How to Refinish Wood Furniture
What you'll need:
  • Valspar® Furniture Paint
  • Valspar® Cabinet Enamel
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) or substitute
  • Sandpaper —coarse and fine grit
  • Paper or cloth dust mask
  • Tack cloth
  • Safety glasses
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Cloth drop cloth
  • Empty tin can
  • Sanding block
  • Natural bristle brush (for oil-based stains and paints)
  • Polyester nylon brush (for water-based stains and latex paint)
  • Interior wood stain
  • Oil-based polyurethane (optional)


Step 1 —Assess the Condition

Important: If you will be removing paint that was applied prior to 1970, it probably contains lead. Make sure to read the lead warning for instructions on safe removal.

Lead Warning
WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust.

LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD, or log on to

Removal of Lead Based Paint

There are several ways to remove lead-based paints, according to the EPA:

  • Wire brushing or wet hand scraping with the aid of a non-flammable solvent or abrasive compound. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels before purchasing and using. It is important for workers to use personal protective equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses and disposable coveralls when using some paint removers.
  • Wet hand sanding and/or power sanding with HEPA filters. Only wet hand sanding and/or an electric sander equipped with a HEPA filtered vacuum attachment should be used. Dry hand sanding should never be done.
  • Heat stripping, using a low temperature (below 1100 °F) heat gun, followed by hand scraping. Heat guns pose a fire hazard and make lead dust and vapors, so they should be used only by experienced workers wearing respirators.

The following methods of paint removal are hazardous and in some communities illegal and should NOT be used:

  • Open flame burning or torching
  • Machine sanding or grinding without a HEPA attachment
  • Abrasive blasting or sand blasting
  • Power washing without a method to trap water and paint chips

Exterior work should be done on calm days, and wet-misting or vacuuming should be used to control lead dust and paint chips during removal. The ground around the building should be protected with heavy (6-mil) plastic sheets. The outer edges of the sheeting should be raised to trap dust, debris and liquid wastes. Wastes should be disposed of properly.

If your furniture is a true antique —more than 100 years old —or a true collectible, like Shaker® or Heywood-Wakefield®, we recommend you first consult with a professional antique restorer before you touch it. Altering these pieces in any way could harm their resale value.


Step 2 —Select Your Product

If you choose to paint your furniture, we recommend a gloss or low sheen latex porch and floor paint (for added durability good for furniture that gets a lot of use); a high quality satin or semi-gloss latex paint; or a premium enamel spray paint in a gloss or satin finish.

Go to Explore Colors to select your latex paint color. Visit our Color Explorer to select a spray paint color.

TIP: For color inspiration, turn to nature for ideas. Warm tones can be found in woods and trees, while pebble rocks reflect cooler tones. Or maybe you want to add a more modern twist to an old piece of furniture. Try a bold color that adds a bit of pop to your room, like lime green, red or orange.

If you will be staining, choose a water-based or oil-based stain with a semi-solid opacity for richer color and coverage. You may also want to cover it with an oil-based polyurethane coating.

View colors available in ready-mix stains, custom tints or polystains.

TIP: Test your color selection on the bare wood surface of a chair bottom where it won't be seen.


Step 3 —Prepare Your Workspace

Find a well ventilated area —such as a garage or basement with windows and lay your drop cloth on the floor. If you are using spray paint, you may also want to hang a drop cloth on the wall to catch stray mist.


Step 4 —Prepare Your Furniture

Coating new, unfinished furniture?

You will need:

  • 80-100 (coarse) grit sandpaper
  • Paper or cloth dusk mask
  • 220 (fine) grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth, or cheesecloth with sticky residue

Lightly go over the wood surface with 80-100 grit sandpaper, to create a surface ready for adhesion. Go back over it again with a 220 grit paper to get the grain to pop

Next, run a tack cloth (or cheesecloth with sticky residue) over the surface to remove every last bit of sawdust. Doing so will help create a professional-quality finish.

Need to remove old paint?

Stripping Away Old Paint

Make sure you heed the lead warning for removing old paint, as well as our recommendation for restoring antiques, in Step 1 before you begin.

You will need:

  • A putty knife
  • 320 grit (fine) sandpaper
  • Paper or fabric dust mask
  • Tack cloth, or cheesecloth with sticky residue
  • Mild (non-ammoniated) bleach or TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Transparent adhesive invisible tape for tape test

If you have a sound painted surface, you will only need to sand the edges smooth before you repaint it. For uneven and/or peeling surfaces use the putty knife to remove any loose paint chips, then lightly sand them with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any remaining paint. Next, conduct a tape test. A tape test will help you determine if your surface is free from loose paint or particles.

Tape test

Put a 2-3" strip of transparent adhesive tape down firmly onto your furniture's surface, and then rip it off. If it is clean mdash;that is, if no coating appears on the sticky side of the tape — you're ready for paint.

If paint still remains, you may want to rent or buy a heat gun. Heat guns pose a fire hazard, so make sure to follow all manufacturer's instructions. Do not use a heat gun to remove old lead-based paint because it makes lead dust and harmful vapors.

A mild bleach or TSP (or substitute) will help get rid of any musty smell on your furniture.


