- Make sure it's real wood. A lot of furniture pieces have a laminate top with a wood design. It's not going to paint well. Look for scratches or chips in the piece if you are having trouble telling the difference.
- Check the functionality. See if the drawers open and close and if the piece is sturdy. If it rocks back and forth, try to find out why. It may just be because of loose screws or a joint needs to be glued. If they legs are broken I wouldn't buy it.
- Have in mind what you are going to do with it. If it's for your home, make sure you have a place for it. I can't count the number of times I bought something because it was cute and I just couldn't figure out what to do with it when it was finished.
- Make an offer. Almost everyone will take less than the asking price at a garage sale.
- Electric sander. If you don't have one, see if you can buy or borrow one. You are going to get really frustrated and burned out if you try to sand something with a piece of sandpaper.
- Sandpaper: all sandpaper is not created equal. Check the numbers on the back. The higher the number, the finer the sandpaper will be. If your sandpaper is leaving big ol gashes in your piece of wood you'll need a sandpaper with a higher number on it. If your paper isn't doing a darn thing, try a smaller number. The idea with sandpaper is to sand it with a lower number and then gradually work your way up to a fine paper to make your furniture really smooth. I don't ever do that for paint, but it works well if you are going to put a finish or stain on your piece. I just use about a 120 grit.
- Paint brushes: I would suggest going really expensive or really cheap when it comes to paint brushes. Either get a really nice expensive fine brush or use sponge brushes. They work really well and don't leave as many brush stokes as a crappy paint brush. They also come in a variety of sizes and are less than a buck each.
- Sand down your piece of furniture. Some pieces won't need too much sanding if they are really old and the finish is mostly worn off. If you've got a heavy duty varnish on it it's going to take a lot of work. I did see a product at Robert's yesterday that is called a Sealer that preps pieces for painting. I've never tried it, so I don't know how well it works.
- Clean it really well. Get all of the debris off. Don't make the mistake of thinking that paint will hide flaws. It won't!! It will make every little flaw stand out! Try and get everything as clean and smooth as you can before you paint.
- Paint! Use thin coats of paint and let them dry completely. If you try to rush it and paint the next coat before the first is dry your paint is more likely to peal off.
- Distressed: For a distressed look I just rub a piece of sandpaper along all the edges and knobs. If it's a large item I use a sander.
- Two-tone distressed: Paint the item with two different colors and then use steel wool to sand down the edges. The steel wool won't take off the second layer of paint like sandpaper will.
- Antiqued: sand down the edges and then rub with stain. You can use a wet wash cloth to wipe the areas that you don't want a heavy stain. I LOVE the Gel Stain. You can buy it at Robert's.
- Tape lines: If you are using painter's tape to create a design a helpful tip I learned is to lightly paint over the tape with the original color of paint or use a glaze. It will create a seal and won't allow your paint to seep through.
- Seal it: I have this really cool varnish that dries clear. You can get it in a gloss finish or a matte. This is especially important for high traffic pieces like a table top. This is really easy, you just paint it on with a nice paint brush and it dries in 15 minutes. You can also use a polyurethane spray, but you will have to sand it with a fine sandpaper in between coats.
- Replace knobs. It will really make a huge difference to your piece. They have cute knobs at Hobby Lobby that are pretty inexpensive. If you are not wanting to spend a lot of money, buy the large wooden knobs at Home Depot and paint them! You can get a two pack for a dollar!
Redoing a piece of furniture can be really tedious and frustrating, but also very rewarding and a really economical way to uniquely furnish your home. Happy hunting.
*If you have tips on refinishing furniture please let me know! I love to learn new tricks!