Do it yourself: A fresh coat of paint

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Do it yourself: A fresh coat of paint
The “after” photo of a two-piece laminate bookcase that was transformed with some sanding, chalk paint, wax and new drawer knobs. (Photo/Dawn Hoiem)
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By Dawn Hoiem

Ever been to a rummage sale and found a TV stand or headboard that’s the exact shape and size you’re looking for with a less than desirable finish? Then, upon closer inspection, you realize it’s a laminate, some-assembly-required type furniture and you walk away? Well, like Charlie Brown’s little Christmas tree, all that piece needs is a little love and imagination.

This type of furniture can be acquired for cheap. Odds are you’re staring at a bookcase or some other item right now thinking how tired you are of that faux honey oak finish. Let’s turn that functional but unattractive item into the centerpiece of your room’s décor.

Here are a few different ways to tackle the project, with pros and cons for each.

Spray paint

One of my first undertakings in painting laminate furniture was a desk I updated for my son. I started by doing a light sanding – with 80 to 100 grit sandpaper – and then using spray paint primer. I topped that with a few coats of black, semi-gloss spray paint.

Spray paint runs, so use light, even coats. Let it dry and repeat until it’s completely covered.

Spray paint gives a smooth finish that’s hard to get with other types of paint. My son’s desk had a nice, sleek finish. However, the legs did get some scratches when we transported it.

Also, for best results, wait 24 hours between coats. Most big box stores carry spray paint, but your color choices are somewhat limited.

If you are painting something that won’t get bumped into regularly, spray paint works fine. If it will get wear and tear, you may want to go another route.

Traditional paint

If you’re using traditional paint, start with a light sanding and a layer or two of primer. Make sure you let the primer dry and cure for a few days before proceeding. Sand between coats.

No matter what kind of paint you use, let that first coat dry well and get a good bond with the surface. It makes the subsequent coats go on smoother and adhere better.

The “before” photo of a honey oak colored, two-piece bookcase. With
just a little TLC and imagination, pieces like this can be transformed. (Photo/Dawn Hoiem)

With traditional paint you have endless choices when it comes to color and finish. Flat and eggshell paint won’t clean up as well as semi-gloss or gloss. However, the closer to flat, the more forgiving a paint is, so you won’t notice the flaws like you do with a higher gloss.

Chalk-type paint

You’ve probably heard about the wonders of chalky paint. And yes, you can take this kind of paint and slap it on anything with little to no prep work. It will adhere and give you a nice, rustic finish.

That said, if you want a piece that will last, I recommend a light sanding before you begin. Chalky paint doesn’t require primer, but if you want a more durable finish, I recommend topping your project with a coat or two of wax. It takes two or three coats of homemade chalky paint to get complete coverage. Don’t panic after that first coat.

Chalk-type paint dries in about a half hour and is by far the fastest way to transform something. It’s also a good choice if you want to distress your piece to give it a shabby chic look. You can also achieve a smooth and shiny finish with some wax and polishing.

Actual, store-bought chalk paint can be expensive and color choices are limited unless you use an online recipe to make your own.

Having used all of these methods, chalk paint is my personal go-to for painting laminate. Consider how your piece will be used, select a finish that works for you, and get down to that basement and find something that needs a facelift.

The writer is a transportation communications specialist when she isn’t filling her garage with furniture renovation projects.

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