Today, I moved out an old chair from storage, and it reminded me of something that happened years ago. I had accidentally sprayed its arm, trying to paint a nearby surface. The paint was so hard to get off that I just retired the chair.
Taking it out after years, I could see that the paint had not eroded or peeled. It made me wonder if spray paint is the best way to cover furniture as it doesn’t seem to need sanding!
You can spray paint wood without sanding if the spray paint is for finished surfaces. Spray paints like Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch and Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint don’t need priming. You can also use a liquid sander if the wood is too glossy to be permanently painted.
In this article, you will find out the consequences of painting wood without sanding, alongside what you can do to make the paint adhere to finished wood. Aside from five ways to paint finished furniture without sanding, you will get my recommendations regarding specific spray paints that can be applied to the wood directly.
What Happens If You Don’t Sand Wood Before Painting?
The best way to assess if one should sand the wood before painting is to acknowledge the consequences of not sanding prior to painting. And if these are acceptable, then one can skip the sanding and move to paint. So let’s have an in-depth look at what happens when a woodworker skips sanding.
If you paint wood without sanding, the paint layer might peel off because it doesn’t latch onto the wood properly. Sanding roughs the surface giving the paint more room to latch onto the wood. Without sanding, the paint’s adhesion depends on how rough the wood naturally is.
The peel-off happens on a spectrum, though. Two factors affect the consequences of directly painting wood. The first is the adhesion of the paint, and the second is the roughness of the wood.
If the wood has lamination or is coated in a finish that might peel off, anything atop it, including paint, will peel off. And if the paint itself builds a significant film, it might start to crack or peel off without appropriate priming.
This brings us to the mid-way solution. Not all wood needs to be sanded before painting because you can use a primer to have the same adhesion-enhancing effect. You can paint wood after priming, even if the surface hasn’t been sanded.
Primer can group most wood pretty well, especially if it is open-grained. I still choose to lightly sand wood before priming it and then move to the painting stage.
But if you’re wondering whether you can paint wood without preparing it in any way, then you are limited to a very small set of paint applications. That set is spray painting for artistic purposes.
Can You Spray Paint Directly On Wood?
You can spray paint directly on wood as long as the wood is not coated in a smooth finish or sealant. Spray paint can usually adhere pretty well to wood, but if you lay it on too thick, the paint can suffer from runs.
It is definitely possible to spray paint directly on the wood, and the outcome looks pretty close to applying the same paint with a paintbrush. However, the longevity of this type of paint depends entirely on the same two factors.
How good is the wood for paint, and how good is the paint for the wood? Best spray paints for wood include wood as a potential surface in the product description. And the best wood for spray paint is usually rough to the touch.
How Do You Spray Paint Without Sanding?
To spray paint without sanding, you should choose spray paint that adheres to wood and must apply it in thin passes so there isn’t a solid film thick enough to peel off. More importantly, you should use the right technique to minimize runs and droplets.
In this section, I will go over the nuances that I picked up in my 20 years of woodworking, out of which 13+ involved spray painting. So here are the exact steps you can use to paint unsanded wood.
Get The Right Protective Equipment
You have to start by selecting the right protective gear. If you don’t have a respirator, cover your nose with a cloth. Spray paint droplets are hard to see, but they definitely end up entering unprotected nostrils. I recommend a respirator meant specifically for paint jobs.
My current favorite is GVS SPR457 because it has decent value for money and can be used during standard woodworking tasks like sawing and routing.
More specifically, it is lightweight, which is great for long sanding and painting tasks. That said, a pair of goggles and a large napkin can be sufficient if you don’t want to invest in higher-end gear.
Select The Right Spray Paint
Aside from protective gear, you need the actual spray paint. And this selection trumps matters the most when it comes to adhesion. You must specifically get spray paint that is positioned as being wood-friendly.
Some spray paints are marketed as furniture spray paints., but those aren’t the only ones that work on wood. As long as the manufacturer mentions in writing that spray paint works for wood, it should be considered wood-friendly.
I have personally had great results with Krylon Fusion All-In-One, which works on not just wood but also other surfaces like plastic, metal, and concrete. Since you will not use the entire can on a small piece of furniture, it helps to know that you will be able to use it for other purposes.
The current reviews and ratings average seems to agree with me as well. Out of 19,900 ratings, the current average has 4.6 on a 5-star scale.
90% of customers have given it 4 or 5 stars, which shows a pretty steep lean toward satisfactory performance. That said, you can use whichever spray paint you have at home as long as its package says that it is wood-friendly.
If you can’t find that information, spray on a spare wood sheet and wait a day to see how well the paint latches onto the surface.
