proper scraper, along the lines of these. Or you might be able to make your own as I did from an old Japanese saw blade, and an angle grinder. The advantage is that these can be much faster (definitely than by hand, possibly more than by machine), less messy, especially if the stuff you're sanding off isn't all that secure to begin with. And if the scrapers are sharp like they're supposed to be, the resulting surface is glass smooth.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:28 PM on April 25, 2013

I wouldn't even think of painting that table before I'd tried stripping at least a part of it to see what it's made of. You might have something of good wood, or at least good veneer, that would be really, really nice stripped, sanded, and oiled.
posted by bricoleur at 7:43 PM on April 25, 2013

I can't speak to your actual project, but at my Home Depot, the little sample things of paint are only offered in a flat finish. So, if you wanted something with any sort of gloss, you'd have to buy at least a quart (if you're getting paint from Home Depot).
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:20 PM on April 25, 2013

You might have something of good wood, or at least good veneer, that would be really, really nice stripped, sanded, and oiled.

Definitely not. The supporting frame is solid wood, but the top and shelf are not. Top and shelf are some sort of veneered engineered sheet good (maybe plywood but more likely particle board or mdf), with thin veneer edgebanding. That's why the corners and edges are all so sharp -- they can't be rounded at all without exposing the substrate.

OP, be especially careful when doing your prep work around the edges of the top and shelf. The adhesive used for edgebanding stuff like this isn't always the greatest, so it can be easy to chip or peel a section of that banding right off, and that can be difficult to fix.

The nice thing about original Kilz primer (the one that smells of alcohol, not Kilz 2, which is latex) is that it's basically pigmented shellac. Shellac is great stuff because it sticks to virtually anything without requiring a lot of abrasion to give it something to bite into, and virtually every other sort of coating then sticks to it.
posted by jon1270 at 3:12 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Before you paint your cute table, do some practicing and testing on scrap plywood, canvas, or heavy paper. I think it will look great, and I hope you'll post after pics.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on April 26, 2013

Response by poster: Ok guys, here are the after pics!

As a first-timer, here are some things I would do differently.

First off, I'd obtain an elevated work space. My legs hurt so much from all the squatting I had to do to get on the table's level!

If I went back and did it again, I'd probably not use spray anything. I thought it'd save me time, but I had to sand the spray primer because of the bumpy texture I got. The gold spray paint didn't take the stenciling well on top of it, and it didn't give me an even finish. Bottom line, spray paint is not an easy shortcut for an absolute beginner!

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. There are some minor imperfections, but I've decided to take that as an object lesson for life, and the perfectionist in me is dealing with it pretty well.
posted by Devika at 2:58 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, nicely done.
posted by jon1270 at 3:30 PM on May 6, 2013

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