How to update for cheap with chalk paint furniture

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    Want to spruce up your house while on a tight budget? Buying new furniture and decor might be out of the question, but you can always repurpose what you have to save money. That’s why I love to chalk paint furniture. It’s taking what we already have – or have gotten cheap – and completely changing how they look without killing our budget.

    I’ve become a pro at repurposing pieces in our house. Whether it’s end tables, dressers or coffee tables, I love stripping, staining and painting to change the look of our house without spending a ton of money.

    One easy way to achieve this is to use chalk paint. By choosing to chalk paint furniture, you can easily change pieces you already have without breaking the bank or your back. Chalk paint is easy to use, stays put, and has infinite possibilities when you layer different colors with different waxes.

    This week, I’ve decided to chalk paint an old black dresser with teal and gray. I love a good chalk paint makeover, so I’m recording the steps to show how easy and cheap a chalk paint dresser is!

    Want to update your house without breaking your budget? Try chalk paint furniture! It's easy to take an old piece and give it a new, beautiful look with chalk paint! #chalkpaint #cheaphomedecor #homedecor #budget #diy

    What is chalk paint?

    Chalk paint is latex paint that’s had plaster of paris and water added to it. Remember using plaster of paris, water, and newspaper strips to create paper mache sculptures? Yup, it’s the same stuff.

    Chalk paint colors vary from brand to brand, so if you don’t like what one brand offers, check out another! Or, make your own.

    You can even create your own chalk paint with one of the many chalk paint recipes found on Pinterest. Essentially, you add plaster of paris and water to a latex paint that you already have and voila – you have chalk paint!

    Why use chalk paint vs regular paint?

    Chalk paint is very forgiving compared to latex paint. It dries much faster, and you can create beautiful layers of color in a way that you can’t with latex. It’s easier to use and clean up, and is less expensive than straight latex paint because you use less.

    Plus, I’ve never had chalk paint peel or stick the way that latex that hasn’t set right does. And, it goes on much easier over old paint, as you’ll see in my photos.

    Choosing to use chalk paint involves a couple more steps than painting with straight latex paint, but a little paint goes a long way. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s a cheap and easy way to completely change the look of a piece of furniture – as well as an inexpensive way to spruce up a room.

    How to use chalk paint

    Using chalk paint is very easy. Luckily I just updated a dresser with chalk paint that had been passed to us, so I took photos and wrote down the steps.

    Items needed to chalk paint furniture:

    Where to buy chalk paint for furniture

    All in all, the required items added up to less than $50. I did already have a sander and sandpaper lying around, as well as wood glue and chalk paint wax. However, you can easily find this stuff on Amazon or when sales hit at your local craft or home improvement store.

    I do recommend getting a paint brush specifically for chalk painting. They are just much easier to hold and really help to create a beautiful texture. You can get a two pack for around $12. One of the best brushes for chalk painting I’ve found is this one.

    How to Chalk Paint a Dresser (Or furniture, or anything, really)

    Chalk paint is a good way to update furniture that you no longer like the color of or just want to change up a room. Chalk paint is good for furniture because it does a great job of covering all the cracks, nookies, and crannies that furniture can have. It’s also great for covering up scratches, spots were the stain has dulled, or a previous bad paint job.

    Step 1: Prepare the furniture.

    Start by removing the knobs off of dressers and drawers. Then, you want to sand off any thick parts of old paint or stain. Essentially, you want to break up that old glossy layer that the paint or varnish has created. The new paint will stick much better if you remove that smooth top layer.

    You do NOT have to sand before using chalk paint. However, I chose to because there were layers of paint built up that would have caused awkard bumps. Also, this piece was really old and I just wanted to make sure any grime and excess stuff was off. However, chalk paint stick pretty well to just about anything – so it’s your choice!

    I start out with a lower grit sandpaper, like around 100. That means it’s more coarse, and will clean off the old paint faster. In this case, there were wood pieces on top of the dresser that were used as a base to a changing table. I removed them, but there were thick paint ridges left behind. I used the 100 grit sandpaper to remove them and create a smoother surface.

    Using a hand sander to remove the old paint for my chalk paint furniture update.

    Using a hand sander to remove the old paint.

    Next, I used a higher grit sandpaper to smooth the wood. You don’t have to take off all the old paint – but you do want the surface smooth. Otherwise, you’ll feel and see bumps that’ll drive you nuts.

