sanding furniture before painting

Why You Should Sand Wood Furniture Before Painting

In Tips by Jamie P.

I get it, you don’t want to make a mess sanding. When you start sanding wood furniture dust is flying around in the air landing on everything and anything it can get to, and if you are working on a project in the comfort of your living room you probably want to make as little mess as possible. However, I am here to tell you that you should sand furniture before painting it, but you still don’t have to make a big mess.

Do you have to sand wood furniture before painting?

No, you don’t have to sand wood furniture before painting it, however, sanding creates a better surface for the paint to adhere to creating a longer-lasting durable piece of painted furniture. I recommend using a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff the areas you are painting.

The sanding process doesn’t have to get messy like you think it will. The truth about sanding wood furniture is that the true amounts of dust come from sanding when using an electric sander. These sanders quickly remove the old varnish and clear coats, while many have vacuums to suck up the dust you will still see the air get cloudy with dust depending on the quality of course. If you use sand paper or a sanding sponge you can reduce dust in the air and have an easier clean-up.

Anyway, let me explain to you why it is recommended to sand before painting wood furniture.

Why You Should Sand Furniture Before Applying Paint

For me, I follow a process before I begin painting any piece of furniture, and so should you. Not everyone follows the exact same steps, but I will say they are similar in many ways. The idea of “prepping” furniture for paint is to create a surface that the paint will stick to while remaining durable to last against normal activity, sanding is one of these prepping steps.

My process of painting furniture looks like this:

  1. Clean and degrease
  2. Let any cleaning products completely evaporate/dry
  3. Lightly sand the areas that are being painted
  4. Clean every bit of dust before priming
  5. Apply a primer 1-2 coats
  6. Apply your paint 2-3 coats
  7. Apply protective finish 2-5 coats

Of course, there are a few more things that happen when painting and refinishing furniture. Sometimes you will need to glue pieces back together, other times you will use wood filler. There are a lot of techniques you learn when approached with an issue, but you’ll learn them from experience or seeing me fix them in my Youtube videos.

Now let’s get into the discussion about the need to sand wood furniture when painting.

Sanding Furniture Before Painting

Yes, you should sand furniture before painting it for the number one reason being durability. Paint needs to adhere to a surface, meaning to grab and stick on, as best as it can and if it can’t it will peel or chip off quickly.

If you have a piece of furniture that is chipping paint and peeling off will anyone want it? No, it will look cheap and worthless if I am being honest. Trust me, from my experience of selling a lot of furniture people will find the smallest issues and will look for a deal or just stay away from the purchase. Having a durable paint job is the first place you need to start if you want to paint furniture to sell or keep yourself.

How to Sand Furniture for Painting

To get that surface ready for paint you need to remove that glossy finish, paint doesn’t stick to shiny looking surfaces. This is where we come in with some sandpaper, grab a 180-220 grit sanding sponge and begin sanding in the direction of the wood grain if it’s apparent, if not just sand until the surface is scuffed up. If the surface is really glossy and not sanding easy just reduce your grit. The lower the sandpaper grit the rougher it will be. I like to wrap a piece of sandpaper around my sanding sponge, it easy to use this way and I know I am sanding at an even amount of pressure. Take a look:

sanding furniture with sanding sponge

Keep in mind, we are not sanding to get down to the bare wood, that is only required if staining. Since we are painting we only need to scuff the surface so our paint will have a better surface to hold onto.

Furthermore, don’t push hard and dig into the wood. If you make any deep scratches and cuts in the wood, you will see this once painted and it would take a lot to fix it.

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Furniture Before Painting?

When painting a piece of furniture and you don’t sand it prior to priming and painting you are at a higher risk of the paint chipping and peeling. Although, paint can certainly adhere to non-sanded surfaces and still remain durable, but without sanding it you are increasing your risk that the paint will come off your piece.

I like to reduce the chances of paint chipping off my furniture pieces, anything you can do to reduce the chances I will. That’s why I follow my furniture painting process, cleaning, sanding, priming, and then painting. This will create a better bond between the wooden surface and the paint, reducing issues significantly.

Sanding Furniture Between Coats of Paint

Another issue you will see if you don’t sand your piece of furniture before painting is having problems with bumps and rough spots on the surface. Even just by lightly sanding furniture you remove that rough surface that could cause your painted surface to look bad, this is why I choose to lightly sand between every coat of paint and primer. I grab my 220 grit sanding sponge and very lightly sand everywhere. This helps make the final coat of paint look as if it was factory painted, that’s what we want right?

When sanding furniture between coats of paint we are creating a better surface for the paint to adhere to each and every coat. This makes your painted surface both smooth and very durable.

Do You Have to Sand Furniture Before Spray Painting?

Lightly sanding furniture before spray painting is highly recommended, that light sanding will create a better surface for the spray paint to hold onto resulting in a better and stronger painted surface.

Spray paint can be tricky, I have messed it up many times, but how? Well, it’s easy to spray a can of paint and if you are being impatient like I can be, it is easy to spray too much paint. With spray paint, you want to apply it in as light of coats as you can. With a lightly scuffed sanded surface and extremely light coats of spray paint, you are increasing the odds that your spray painted surface will last a long time.

Spray paint isn’t always my first pick for furniture, it’s best used on weirdly shaped items like chairs. The process just moves forward more quickly. Many items you are likely to spray paint won’t even be wood, but I still recommend using some sandpaper or sand sponge to scuff the surface before painting it.

Final Thoughts

After making it this far, I think it is safe to say that sanding furniture before painting is recommended. Although I can’t say required I would bet that it would last much longer and it increased its value for re-selling. As mentioned before I follow a process when painting furniture and sanding happens to be in the middle of the process. Using a good primer helps the paint adhere to furniture too, and without a good one, you might even see bleeds in your paint.

I hope I helped you learn a thing or two about painting furniture and how to make p[ain’t adhere a little bit stronger. My goal is to help you paint furniture to make it durable and to make it worth much more than it did before. Thanks for reading in and good luck with your next piece of furniture!