Clean The Wood Surface
If you choose the right spray paint, you don’t even need to and wood. The only preparation you need is to clean the surface. Unclean wood has dust particles that get glued onto the surface once the paint is sprayed on top of them. When these particles come off, the pant also comes off, leaving a peppered look of missing paint.
So clean up the wood surface with a clean cloth and make sure that it is free of dust and other particles. Once you are confident that the surface is ready to paint, you can move to the next step.
Ensure That Only The Target Area Is Uncovered
Cover the areas that do not need to be painted because you won’t have the same kind of control with spray paint as you would with a paintbrush. Covering an area in a protective film or even newspapers can help keep it free of paint. Make sure the protective layer is thick enough to withstand and up to the paint and is fixed enough not to move when you spray it.
Set The Nozzle 12 Inches Away From The Wood
If you position the spray can too far away, the paint can scatter over a wide area and not form a dense enough coat to produce a uniform color. That’s how you get paint splatters instead of a solid block. If you position the nozzle too close, though, there will be paint runs as the liquid on the surface gathers at a higher speed than it dries.
That’s how you get runny spray paint droplets. I have been tweaking the spray paint position for a while and have learned that a 12-inch difference is usually optimal.
I also find that keeping the can straight gets the most uniform layer. Otherwise, some paint can get thin and some more bold, producing a botched look. So keep the can straight and 12 inches away from the wood.
Spray A Thin Coat
Spraying paint in multiple runs is much better than spraying a thick layer in one go. As mentioned earlier, thick paint peels off, especially if the wood is not sanded. Some people think that the best way to spray a thin layer is to spray from far. That just produces splatters, as mentioned earlier.
The best way to paint in think passes is to move your hand at a fixed speed in one direction as you spray the paint. This lets the layer form in somewhat of a uniform fashion. Once the paint latches onto the surface, you can make your next pass. But in the beginning, you should leave an area alone once there is any pigment on it.
Let The Paint Dry For Two Hours
It takes around 2 hours for spray paint to be dry enough to touch. If the wood is sanded or rough, you can make your next pass after 10 minutes. But if it is not and you want to be extra careful, you can wait up to two hours.
By then the wood is definitely dry enough and the next layer won’t form bubbles. After 2 hours, waiting has diminishing returns because the surface doesn’t become any more ready for the next layer.
Repeat The Steps
Once you have painted the wood, you can see if the first layer is enough. In my opinion, it usually is not. You have to make 3 passes to make spray paint have a solid enough presence on the wood to look like it was painted with a brush.
Does that mean you have to wait for 6 hours to make these passes? Only if you have the time. Otherwise, you can skip the waiting step or minimize it to 10 minutes and repeat the steps until the surface is painted to your satisfaction.
Spray Painting is just one of the ways to paint wood without sanding. Any way to make the paint adhere well to wood can be used to offset the need for sanding. But spray painting remains the quickest way to color wood without going through too many steps of pre-paint prep work.
Spray painting your furniture might seem tacky, but it is one of the best options for renewing your furniture’s look without sanding it. Most furniture is finished to be water-resistant, and sanding can open up the wood to water damage.
Moreover, the texture of the wood might be affected by the prep work as well. So, while most woodworkers sand project wood before painting it, they hesitate to do the same for finished furniture.
How Do You Paint Over Wood Furniture Without Sanding?
You can paint over wood furniture without sanding if you use paint alongside a primer or bonding agent that improves paint’s adhesion to unsanded wood. Mineral Paint, Chalk Paint, and Milk Paint (with bonding agent) are three types of paint aside from spray paint that can work for this purpose.
Let’s explore each option in a little more depth.
Use Mineral Paint Without Sanding
Mineral paints come with mineral bonding agents that adhere well to pretty much any surface other than a high-gloss finish, which usually doesn’t interact well with the minerals in this paint. If your furniture doesn’t have a high-gloss finish, it can be directly painted over with a coat of mineral paint.
Use Chalk Paint On Without Sanding
Chalk paint has even better adhesion than mineral paint, and it is one of the most versatile when it comes to sticking to surfaces. It has a matte appearance, which means you should not use it if you want the furniture to have the bright reflective look that a few types of furniture have.
Use Milk Paint (With Equal Parts Bonding Agent)
Milk paint and bonding agent can make a perfect furniture top-up. This paint is milk-based and has a lime+pigment look. It can be ideal for neutral colors and to enhance the nude shades of pre-painted furniture. Milk paint’s look is quite appealing but not for all types of decor.
Use Spray Paint On Unsanded Wood
Though priming is recommended most types of spray paint will adhere to furniture very well. If you consider the effects of graffiti vandalism, you’ll realize that painting over graffiti is easier than removing spray paint. It is one of the few types of paint that doesn’t need sanding to have a proper hold over furniture.