    I suggest using a sander if you have one. Hand sanding is fine, but I prefer my arms not to fall off. Maybe you enjoy workouts though – if so, you do you, boo!

    Use the hand sander or sandpaper to remove the old paint and prep the furniture for the chalk paint.

    Check out my drawers! 😉

    Step 2: Fill in any holes.

    As you can see here, I had some holes where the top wood pieces were held onto the dresser with dowels. Use some wood filler to fill in those holes. I suggest actually over filling them, because it tends to shrink when it dries.

    Once the wood filler is completely dry, you’ll want to hand sand it with some sandpaper. Sand off the excess, and create a smooth surface.

    Use wood filler to prep your surface and fill any holes before painting.

    I liked this wood filler because it came in a tube and I could cut an angle on the tip. It’s easier than scooping the filler out of a bucket and trying to fill the spots.

    Step 3: Clean the furniture.

    Now that you’re done sanding, you need to get all that grit off of the furniture for a smooth paint. Use a tack cloth to pick up all of the dust and dirt. A tack cloth is a cheesecloth that has linseed oil on it. They’re great for grabbing all those tiny particles and creating a clean surface.

    Use a tack cloth to clean up your furniture before painting with chalk paint.

    Tack cloths are a thing of beauty. Just look at all the junk it picked up!

    Step 4: Add wood appliques to fancy things up.

    These are purely optional, but they can spruce up a dull piece of furniture. They are unfinished wood pieces that look like flowers or scrolls.

    The wood appliques are easy to add. Just add wood glue to the back, place, and put something heavy on top. Do not add too much glue, otherwise it’ll leak out and make a mess. If this does happen, just grab a wet paper towel and wipe off the excess.

    Luckily, wood glue is really strong and works great. If you’re worried about them falling off, you can try nailing them on as well. I would recommend using an actually nail gun though, since trying to nail appliques with wood glue on the back is slippery and tricky work!

    Pro tip: Adding things like appliques create a beautifully textured surface that will better showcase your awesome paint skills. Why not try one of these?

    Use wood glue to add wood appliques to your furniture to create a new look.

    Wood appliques are an easy way to change up the look of any wood furniture!

    Step 5: Add your first layer of chalk paint.

    Alrighty – we’re ready to paint! The color that you want to show as a highlight, you’ll want to put on first. When applying chalk paint, you can paint in one direction to create an even, smoother coverage. Or, you can choose to create strokes in multiple directions to add texture and bumper coverage.

    Luckily, when you chalk paint furniture, it dries really fast. As soon as I was done with the third drawer, the first one was dry. If you see any thin spots in your paint, go back and touch them up so you have solid coverage. If you try while it’s still wet, you can end up taking off paint. Weird, I know. If you experience this, wait for it to dry and then touch up as needed.

    Paint your first chalk paint color onto your furniture with a chalk paint brush.

    Add your first layer of chalk paint. This will be the color that you want as a highlight, not as the main color.

    Step 6: Use candles to create patchy spots.

    Look at your furniture and figure out where it’s most likely to have wear spots. I tend to add them around the edges, where there are any curves or bumpy spots (like on the appliques), or on the edge of the top of the dresser.

    Any place you want your highlight or base color to show through, you’ll want to rub the candle over it. The more wax you deposit from the candle, the more you’ll be able to remove the top color.

    Pro tip: The wax from the candle creates a barrier to make it easier to remove the top color. If you want to make it really distressed and chunky, you can use petroleum jelly or something similar to create a greater barrier.

    Use a candle to create a wax barrier between chalk paint layers.

    It’s a lot easier to rub the wax from the candle onto the furniture once you’ve created a flat spot on the side of the candle.

    Step 7: Add your top chalk paint color.

    Wondering how long between coats of chalk paint? Don’t worry – it dries quickly so you’ll have to wait a minimal amount of time to make sure everything’s dry. I’d say 30 minutes, tops!

    Next use your chalk paint brush to add your top color. I did a neutral gray to cover the turquoise. Make sure that you do an even coat and cover everything, including the tiny cracks and dips around your appliques.

    Coat your furniture with a second color of chalk paint.

    Paint your second chalk paint color on. For this, I choose a neutral gray.

    Step 8: Time to sand, again.

