Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

Whether building furniture from scratch or looking to refurbish an older piece, paint is often a simple and cheap option. However, it can be time-consuming, with sanding, priming, painting, and finishing. Luckily, chalk paint can help to reduce the time spent on a project.

Chalk paint is a good choice for painting furniture because it is easier to apply and leaves a unique finish to pieces. It offers a less plastic-looking finish and is now famous for furniture usage. Using it means you do not have to sand or strip a piece before applying, and two coats may be enough.

This article will take a look at what chalk paint is and how it differs from traditional paint, along with the pros and cons of using it on furniture. We will also discuss some great alternatives for furniture painting and restoration. 

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Chalk Paint vs. Traditional Paint

British artist Annie Sloan created chalk paint as an easier and more reliable option to traditional latex paint. 

This versatile color treatment can paint wood, metal, fabric, and glass and requires little to no preparation. Chalk paint will adhere to a surface without the need for sanding or priming and can be used both indoors and out.

Traditional Paint

With traditional acrylic or latex-based paint, you will need to sand and prime a surface before the paint will adhere in almost all circumstances. Skipping this step can lead to color bleeding or peeling paint. You may also find that your paint will not adhere to glossy furniture, leaving behind a streaky finish. 

For older furniture, stains and oils can affect the paint over time, potentially ruining the piece. To avoid this, it is best to sand a piece down and apply a primer fully. 

Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

For example, if looking to paint over an old lacquered work desk, you may find that the paint will not stick properly. In this case, you would be left, adding more and more layers of paint, costing you more money. 

Once sanded, you can remove any older paint, stains, or bumps in the piece. Topping this with a primer will add a barrier between the sanded wood and new paint. Primer has a slightly rough and porous surface to which the paint will grab on.

Primer is also suggested when looking to take a piece from dark to light. Rather than adding more layers of paint, adding a couple of inexpensive primer layers will help hide the darker color beneath the paint. 

How Is Chalk Paint Different?

Chalk paint acts as a self-primer, meaning it will adhere to surfaces and cover most stains and darker paint on its own. There is no need for sanding or priming. 

Unlike traditional paint, which has a variety of finishes, chalk paint has a matte finish. The chalky result has become popular in today’s decor, providing a modern yet antique styling to pieces. It is most common for people looking for shabby-chic and farmhouse stylings. 

Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

This paint can be left bare, with no finish over the matte. However, this leaves your work vulnerable to water and wear and tear. It is recommended to finish with furniture wax to help protect the piece from spillages or accidents. Other options include spray clear coats and a more traditional Polycrylic topcoat. 

Painting Furniture With Chalk Paint

By far the most common use for chalk paint, furniture can be made to look new and modern with just a couple of coats. 

Not only can you make your own at home, but it is also now available in most larger stores. With low to no volatile organic compound (VOC), it is much safer for use at home in various projects.

Chalk paint works well on:

  • Old furniture that you are looking to give a new look
  • New furniture that you want to finish with something colorful and unique
  • The furniture you are looking to make shabby-chic or distressed

However, some pieces of chalk paint might not be the best option. These can include:

  • Bathroom cabinets: Due to the steam and condensation build-up in bathrooms, you may find that even sealed chalk paint will be affected by the moisture.
  • Low-quality furniture: Low-quality furniture or furniture that is rotting will likely continue to degrade without proper treatment. As chalk paint is quite porous, it will slowly soak into the cheaper wood and fade over time. 
  • When you want a satin finish: Chalk paint was designed to have a matte finish. To achieve a smooth and shiny result, you would need to use a glossy lacquer over the paint. With that in mind, it would be easier to use traditional paint.

Pros

Given its popularity, there are many pros to using chalk paint on furniture. It is versatile, easy to use, and comes in a variety of fun and beautiful colors. For beginners and DIY’ers, it is an easy way to upcycle or breathe new life into old furniture.

No Prep Work

Chalk paint does not require hours of sanding and priming before use. Though some instances require sanding or priming, chalk paint is porous enough, making it unnecessary in many cases. 

The key is to start with clean furniture. Though you do not need to sand it down or strip away existing paint, washing with soap and water to clean off dirt and debris will help the chalk paint adhere better. 

