Sunday, 22 June 2014

Paint 101 - The Ins and Outs of What Paint to Use and When

So I started painting furniture because I was lured in by the "no sand, no prime" promise that was taking the home decor world by storm...I launched in head first and believed everything I read with regards to the zero amount of prep work needed, etc.

I learned very quickly that if I was doing something other than for my own home (aka to market and sell), that chalk paint and wax over-top of an un-prepped surface was just not going to cut it. Sure it looked awesome, but it never seemed to be as durable or dependable as I wanted it to be. Sure, I didn't HAVE to sand or prime in order to get the paint to stick...initially. Did that necessarily mean that the paint would stick a few months or a year from now..? Nope!

So, in my earnest effort to make sure I am giving clients pieces that are durable and will last, I have tested out many different theories in furniture paint and have drawn a lot of my own conclusions from my personal experience.

I do NOT know everything - and I don't claim to know it all, I am just sharing what I have found works (and what does not work) for me. So, if by chance you don't agree, just take my advice with a grain of salt!

So here summary of the different paints and when to use them!


Chalk paint can be purchased in boutique furniture stores for around $35+/ is boasted as a "miracle" paint because you don't need to prep the surface. You DO need to seal the painted surface with either a wax or a polycrylic top coat for durability.

- Awesome for decorative painting and distresses very easily to create a shabby chic finish
- Smooth application and does go over top of most surface areas without prep
- Dries fast

- Over-priced
- Not durable in and of itself (needs top coating and still may not be durable enough for high traffic areas)
- Does NOT stain block so cannot be used on certain woods or over top surfaces that have nicotine or grease stains
- Limited colour palettes if using gourmet brands (usually about 30 colours)

**Chalk paint can be mixed at home with Plaster of Paris, which is my go-to method. This works great and can be used with any flat latex paint. Downside is that is hardens fairly quickly so you cannot store and left-over paint.

Summary - Chalk paint is awesome for low-traffic pieces that you want to highlight detailing on. Preferred for frames, mirrors, side tables, etc


Regular ole latex paint can also be used on furniture, as long as there is a PRIMER applied before hand. My go-to is the Ben line in a flat finish. I use this brand most often for mixing my own chalk paint, and this allows me a HUGE range of colours to choose from!

- Colour possibilities are endless
- Cleans up with water (as does chalk paint)
- Smooth application
- Easily accessible and affordable

- Need a primer underneath
- Cannot distress as it peels off (not to mention the white primer would show through underneath and that's not really attractive!)
- Not super durable and would still need a top coat of sorts for high traffic surfaces

100% ACRYLIC PAINT (paint and primer in one)

Benjamin Moore has an awesome line called Regal...this is boasted as their "paint and primer in one", however, that is actually and inherent quality of any paint that is 100% acrylic. What this means is that this is a high quality latex paint that dries more like a hard plastic as opposed to a vinyl, rubber finish (which occurs in cheaper latex paint).

This paint sticks like the dickens to a lot of surfaces - this is my preferred paint for table tops or high traffic areas.

- Huge colour range
- has a built in priming effect so sticks very well to a variety of surfaces
- comes in an "ulti" matte finish which is great for that vintage furniture look
- Super durable

- Does NOT stain block even though it has priming qualities. Primer still required to cover most stains
- A little harder to distress because it sticks so well
- Still needs top coat because of the matte finish (unless you get a glossier finish but I prefer the matte!)


This Benjamin Moore Advance product is amazing, love it! It is an alkyd paint which performs like an oil but cleans up with water, fantastic! It is self-leveling, which means that it automatically erases most brush strokes as it dries. It is the gold standard for cabinets and doors. And it does NOT need a top coat because it enamalizes and dries hard as nails!

- Dries super hard after 60 days and does NOT require top coating
- Beautiful self-leveled finish that eliminates brush marks
- Extremely durable and can be used on kitchens and bathrooms
- Huge colour selection

- Does not come in flat or eggshell, lowest sheen is satin (I prefer matte paint!)
- Long dry time (need at least 4-6 hours between coats)
- Long cure time (not fully hardened until 60 days)

So, to summarize, there is a time and place to use each and every paint - chalk paint is not the be-all, end-all of furniture paint, although the advertising has taught us differently. Chalk paint is AWESOME for DIY decorating in my opinion. If you want durability, go right to something with a primer base or the Advance. 

Be an informed painter and try things out for yourself! You will learn what works best for you. 

Also, remember that the only real way to block stains is to use an oil based primer with shellac in it...I use the BIN primer and its fantastic. A little smelly, but worth it! This covers smoke stains, redwood (mahogany) bleed, and grease stains etc. I always make a habit to prime table tops and high traffic surfaces.

If you want to use a primer but don't need to block stains, Zinsser is awesome!

Hope that was helpful, feel free to message me with any questions!


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