How To Paint Furniture With Latex Paint? (6 Steps)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

A fresh finish on your furniture will beautify and protect it. But, can you use latex paint on furniture?

You can use latex paint on indoor furniture and you don’t have to seal it. But, for outdoor furniture, you must seal it after applying it because it isn’t durable enough to withstand outdoor weather elements.

Latex paint is a great choice for indoor furniture because it has a variety of sheens and colors to choose from. You go for a matte, satin, flat, semi-gloss, or eggshell finish. 

Does Latex Paint Protect The Furniture?

Latex paint isn’t durable and won’t protect your furniture. If you use it on outdoor or high-traffic surfaces, the finish will peel off after a few months. To make it last longer, you must seal it.

Latex paint is water-based so it isn’t resistant to UV, water, or moisture. When dry, it forms a textured finish that isn’t durable or resistant to anything. In comparison, oil-based paints form a glossy finish that repels water and moisture.

However, you can use latex paint for indoor or decorative surfaces. The paint dries fast, is easy to apply, and has a colorful finish. Also, since indoor or decorative surfaces aren’t exposed to constant water, it doesn’t need to protect them so the finish lasts for a few years.

You can also use latex paint on outdoor furniture, but you must seal it. Sealants, such as polyurethane or varnish, will produce a glossy layer over the finish and protect it from moisture, water, or scratches.

Related Read: How To Paint Concrete With Latex Paint?

Do You Need to Prime Before Applying Latex Paint?

You must always apply a primer before using latex paint for wood furniture. The primer improves adhesion, covers imperfections, and helps the finish last longer. It also leaves a smooth and even layer behind so the finish will be even (flat).

The primer will serve as a base coat, so the paint will stick to the primer coat instead of the surface. If you don’t prime the surface, the paint won’t stick well and the finish will develop cracks and be uneven. 

You must use latex primer for water-based paints as both use the same solvent (water). You can also use an oil-based primer, but the adhesion won’t be good because they have a different solvent. 

How To Apply Latex Paint On Furniture?

Prepping the furniture before applying latex paint is the key to a good finish. That’s because the surface must be smooth and clean before you apply it.

Here are the tools you need: 

  1. Foam Brush
  2. Latex Paint and Primer
  3. Fine-Grit Sandpaper
  4. Paint Stripper For Wooden Surfaces
  5. Drop Sheets
  6. Painter’s Tape
  7. Wood Filler
  8. A Clear Topcoat
  9. Synthetic Brush.

1. Prep The Wood Furniture

Before you start to paint the furniture, you have to prep it by cleaning it.

First, clean the furniture to remove dirt, grime, and filth.

To clean it:

  1. Use TSP (Trisodium Phosphate).
  2. Mix 1/3 cup TSP with 2 gallons of water. 
  3. Pour the mixed TSP into a clean rag and use the dampened rag to wipe the surface. 
  4. Clean the surface.
  5. Let the furniture dry. 

Also, remove or cover any nearby objects to prevent paint splatter. Open all windows and doors to create a well-ventilated area. 

2. Remove The Previous Finish

Next, you have to remove the previous paint that the wood furniture had.

If the furniture is stained, painted, or sealed, you must remove the previous finish before applying the paint. However, if it’s painted with latex (or water-based) paint, you don’t have to remove it unless you want to change the color.

To know the type of finish the furniture has, use rubbing alcohol:

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol into a rag. 
  2. Use the dampened rag to wipe the furniture. 
  3. If the paint comes off it’s water-based. 
  4. If the paint doesn’t come off, the paint is oil-based or sealed. 

To remove water-based paints, use rubbing alcohol, sanding, or water-based paint removal. To remove oil-based paints or sealants, use petroleum-based solvents such as mineral spirits, turpentine, or solvent-based paint remover.

Don’t use vinegar, baking soda, or acetone to remove paint from wood furniture because they will damage it.

3. Sand

Now, sand the furniture

Most old wood furniture have cracks, holes, and imperfections. To remove these imperfections, sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. If the furniture has too many imperfections, use coarse or rough sandpaper, and then finish with fine-grit sandpaper. After sanding, remove the dust, and inspect the surface. 

If the surface has holes, you must fill them with wood filler. If you don’t, these holes will suck the paint, and the finish will be uneven. 

To fill holes in wood furniture: 

  1. Apply the wood filler to the wood holes. 
  2. Remove excess wood filler. 
  3. Wait for the wood filler to dry. 
  4. Re-sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. 
  5. Remove the dust. 

Related Read: How To Sand Latex Paint?

4. Prime

Before you apply latex, you have to prime the furniture

Apply two coats of latex primer to the furniture. Priming increases adhesion and improves the durability of the finish.

To apply primer, use a brush. Wait for the first coat of primer to dry before applying the next one. 

5. Apply Latex Paint

Now, apply the latex paint to the furniture. You have to apply a few coats of latex

Once the second coat of primer dries, apply the latex paint. To apply latex paint on furniture, use a brush, roller, or sprayer. If you apply it with a sprayer, you must thin it. However, you don’t have to thin it for a roller and brush. 

Apply 3-4 thin coats of latex paint on the furniture. Wait until the one coat dries before applying the next one. It takes latex paint 3 hours to dry enough for a re-coat.

You can sand between coats with fine-grit sandpaper to get a better finish quality, you don’t have to sand the last coat. Once the final coat dries, wait 48 hours for the finish to cure before sealing it. 

6. Seal The Finish

Seal the latex paint to protect it, and then wait for the sealer to dry before you can use the furniture.

For indoor and decorative surfaces, sealing the finish is optional. However, for outdoor and high-traffic surfaces, sealing is necessary. 

To seal latex paint, apply 2-3 coats of polyurethane or varnish over it. The sealant will protect the finish from moisture, water, scratches, and other damage. 

Is Sealing Latex Paint on Furniture Necessary?

If the furniture won’t be used heavily, sealing latex paint isn’t necessary. That’s because decorative furniture isn’t exposed to high-usage or weather elements, such as rain. 

However, for outdoor furniture, you must seal the finish. That’s because latex paint isn’t durable nor formulated with additives to make it water-resistant. As a result, unsealed latex paint will last less than 1 year on outdoor furniture. But, if you seal it, it will last about 3 years.

When dry, sealants produce a glossy finish that repels moisture and protects the surfaces underneath (including paint) from scratches and other damage. So, if you apply a topcoat (sealant), the paint underneath will become water-resistant and last longer. The sealant (or topcoat) will serve as a layer of protection.

Also, since most sealants are clear coats, they won’t interfere with or change the finish color. But, don’t apply more than 4 coats of sealants as the finish will become dull.

For outdoor furniture, use exterior polyurethane as a sealant. For indoor furniture, use water-based polyurethane. Exterior polyurethane is formulated with additives that make the finish UV, water, and scratch resistant. 

Related Read: Is Latex Paint Good For Metal?

Final Words

Painting furniture with latex paint is easy. But, you must clean, sand, and prime the surface before applying it. For outdoor surfaces, you must seal the finish with exterior polyurethane or spar varnish.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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