DIY Filter
October 25, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Should I paint my untreated pine shelves then assemble? Or assemble then paint?

I'm afraid this is one of those questions that anyone with even the smallest bit of home improvement nous will know the answer to.

But, ah, that's not me. I've neither painted nor assembled anything in my life… these shelves (sort of like this) are my very first DIY project.

I'm going to buy some primer and some gloss white paint when I pick them up… I know I have to prime them first, wait for that to dry and then put the gloss coat on.

But I don't know whether I should A) paint all the bits individually, first, before I screw everything together. Or can I B) assemble the shelves and then paint?

B seems like less of a pain – the shelves will be all standing up and I can apply the paint all over in one go. But… I'll be painting over the screws and joins and stuff which, I guess, will make them hard to unscrew. And I might want to do that if I move.

A seems like a good idea… but fiddly.

Help me DIYmefites. Assemble/paint? Or paint/assemble?
posted by t0astie to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd paint them first because pine shelves are always a bit wobbly - so any painted joints would crack and look messy.
posted by jeffmik at 6:11 PM on October 25, 2007

I'd paint them after, because the paint might end up thick enough to make assembly difficult.
posted by b33j at 6:17 PM on October 25, 2007

Simple wall shelves you would paint first. but the kind you showed I would assemble then paint. You can use caulking to fix any blemishes or bad cuts that you make and then mask the caulk with paint.

My vote: After
posted by wile e at 6:22 PM on October 25, 2007

Best answer: Paint, then assemble. It will be much easier to paint before because you will have less cutting in to do and you can roll most or all of it. Plus, your paint job will look a lot better. Avoid painting over the screws, it will look tacky and half-assed if you do. Resist the urge to just get it done. Get it done right, especially if this your first home DIY. Goddamn, I sound like my Dad.
posted by repoman at 6:42 PM on October 25, 2007

Best answer: Paint before. It may be a bit harder (as in, messier) to do, but the finished product will look much nicer.
posted by wsp at 6:56 PM on October 25, 2007

I wouldn't paint at all, but stain. And yes, you should do it first, not last. It's actually easier to paint FIRST, as you just sort of slap it on, no joints or connections to worry about paint globs or whatever.
posted by TomMelee at 6:56 PM on October 25, 2007

Best answer: I'm a very good painter. That's unfortunate, because it means I've had to paint more than my fair share of shelves. The most time-consuming part of painting is always the edges angles. The nice, flat straight-aways are a breeze. That assembled unit you show -- for the bottom half, you'd have to be stooped down or kneeling, or even lying down. And it has so many boxes!

You have to paint these components before you assemble them. You can set them up on boxes or a covered table so they'll be at a convenient height. If the parts are horizontal when you paint them, you won't get any drips, and you won't have to do any bending. But propping them up vertically has the advantage of allowing you to paint the second side beofre the first has completely dried. If you use a roller, do the edges with a brush. Okay, I'm getting carried away.

Paint first -- or be very, very sorry.
posted by wryly at 7:06 PM on October 25, 2007

I'm an assemble then paint advocate, but that's only if you plan to spray paint the assembly (which gives a superior finish if applied properly). But then spray painting is often not an option.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:57 PM on October 25, 2007

Best answer: Prime, paint, assemble. On pine use a tinted shellac primer like Kilz, the shellac will stick to knots and prevent sap from bleeding. Two coats of primer with a light sanding after each one. After the paint is dry scrape any drips out the assembly grooves. You may have some touch-up painting to do after assembly, don't think you have screwed up if that happens.
posted by LarryC at 9:05 PM on October 25, 2007

the problem with painting first is how to paint both sides of the shelves at the same time. seems you 'll have to do one set of painting, let it dry, flip over and paint the other side.

if you assemble first, everything will be held in place while you paint, so you can do it all in one round.

at least, that was my plan for my amazingly similar upcoming project.
posted by prophetsearcher at 1:51 AM on October 26, 2007

I've painted a lot of assembled things, and I've assembled a lot of painted things. In general, assembling painted things is far easier overall.
posted by flabdablet at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2007

the problem with painting first is how to paint both sides of the shelves at the same time.

Alternately, put a nail or screw in an edge or location where it will be covered by assembly and hang the item from a clothesline. This is the only way to do turned staves for a chair or table legs, for instance.
posted by bonehead at 6:51 AM on October 26, 2007

And ditto, shelac prime, paint assemble. Don't skip the shelac primer. Pine can bleed a lot of sap and ruin a otherwise perfect paint job, particularly if it's young wood.
posted by bonehead at 6:53 AM on October 26, 2007

I also vote for painting then assembling. This is especially important if you ever want to disassemble these shelves. If you paint after it's assembled the paint and shellac etc. will seep into the joints and glue them in place making disassembly messy if not impossible.
posted by kenzi23 at 8:39 AM on October 26, 2007

You paint before assembly because if you paint after and the wood shrinks you'll see small bits by the edges that didn't get painted. The wood will expand and contract from season to season.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2007

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