Additionally, there is no need to sand your piece, as you would with traditional paint. Chalk paint will cover almost all surfaces, including high gloss finishes.

Fast-Drying

Your first coat of paint will likely be dry in under an hour, meaning you can add your second coat and be done with a piece before lunch. Though for better results you should give each coat as long as possible. 

Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

This will greatly increase your productivity for professional furniture makers, allowing you to finish more work in less time. For DIYers, this can help with fitting projects if you do not have a lot of time. 

It Works With a Paint Sprayer

Chalk paint can often leave texture and brush strokes behind. Depending on the look that you are aiming for, this can add character to a piece. However, if you are looking for a smoother finish or working on a larger piece, a paint sprayer will come in handy. 

You may need to thin the chalk paint down slightly with water for better flow and coverage for some sprayers.

Easy to Blend

Blending chalk paint can add dimension and color contrast to your furniture. It will also highlight certain aspects of a piece of furniture, such as the framework.

In the video below, you can see how easily the paint blends to create a seamless color contrast:

Perfect for Distressing Furniture

Rustic farmhouse furniture is still very much in style, and chalk paint perfectly achieves that slightly distressed look. 

Once dried to a perfectly matte finish, it is as easy as working over the fresh paint with some sandpaper. Though Annie Sloan recommends distressing after a wax layer has been added, it is easier to do beforehand. 

When distressing furniture, you should focus on the following areas, which are more likely to experience wear and tear over the years:

  • Edes
  • Tops
  • Corners
  • Protrusions
  • Knobs and handles
  • Decorative details

Finish with a wax sealant to be sure the piece keeps its details. 

Easy to Clean

Chalk paint is much easier to clean up since it is water-based. The brush, even when dried, will clean off easily when soaked in soap and water. There is no need for harsh chemicals. 

Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

It is just as easy to clean clothes or tarps that have chalk paint on them. Where traditional paint would still be visible after a wash, chalk paint will come out in the machine. 

Cons

One of the biggest issues with chalk paint is durability. Without a sealant, you can expect it to chip or scratch quite easily. Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue.

Prep Work vs. Finishing Work

Newer furniture will almost always need sanding before it can be painted. Similarly, older pieces can have chips or dents that need to be dealt with before a finish can be applied, especially if you hope for a smooth feel once you are done. 

Though an ideal piece can be painted with chalk paint right away, there would rarely be no prep work at all. 

Where you might make up some time in the prep stage, using chalk paint will actually add on to your time and work in the end stages. Chalk paint will damage under scratches, wear and tear and, if exposed to water, can actually re-liquify.

Chalk paint furniture has to be sealed to prevent chipping or water damage. The most common way to seal chalk paint is with wax. This can only be applied once the paint is fully dried and can take two weeks to cure. 

This wax sealant will need to be reapplied every three years to ensure your piece will last. 

It Will Leave Brush Marks

If you are looking for a rustic farmhouse style, then brush marks might be a good thing. However, for a smooth and modern finish, chalk paint is not the right option. 

Unless you use a roller or spray painter, you will almost always see brush marks. Plus, if you hadn’t sand and prime beforehand, you might have an uneven finish in the end. 

Stains Might Bleed Through

By not prepping your furniture before use, a wood stain may bleed through the water-based chalk paint. 

Due to being more porous, this paint soaks up what it comes into contact with. This means wood stain and other day-to-day stains will stain an older piece of furniture on the surface.

Chalk Paint Is Not Ideal for Kitchens or Bathrooms

Given the need to seal this kind of paint, to cover an entire kitchen would be costly and probably ineffective. 

The moisture created in kitchens and bathrooms will slowly seep into the furniture and cabinets and ultimately wear away at the chalk paint.

You would likely need multiple layers of wax or a top coat of something water-resistant to seal properly. You would be taking away the matte finish by sealing your kitchen or bathroom furniture with a more substantial top coat. At that point, you could have opted for a cheaper traditional paint. 