    Now that your second color of chalk paint is dry, you’ll want to sand off the bits that you covered in candle wax. Just use a high grit sandpaper (a finer sandpaper) and start small. You can also use a wet paper towel to remove the paint in a smoother fashion.

    Sandpaper will create a chunkier removal of the top paint (see picture), and the wet paper towel will create a smoother removal.

    Remove as much or as little as you want to create a unique chalk paint furniture look. If you sand or wipe outside of the area without the candle wax barrier, you will remove both layers of paint. It takes a lot to do that though, so don’t be shy about putting your elbows into it!

    Use a high grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of paint where you've used your candle wax.

    Look at that beautiful color popping through! I’m sanding where I previously rubbed the candle and left the wax barrier.

    Step 9: Wax on, wax off.

    Now that you’re done painting and distressing your piece, I’m sure you want to know how to finish chalk paint furniture, right?

    You need to seal the piece so that the paint doesn’t accidentally get scraped or washed off. You’ll want to add a wax coat to seal the piece.

    Chalk paint wax can come in multiple colors to add another layer of color to your furniture. In this case, I used some clear mixed with white. It created a small tint to corners and dips that added some dimension to the piece.

    When you add the wax, you want to brush it on with your chalk paint brush in a very, very thin layer. I like to brush it on, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth towel. It keeps the color from being overbearing and taking over.

    To get it into all the cracks and crevices, use your chalk paint brush and paint in swirls to fill those spots. It will be hard to remove the wax from the crevices, but it adds depth and color to your furniture.

    Pro tip: If you are using a colored chalk paint wax and it gets too dark or heavy, just apply a clear wax over top and wipe before they dry. The clear wax helps to remove the excess darker wax easily.

    Coat your chalk paint furniture in a layer of chalk paint wax, then wipe if needed.

    Make sure you put your wax on in a light layer. I like to wipe it right after, before it dries to take some back off.

    Step 10: Buff your furniture.

    After letting your piece dry overnight, use a soft clean towel to buff the furniture to the amount of shine that you want. I left mine relatively dull since distressed and shine don’t quite go together in my mind.

    Step 11: Add knobs

    If you have drawers, add some new and fun knobs. I snagged these at Home Depot for about $3 a piece, which was the most expensive part of the whole project!

    Add your new knobs to your chalk paint furniture. You're almost done!

    Add some cute and funky drawer knobs to create a new, fun look!

    Step 12: Enjoy your “new” furniture!

    Put your new chalk paint furniture in its place and admire your beautiful work!

    Enjoy your finished chalk paint furniture!

    Look at how the swirls of the wood appliques add extra spots for the highlight color to shine through!

    Close up of completed chalk paint furniture

    I love the rustic distressed look using candle wax and sanding created here.

    Completed chalk paint furniture piece

    Here you can see the white chalk paint wax has left some additional highlights on the wood applique.

    Chalk Paint Furniture Before and After:

    Before and after of chalk paint furniture

    Here’s the final before and after shot – quite the difference, right?

    Not too shabby, eh? The best part is that you can do just about anything – a chalk paint dresser with a stained top, a solid color with no wax/secondary color, or even colored wax to deepen the hues in the depressed areas. The possibilities of chalk paint are endless!

    And they don’t stop at chalk paint dresser ideas – you could chalk paint your entire bedroom furniture suite to do a cheap and easy refresh on your room.

    There are a million chalk paint furniture ideas that you can use to change up your home without spending a fortune. Now that you know how easy it is, you can find ways to use chalk paint all over your house. I’ve refinished bookcases, dressers, and even created several picture frames and painted them. The ways in which you can use chalk paint are endless!

    I’ve also updated our bathroom mirror frame with paint – you can check it out here!

    Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, comment below and show me your before and after furniture makeovers! I’d absolutely love to see them!

    Here are a couple of related articles I’m sure you’ll love:

    Where to Find Farmhouse Decor for Cheap

    The 10 Best Farmhouse Decor Gifts for Devout Fixer Upper Fans

    The 10 Best Gifts for the Beginning Woodworker

    Amazingly Simple Cleaning Tips that’ll Save You Tons of Money

    It's easy to do home decor updates within your budget when you try chalk paint. Chalk paint furniture is an easy, fun and inexpensive way to update a room without spending a fortune. #budget #homedecor #cheaphomedecor #diy

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    A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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