Why + How to Prime Wood Furniture

It’s been a busy few days around my neck of the woods.  With revamping the china cabinet + another BIG project coming down the pipeline (which I can’t wait to share details about), I haven’t had 5 minutes to sit.  No worries though, I’ll sit when I’m old, ha.

So my last post was all about the beginning steps of prepping & sanding a piece of wood furniture.  The next step, which is what this post is dedicated to, is priming.  Primer is SO important!  I can not stress enough that primer is a must when painting something. anything.  YOU NEED PRIMER.

China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

Why Prime.

Whether a room or a piece of furniture, paint is truly one of the easiest & most affordable ways to update and/or change the look of something.   It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to a wall or a surface.  I read once, “Don’t expect paint to do a primer’s job”.   The purpose of paint is to provide color, but the purpose of primer is to provide the ideal base for the paint to be applied.  Without, the result can fall short.

What does Primer Do?

> Blocks Stain  Primers are made to block the natural pigments (tannin) of the wood and/or original stain from bleeding through the new paint.

> Hides Color  Priming the surface before painting hides / blocks the previous color from showing through.  Using a primer will also sometimes eliminate the need for multiple coats (cost savings!)

> Seals the surface  Priming before painting seals the surface so the paint doesn’t get soaked in.  The prime provides the perfect base for the paint to be applied.  Primer also provides the ideal surface for paint to adhere to.  Typically with a stained piece of furniture, like my china cabinet, the original surface is glossy which paint wouldn’t adhere to.  Adding a primer to a glossy surface will give the provide the ideal underlayment for a beautiful new color.  This same technique can be used for tile, glass, vinyl siding, and aluminum – all slick surfaces that wouldn’t be paintable without primer!

Do you recall when I was painting my laminate bookcase?  I failed to prime a spot and the paint just bubbled and didn’t stick to the surface.  Here’s a picture…

Priming is a must before applying paint!

> Lasting Result  Without primer, paint could easily chip or scrape off very easily + quickly.  Using one (thin) coat of primer + two (typically, maybe more) coats of paint you should have a long lasting, durable result!

The Right Primer.

There are many primers on the market and the decision on the right one for the job can be tricky.  When painting over furniture, you want to choose a primer that indicates on the can that it will block the stain and seal the surface.  The primer that I chose for this china cabinet makeover was Glidden Gripper because it truly grips to the surface and seals the stain from coming through.  It also created the perfect base for the new WILD color I chose.

Glidden Gripper

Applying Primer.

a how-to tutorial on applying primer.  Its so easy…

Note: This is the most important tip I can share about priming (told to me by someone – a pro – in the painting world), primer does not need to be applied like paint. A thin coat of primer is fine and actually better than “globbing” it on.  Primer does not need to fully cover the surface underneath, meaning you can still have wood showing through.  As long as the surface area has a thin coat (one coat), you are set to paint!

When painting a piece of furniture, I always start at one end and make my way across. Why?  Paint dries fairly fast and to avoid drips + brush strokes, it’s important to work in small sections and apply thin coats.
China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

Typically I apply the paint to the surface.  Then spread it out.  Then go back over it with my brush, using light stokes and following the wood grain.

China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

When painting furniture, the piece is typically vertical, so paint could drip.   Around the detailed edges and ornate areas, the less paint the better to avoid paint from dripping.  And once an area is done, always continue to look back to make sure paint isn’t seeping down.

China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

For this china cabinet, there were 3 doors, which I removed and are painting laying down.  It’s much easier to paint + drips don’t occur as much.

China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

For this piece, it took me about 40 minutes to prime.  To me, it’s very relaxing. This is the result…

China Cabinet Makeover: PRIMING! An entire post on Why & How-To Prime a Wood Surface.  Priming any surface before painting is so important & it can save you money.  Come see the result of how what prime can do & follow along on this furniture makeover

That’s a wrap… for now.

She’s ready for paint!

Want a peak?  Here you go…

Sneak Peak at the new color for the China Cabinet

I’m off to paint some more…

Follow along on this makeover with these other posts
Backstory + Choosing a Color
Prepping & Sanding Wood Furniture
Why & How to Prime Wood Furniture
Tips + Tricks to Painting Wood Furniture
Accessories, Details, & Styling {China Cabinet Makeover}

Coming up (still to do)
China Cabinet Makeover {Reveal}

 




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Comments

  1. Jennifer A says

    Jenna, I notice you’re using a fairly small brush. Wouldn’t a wider brush make a big project like this go faster, or is there a reason to use a small brush?

    • Jenna says

      With furniture that is ornate and has lots of nooks and crannies, I like to use a smaller brush to be sure to get in all the little spots + all the possible drips. For this project, I just kept with the smaller brush overall, but using a combo of a big and small brush is fine. Also using a small brush for detailed areas and a 4″ roller for larger, flat surfaces is also an option.

  2. lynn says

    Thank you for the tip. And I agree – Glidden is the way to go. Did you sand the wood before adding primer. I hate sanding and hoping the primer will be enough, without the nasty business of sanding.

    You are a “master painter”!