Use A Bonding Primer
You can bypass sanding if you get a decent bonding primer like KILZ Adhesion Primer. Because it can adhere to pretty much any surface forming a coat to which almost any pigment can stick, it is perfect for coating furniture without sanding.
Pretty much any bonding primer can work for this purpose, but I prefer KILZ Adhesion because it gives me reliable results. On Amazon, it has a 4.7 average from a total of 1,950 reviews and ratings. More specifically, it is rated 4.7 stars for sheerness and 4.7 stars for ease-of-use.
With over 93% verified customers giving it 4 or 5 stars, it is a pretty safe purchase that can be used for other projects besides topping up your furniture’s look. The best part about using a bonding primer is that you can use any paint you already have instead of being limited to types of paint that work on unsanded surfaces.
Use A Liquid Sander On High-Gloss Surfaces
As mentioned earlier, even paints that stick to unsanded surfaces have trouble with high gloss coats. But if you use a liquid sander, you can dull the glossiness of the previous coat making the furniture ready for spray paint, milk paint, or mineral paint. I recommend Klean Strip Liquid Sander coz it is the only one I have tried.
Maybe other deglossers work just as well, but I don’t risk it because I find it sufficient. From the looks of it, so do over 800 customers. The average rating of this product on Amazon stands at 4.2 out of 5 stars. Over 78 percent of buyers give it 4 or 5 stars, which makes this a no-brainer first-attempt purchase.
While I have used it on occasion to paint projects that were already painted, I mainly use it for a different purpose. And you will, too, if you don’t like to sand projects.
How To Refinish Woodwork Without Sanding?
To refinish your woodwork without sanding, you need to use a deglosser (or liquid sander) to tone down the previous coat so it can bind with the new finishing coat. If you want to paint and refinish a surface post-painting, you can choose spray paint to get the same effect.
A deglosser simply makes the previous finish less smooth. That’s what sanding also does but it can get messy. Any time you’re instructed to “lightly sand” a finished surface, you can use a deglosser to get the job done. This isn’t limited to refinishing furniture but also to painting over pre-finished furniture.
Painting Over Varnished Wood Without Sanding
When you need to paint over varnished wood, the previous coat’s glossiness is its greatest challenge. You can either sand it away or simply use a deglosser (a.k.a. liquid sander) to make the previous coat less smooth.
After that, you can apply almost any furniture paint over the surface. This includes chalk paint, mineral, paint, and of course, spray paint. Getting the right spray paint is crucial. There are different types of spray paint, with some limited to rough, untreated wood and other types being perfect even for synthetic and varnished trims.
Can I Spray Paint Wood Trim?
You can spray paint wood trim provided that the spray paint is wood-friendly. The trim might need to be primed if the spray paint’s default adhesion is poor. But if it is not, then the spray paint can work on pretty much any surface, including the trim.
How To Paint Furniture Without Sanding Or Priming
Now that we are far enough into this article, it is time I recap what has been covered so far in concise points. You are looking for painting and finishing solutions that do not include sanding. So here is what I have explained so far.
- To paint furniture without sanding, you can use a primer and any average paint.
- To paint furniture without sanding and priming, you need to use paint that has high adhesion. This includes mineral paint, chalk paint, and milk paint (with a bonding agent).
- To paint varnished furniture without sanding and priming, you need to use a liquid sander (deglosser).
- To refinish varnished furniture without sanding and priming, you need to use a liquid sander (deglosser).
- To paint furniture without sanding, priming, or bonding agents, you need spray paint that works on finished surfaces.
This recap makes one thing clear. All your headaches can be reduced to a nothing burger if you simply get the spray paint that doesn’t need priming. No more adhesion primer, sanding, or bonding agents. You can directly paint the surface you want to coat.
What Is The Best Spray Paint For Furniture Without Sanding?
Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Spray Paint is the best option to paint furniture without priming since it contains a primer. The product is formulated to make it look like regular paint, and the adhesion is pretty strong, which is why it has the rating that it does.
Out of 62,000 reviews and ratings, it has a 4.7-star average on a 5-star scale. More specifically, it has 4.6 stars for style, which is important because the purpose of paint is usually aesthetic. It also has 4.4 stars for sheerness, which is also pretty promising. Overall, it is great because it removes the priming and sanding burden.
You can spray paint wood without sanding, but if it is not the type of wood with decent adhesion, it will start peeling off. I recommend getting spray paint formulated for wood or finished surfaces. It usually includes a bonding agent that bypasses the need for priming and sanding.