How to achieve the perfect chalk paint furniture makeover, according to a DIY expert

A chalk paint furniture makeover is one of the easiest ways to upcycle an old piece. Here, a DIY expert shares her simple tips for getting started on this simple furniture flip.

chalk paint nightstand makeover
(Image credit: Liz Hartmann)

Do you ever get that itch for a change in your home? Sure, you love your home, but you just want to switch it up a little bit. I know I do, and sometimes I’m tempted to go out and buy a new piece of furniture in order to give a space a new feel. But spending all that money really isn’t necessary! I’m sure you’ve seen furniture flips and rehabs on television and social media, but did you ever think that you’d be able to easily accomplish that yourself? I am here to tell you that refinishing furniture doesn’t always require hours of sanding, prep work, and staining.

Enter, chalk paint. This magical paint is one of the best paints for furniture, and can take an old piece from drab to fab in no time, and with minimal effort. It's a dream to use if you're short on time, or just starting out in your DIY project adventures.

How to use chalk paint to upcycle furniture, fast

So now that we’re sold on chalk paint, where do we start? Below, I've listed out the oh-so-simple steps to executing your first chalk paint makeover. 

 

Step 1: Find the right piece of furniture

First off, find your piece of furniture. Anything from a chair to a dresser to an old hutch will do. Look around your home for a good candidate, or search Facebook Marketplace or your local Goodwill if you don't have an old piece on hand. If you find a piece you love but aren't crazy about the color, or if the finish has seen better days, you've got a winner. 

Step 2: Find some inspiration

Once you have your piece picked out, I recommend finding some inspiration of a piece that you’d like to mimic. This way, you'll have an idea of the look you're going for and how the final piece will turn out.

Then, start shopping for paint. These days, you can find chalk paint everywhere from Target, to the Home Depot, to Amazon. 

Chalk paint has come a long way, and you can even get chalk paint that you can tint to any color you’d like now, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Once you’ve decided on color, it’s time to get painting. 

Step 3: Start painting

What’s that you say? You think I missed the part about prepping the furniture? You think I forgot to mention that you need to sand your furniture down first? I’m happy to report that I did not in fact forget to mention that step. No sanding necessary!

By far, the most difficult part of refinishing furniture the old-fashioned way is the sanding. Sanding isn’t my favorite activity. It takes a really long time, and can also be a bit of a workout. My favorite thing about chalk paint, however, is that there is no sanding required.

Chalk paint adheres to almost any finish without sanding, and even better- it dries incredibly quickly. It is a lot thicker than your everyday latex paint, and so a lot of times, you may even be able to get away with one coat. So, paint away, and if you do need more than one coat, you just have to wait until the paint appears dry and has a chalky finish in order to apply another. I love to roll chalk paint on for a smooth finish but using a paint brush with a light sand between coats to avoid brush strokes works too.

Note, that while you may not have to sand, if your piece looks dirty, dusty, or generally gunky, give it a good scrub before you paint to ensure a more even finish. 

Step 4: Finish the piece

Once your piece is painted, you will notice that the finish of the chalk paint is, well, chalky. It may appear dull, and if that doesn’t bother you, you are welcome to leave it that way. However, I do recommend applying a protective finish of some kind. 

My personal preference when using chalk paint is a finishing wax/finishing paste. This is made specifically for chalk paint, and applying it is incredibly easy. All that is required is an old rag or a paper towel. You will also find brushes specifically for applying the wax, but I have had good luck with just applying it with a piece of an old t-shirt. 

If your color choice was light, there are tinted waxes that can give an antiqued look to your piece, but you can also opt for a clear wax. Apply the wax and give it some dry time, and I promise that you will love the finished product. The wax gives a beautifully smooth finish, while protecting your piece at the same time.

If you want something glossier, or are using the furniture piece in a high-traffic or high-touch area, you can also finish it with a traditional polyurethane. 

And there you have it- a brand new piece of furniture for your home! I can’t even tell you the number of things in my home that I have chalk painted. There are chairs, dressers, hutches, picture frames… the opportunities are honestly endless. And the best part is that all it cost me was a few dollars for a can of paint, and an hour or two of my time. 

I’d definitely chalk that one up as a win.

About our expert

Liz Hartmann is a mom, lover of all things DIY, and creative thinker who chronicles her home renovation adventures on her blog, Miss Liz Did It. She's DIYed everything from faux marble countertops and shiplap walls, to woven headboards and bunk beds. Follow her on Instagram at @MissLizDidIt