Minwax 233334444 Polycrylic Protective Wood Finish, Clear Satin, ½ Pint
  • PROTECT WOOD SURFACES – Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish protects and adds beauty to your interior wood projects, including woodwork, furniture, doors and cabinets. The clear top coat protects against scratches, spills, dirt and more.
  • CRYSTAL CLEAR FINISH THAT LASTS – The crystal clear finished offered in this protective coating is ideal for use over all Minwax Oil-Based and Water-Based Stains and colors, as well as all wood species including light woods like maple, ash and birch.
  • SATIN SHEEN – Give your wood projects a sleek finish with this satin clear varnish. It not only protects the natural beauty of the wood, but offers an attractive, classic sheen for a modern and subtle look. It’s non-yellowing, non-ambering and low odor.

Last update on 2022-12-03 at 07:31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Also, the wax sealant has been known to attract dust and dirt particles. This would worsen in a kitchen where dust and food, such as sugar and flour, are being used. 

The Cost Is High

The cost of specialized brushes, a quart (0.95 liters) of chalk paint, and wax sealant can cost almost $70. By contrast, a brush and a quart of primer and regular paint can cost as little as $29. 

Regal Select offers several colors costing less than $25 for a quart if you want that matte finish. This option gives a matte finish and doesn’t require a wax sealant. 

The video below compares chalk paint with regular matte paint, and the results are quite similar:

Tips for Painting with Chalk Paint

If you still want to try painting your furniture with chalk paint, it is advised to start small. Begin with a project that won’t take too long and one that you do not mind ruining. Use this piece as a practice to see how it paints, how it sits, and how it finishes. 

Other tips include:

  • Clean your work. Start with a clean piece. That means washing an older piece with soap and water or thoroughly removing wood shavings from anything new. 
  • Sand and prime. If you are working on a decorative piece of furniture, you can get away with not prepping it before painting. However, for something more functional, like a coffee table, it is always better to start with a smooth and primed surface. This way, nothing will seep through or show up through the finished paint.
  • Distress slowly. When using sandpaper to distress, start slow and small. Get a feel for how it works and the results before doing the front of your work. Stick to the edges and details to give a subtle shabby-chic effect.
  • Thin out the paint for non-wood surfaces. When painting metal details or ceramics, it is best to thin the paint down slightly to get a better finish. 
  • Sand to smooth out the finish. If you want a smoother finish, apply a thin layer and gently sand it once dried. Repeat a couple of times, being careful not to sand too hard. 
  • Seal your work. On its own, chalk paint is not durable and will likely chip, scratch, or wear away quite quickly. To maintain your furniture, apply a wax coating to protect the paint and help it last longer. 

Other Uses for Chalk Paint

Given how easy it is to use, do not be surprised to see more and more projects turning to chalk paint. 

It can give a great texture and shabby-chic look to almost anything from walls and furniture to statement pieces for the home.

  • Throw pillows: Chalk paint is so versatile, it can be effectively used on fabric. With such a large range of colors, it is not easy to create your own design and safe enough for kids to help with.
  • Glass vases: Just two coats of chalk paint and a little sanding will leave you with an inexpensive but impressive distressed vase.
  • Decorative wreath: It is easy to upcycle a holiday wreath with a little paint. By adding fresh colors, a Christmas wreath can be reused going into the Spring.
  • Picture frames: Shabby-chic picture frames are easy and affordable with chalk paint. It is easy to buy many different sizes and styles on sale or at flea markets and turn them into matching frames. 
  • Plant pots: Another great upcycle, be sure to seal these pots to make them weatherproof.

Alternatives

Water-based acrylic paints are an excellent alternative to chalk paint. Technically designed for use on trim and framework, it is durable and ensures a smooth finish. 

Is Chalk Paint a Good Choice for Painting Furniture?

A chalk paint project can take up to three days to complete. With drying and cure times, this alternative can be finished in half a day. 

Although you have to sand and prime your furniture before use, you will save time and money by not applying a top coat or sealant. 

Conclusion

Chalk paint can be an excellent choice when looking to give an old piece of furniture new life. For beginners, it is easy to use and requires little preparation. With the variety of color options, chalk paint is a great way to add color to furniture and other decor items.

However, with its much higher cost and more complicated wax finished, they are better alternatives for paint furniture. 

Sources

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