Step 5 —Ready to Coat

Before you paint any furniture, make sure your surface has been scuff sanded, tacked and cleaned to remove any musty smell. A tape test will help you determine if your surface is ready for coating.

Need painting tips?

Painting Your Wood Furniture

Once you have selected a paint and color, take a polyester nylon brush, for latex paint, or a natural bristle brush for oil-based paint, and apply it in long strokes. Cover your furniture with two coats of paint and wait 24 hours (for porch and floor paint) or 4 hours for premium latex paint.

TIP: You don't need a primer when painting unfinished or properly prepared, previously coated furniture; however, a paint and primer in one product (such as Valspar Signature, Valspar® Medallion or Valspar® Elan® paint) can offer increased coverage with less coats.


Step 6 —Clean and be Green

More painting to do tomorrow with the same color? You don't have to clean brushes and rollers when you take a break. Wrap them in sealed plastic to stay moist until you are ready to paint again.

TIP: If paint has hardened on the handle or along the edge of the bristles, soften it with warm water so you can remove it before you begin to paint. Make sure you dry the brush before you dip it.

Project finished? Don't throw away the brushes. With proper cleaning and storage, good painting tools can be reused many times. Reusing them saves you time and money and also helps the environment, because you're generating less waste.

Cleaning Paintbrushes

To remove excess paint, scrape the tool thoroughly or wipe it across cardboard or newspaper.

If you used latex paint, remove the excess paint in a bucket or container while the paint is still wet. It is much more difficult to remove dried paint with soap and water. If necessary, use a brush comb to remove it. Wash off the remaining paint under running water.

Oil-based paints should be removed in a bucket or container with mineral spirits (petroleum distillate), rinsed in tap water and then washed with soapy water. Rinse the brush until the water runs clear. Check the label of oil-based products for the following spontaneous combustion warning and dispose of materials properly.

DANGER: Rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste soaked with oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container.

Moist paintbrushes can be wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a rubber band or aluminum foil to retain their shape. Hang the brush by the handle to maintain straight bristles and proper shape.

Storing Paint

An important step in planning your painting job is determining how you are going to store or dispose of your paint when your project is completed. You'll want to protect your immediate environment and heed any local ordinances.

Valspar offers a number of easy and earth-friendly answers to the question: What do I do with the leftover paint?

Use It Up

If usable latex paint is left over after the project is finished, you can:

  • Use it for touching up your work, or store it away for future fixes.
  • Mix small amounts of paint together and use it as an undercoat for future jobs.
  • Donate paint to charities, church groups, community groups, theater groups, schools or to your neighbor.
  • Contact your local recycling center to see if the cans and lids can be recycled.

Never place liquid paint in the trash or pour it down the drain.

Store It

Prepare your paint for storage: Label the paint can lid with the color and location where the paint was used. To properly store your paint, make sure you tightly seal the can. First, wipe away any excess paint from the rim. Then cover the can opening with plastic wrap. Put the lid securely in place and tap it down with a mallet. Store the can upside down. If the can is leaking, place it in a leak-proof container.

Store paint where temperatures are moderate. Temperature extremes can negatively affect paint and make it unusable. Never allow paint to freeze.

Quick reference your stored cans by brushing a small amount of paint onto the outside surface (body of can or lid) and writing the color name and number in permanent ink. You can also identify the room or wall that was painted with that color.

You may also want to create and save a file on your computer of the paints you have placed in storage; that way, if someone tosses it by mistake, you still have the information at your fingertips.

Keep paint in a safe location, away from children and pets.

Paint Disposal

Proper paint disposal contributes to a more efficient use of our landfills and, ultimately, safer groundwater and soil. We recommend the following tips:

  • Check local ordinances and waste hauler regulations.
  • Read paint can instructions for proper disposal.
  • Get rid of properly dried latex in your regular household trash; however
    • Cans with leftover paint should be left open so the paint dries before disposing; make sure you place the drying cans in a well ventilated area. Cans with less than a quarter of the paint remaining will require a few days of drying time; cans with larger amounts will take longer, about a week. You can also add shredded newspaper, sand, sawdust, cat litter or solidifier to the paint, which will absorb the excess paint. These materials also work well in stopping paint spills from spreading on most surfaces.
    • Another solution is to punch holes in the top of the can and then place it in a dry area for a couple of weeks.
    • When the cans are ready to be thrown out, make sure the lids have been removed to let waste haulers know the paint is dry.

NOTE: Oil-based paints, varnish or paint thinners are considered hazardous waste. Check with your municipality about any local ordinances and read label instructions before disposal —another good reason why you never want to spill paint on the back of your paint can label. Only dispose through your locally designated household hazardous waste program.

To locate a recycling facility in your area, you can visit and search their database. They also offer a toll-free, bilingual resource at 1-800-Cleanup.


The Valspar Corporation takes environmental sustainability and responsibility seriously. For instance, we're doing our part both in how we formulate and how we manufacture our paints.

In addition, we have saved over a million gallons of water usage in our latex plant operations through optimization and reuse programs.


Step 7 —Celebrate

Congratulations! You have successfully transformed your furniture.

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