Chalk paint has a well-known reputation as a better alternative to more conventional painting methods. Many argue it has fantastic coverage without the hassle of sanding and priming. With these claims, who wouldn’t want to use it? However, it didn’t take much experimenting to find a process that yields a better result with less effort and MUCH less expense for painting furniture. Here’s my better alternative to chalk painting furniture.
My intent is certainly not to bash those who use and love chalk paint. I’m sure that there are several furniture painters out there much more talented than I, who use chalk paint to it’s greatest potential. We all have different styles that often require different mediums. This post is for anyone that wants to redo a piece of furniture in an easy but also budget-friendly way.
It wasn’t that long ago that my daughter had a rare autoimmune disease and we were overloaded with medical bills. (She’s in full remission now – Read her story HERE!) My emotional outlet was making things around our home beautiful! I wanted to redo some old but was discouraged by chalk paint because of the price. I also shied away from latex because I wasn’t sure about the process.
Fortunately, I’ve found a process that is easier than chalk painting furniture at only a fraction of the cost.
First, let’s set the record straight by confronting some claims about chalk paint:
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“Chalk Paint Does Not Require Sanding”
The reason you should sand a piece of furniture is usually so that you can create enough grit or tooth on the surface for the paint to stick. Chalk painters can sometimes get around sanding because chalk paint is more porous which allows it to have glue-like properties.
However, I have yet to find an old piece of furniture that did not require at least some sanding. Unless your piece is in pristine condition, there are bound to be some nicks and scratches that you want to sand out before putting in your home.
When most people visualize sanding, they see themselves slaving over a piece for hours with a small piece of sandpaper. That doesn’t seem the least bit appealing to me either, which is why I use an electric mouse sander. With this sander, sanding consists of flipping a switch and running the sander over the surface of the piece. It maybe takes 5 minutes. You will also want to wipe it down with a moist rag. Not so bad, right?!? Even if you are chalk painting furniture, some pieces some glossier pieces will have to be sanded, regardless.
“Chalk Paint Does Not Require Priming”
Every painted furniture piece needs to be covered in a substance that will stick to the surface and also protect the piece long-term. No one product does both things really well – at least none that are cost-effective. Chalk paint has the adhesion properties but not the protection you want. Latex has the protection, but not the adhesion. That is why chalk paint requires waxing. What most people don’t tell you is that there is a learning curve to waxing and that it can be very time consuming. The time you aren’t spending on sanding and priming you will definitely spend on waxing your piece. Also, waxing takes a full month to cure before a piece is protected enough to use or sell. Even when chalk painting furniture, there are times when you have to use a primer on dark pieces because many stains will bleed through chalk paint.
“Chalk Paint is Expensive But You Only Use A Little”
Most chalk painters use two coats on a piece, especially if it is a darker color. My process below entails one coat of tinted primer and one coat of paint. The tinting helps to provide better coverage. Although you have to sand with this process, you are not having to go through the time consuming process of waxing your piece. A good latex paint will not need a wax or topcoat because it will have it’s own protective finish for years to come.
“Chalk Paint Dries Faster”
Chalk paint might dry faster but it takes longer to cure. You actually want the opposite – a longer dry time and a short cure time. It’s worth it for your paint to take an hour or two longer to dry so that the brush strokes settle out. The cure time is the time it takes for the surface to harden for it’s maximum durability and normal everyday use. For chalk paint, the cure time is a month or longer, but for Behr latex, it is only 2 weeks.
“Chalk Paint is Easier to Clean Up”
Chalk paint can be removed from clothing and hands with soap and water. But do you really want to use a paint on furniture that can be removed with just soap and water? I have found that if I wash latex out of my clothing within about 30 minutes of application, I can still get it out. If it has been longer, I have good luck with THIS on my hands and clothes. Otherwise, that’s what my painting apron is for.
“Chalk Paint Has a Better Finish”
You can achieve the same matte texture by brushing THIS on with a sponge brush. Just brush it over your piece and throw away the brush when you are done! Otherwise I just use latex paint with a satin finish as it is not very glossy at all.
This is the number one reason I don’t like chalk painting furniture. I have a friend who painted all of her kitchen cabinets in chalk paint. After six months, she found herself repainting all of the cabinets in latex because the surface of the wax attracted dirt making her entire kitchen look dingy – and not in a farmhouse-chic sort of way. Also, do you know what happens to an unwaxed piece of furniture that has a cold drink left on it? The chalk paint actually re-liquifies. In terms of maintenance, chalk painted furniture has to be be re-waxed every 3 years, and more often if it is in a high-traffic area. Once a piece is painted with latex paint, it will never need ongoing maintenance.
Here is a break-down of the cost and process for chalk painting furniture and also my process…
Typical Process for Chalk Painting a Dresser:
- COAT 1 – chalk paint
- COAT 2 – chalk paint
- waxing process (at least 30 minutes)
- Cure Time – 4 weeks at least
Cost Breakdown: Brush($13.87) + Quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint ($34.95) + Annie Sloan Wax ($24.95) = $73.77
My Process for Painting a Dresser
- Lightly sand and wipe (5-10 minutes)
- COAT 1 – Prime with Tinted Primer
- COAT 2 – Latex Paint
- Cure Time – 2 weeks at most
Cost Breakdown: Brush($5) + Quart of Primer ($7.54) + Quart of Behr Latex ($15.98) = $28.52
Even if with buying a sander for $16.89, the process above still comes out way ahead! (By the way, I use the THIS sander at Amazon.com and it’s great!) In most cases you will not need to buy a new can of primer for each process as one quart will last you for several pieces of furniture. For lighter projects, I keep white on hand. For black or gray projects, I keep tinted gray primer on hand.
Also, Coat 1 and 2 can take even less time with my process because you can use a roller, whereas you can’t with chalk paint.
Did I mention latex paint comes in UNLIMITED color options and you can get $2.50 sample sizes for smaller projects?
But what about the fun look of dark wax over a chalk painted piece of furniture for an aged look? You can find my detailed process of how to paint furniture here AND I include details on how to get the same look of dark wax.
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