It was the perfect weird organizer to make a tea station out of, but it was old, grimy, and gross, so we cleaned it and threw a couple of quick coats of paint on it, and now it's a snazzy new addition to our kitchen.
Repainting an old piece of furniture is a quick and easy way to rejuvenate an old favorite or jazz up a garage sale find.
It only takes a couple of hours, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure the new paint job lasts as long as possible. Following these easy steps will help your paint job look better and last years longer.
Step 1: Acquire your target.
In general, we don't like painting nice over any woods: cherry, walnut, mahogany, or anything exotic is best served with a clear finish that shows off its natural beauty.
But paint is a great, easy finish for what woodworkers call "secondary" (read: cheap) wood, like the pine that this little guy was made of.
Step 2: Take it apart.
If you frequent garage sales, you've seen the results of slapdash paint jobs where some layabout left the hardware on and painted over the handles or hinges.
Don't be that guy.
Removing hardware is one of the easiest things you can do to make your paint job pop. Take off all hardware anywhere near where you're painting. It's easier than you think. This bad boy had hinges, knobs, and clasps that added up to 31 screws, and it took less than five minutes to disassemble.
Bonus tip: Leave all the hardware in one place and don't move it until you're ready to reassemble.
Step 3: Sand (a bit)
The great thing about painting is that you don't need to remove the previous finish before doing it. That means you don't need to sand down to bare wood, you just need to scuff up the surface to give your paint something to latch onto.
Grab a sheet of 120 grit paper and lightly hit every surface you're about to paint. This should not take more than 20-30 minutes depending on the project.
However, if a previous layer of finish (like that layabout's lazy paint job I mentioned earlier) starts flaking, you'll need to get sand it all off or you risk having your paint flake too.
Step 4: Tack it down
These two simple steps, sanding and tacking down, are the difference between a paint job lasting a couple of years and lasting 20 years plus.
Paint needs a nice clean surface to adhere well. To make your piece clean, just grab a rag and wipe it down with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol (a paper towel and rubbing alcohol from Rite Aid will do in a pinch). Your goal is to collect all the dust from the sanding, and to mitigate the grease buildup from decades of use.
Step 5: Keep the scope as small as possible
Depending on the project, you probably don't need to paint more than 30% of the wood surface on a piece. You can skip the insides of drawers, the back of the piece, even the insides of doors and shelves.
For this organizer, we stuck to painting only the surfaces you can see when everything is closed. That drastically cuts down on time and headache trying to get into all the nooks and crannies, and if you do a nice crisp job, an unpainted interior will look like a contrast feature instead of a headache you wanted to avoid.
Step 6: Do a second coat
We used Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover Premium Latex Paint, a premixed pint of paint off the shelf at Home Depot. It covered well, but we still did a second coat to make the paint job look even, cover well, and last as long as possible.
Leave a couple of hours between coats, but try to do them the same day, so you don't have to tack down again. If you do need to leave it overnight, another tacking will keep dust from compromising the paint's adherence.
Step 7: Wait 24 hours before use
Most paint dries to the touch in a couple of hours, but it will not be completely cured for 12-24 hours. If you put something on the freshly painted surface before then---or if you close a door and press two freshly painted surfaces together---you risk the paint sticking and ripping off. Wait a day before your new piece goes into action.
For this piece, we put the doors back on and then left them open overnight so no two painted surfaces were touching.
Step 8: Customize it
I spent a little while on Amazon trying to find tea tins that would fit in these tiny letterbox holes, before I realized that I could just turn the four holes into two.
In this photo I'm pulling out two of the four shelves. Literally pulling them out with a variety of tools (pliers pictured). I sanded the nubs left behind.
Don't be afraid to experiment, especially with stuff you find at garage sales or the Salvation Army.