Refinished Furniture

The Busy Gal’s Guide to Chalk Paint

Have you tried chalk paint yet?  It is the most amazing invention ever. Without getting all technical, it’s basically paint that you can use without primer and….(the best part) without sanding!  It’s perfect for refinishing furniture because you don’t have to deal with a bunch of extra steps.  I’ve seen that you can use it on all types of surfaces, but I’ve only ever used it on wood.

Before I discovered chalk paint, I actually repainted a couple of pieces of furniture the old fashioned way.  I sanded for what seemed like hours.  Oh wait…it was hours.  That was followed by primer, 1 coat of paint, hours of drying, another coat of paint, more hours of drying, and a sealer…all while inhaling some serious fumes.  I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why people thought this was fun.  I’d heard about chalk paint, but was hesitant to try it because I didn’t feel like I had the time to learn about a new technique of painting.  Until I heard about the no sanding business.  Then I was on board.

I had some stools that I had bought for my classroom that were now home with me and needed a makeover.  Something you should know about me is I’m very impatient.  It’s a fruit that’s still a work in progress, but for now it helps with any desire to procrastinate.  So once I decided I was going to chalk paint the stools, I looked up like one tutorial and was ready with supplies that day.  I probably could have spent a little more time researching, but there’s that pesky impatient thing.  They turned out cute, and chalk paint really was SO much easier than regular paint.

Since then, I’ve used chalk paint for a few more pieces and I’ve picked up a few shortcuts along the way.  This is the busy gal’s guide to chalk painting, because we are all busy.  Or you could change the name to “The Lazy Gal’s Guide to Chalk Paint”…because who wants to do more work than is necessary?  Time is a precious thing, and there’s no use wasting it on extra steps if you don’t have to.

The dresser I refinished took me 3 days from start to finish, and that’s because I only worked on it during Linc’s nap time.  If you’re not confined to the restrictions of a nap schedule, you could easily do this in 1 day (2 days if you’re putting on more than one coat of wax).


Chalk Paint Supplies

1.Dresser (or other piece)

  • I’ve been on the hunt for some sort of TV console for our living room for the last year.  We had one of those that you put together, and I honestly don’t know how it’s still standing.  Ideally I was looking for something I could refinish so I didn’t have to spend a small fortune.  Then out of the blue last Sunday, I found this beauty at Goodwill!  I loved the look, but was more excited by how heavy it was! i.e. good quality.

2. Chalk paint

  • If you’ve heard of chalk paint, then you’ve heard of Annie Sloan.  She is the guru of all things chalk paint.  If you’re looking to use Annie Sloan chalk paint, get ready to fork over at least $35 for a quart.  It’s definitely enough to cover more than one piece, and she has a variety of colors to choose from, but that price is a little too steep for my budget.
  • Wal-Mart actually carries a line of chalk paint called Waverly Inspirations.  They have several colors, and I’ve used them on a couple of different pieces. An 8oz bottle is about $6, and it goes a long way.  I probably would have used this brand for this project, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough for my huge dresser.
  • This time I decided to go with Rust-oleum Chalked Ultra Matte Paint in Aged Gray from Home Depot.  It cost me about $16 for 30 oz (basically 1 quart).  They didn’t have ton a of color options at the store, but they do have a few more online.  Like I mentioned above, chalk paint really does go a long way.  After two coats of paint on the dresser, I still had about 1/4 of a can left.

3. Wax

  • After you paint your piece, you’ll need to apply 1-2 coats of wax to seal it.  I had never waxed anything before, so that was the scariest part for me.  But it is seriously so easy.  Again, you can get Annie Sloan wax….but, you know…budget.
  • I’ve used Waverly Inspirations Clear Wax (from Wal-Mart) on all of my projects and it works great.  An 8 oz bottle is about $6, and it was enough for 2 coats on the dresser…with some left over.

4. Paint brush (money short cut)

  • When I first started chalk painting, I purchased a set of 2 brushes by Waverly Inspirations that were specifically for chalk paint and wax.  I paid about $11 for the set and they worked great.
  • The chalk paint brush is kind of small, and I wanted a lot of coverage when painting the dresser.  I didn’t want to be painting for hours with a baby paint brush.  So I did a little research and discovered that you can actually use just a cheap-o chip paintbrush.  After using one for this project, I concur!  I paid $1.50 for mine, and since it was so cheap I just threw it away afterwards.  Cheaper brush and no cleaning.  I actually like these on Amazon because you have a variety of sizes; it puts each brush at about $1.60 each.

5. Wax pads (time short cut)

  • In the set of brushes I first purchased (see above), it came with a round wax brush.  The very first tutorial I ever watched showed a woman dipping the brush in the wax, rubbing it on the furniture in a circular motion, and then wiping off the excess with a rag.  I’ve done that with each project up until now, and while it worked just fine, it took forever.
  • This time I went with a sponge instead of a brush after seeing a tutorial by Annie Sloan herself.  It is so much faster than a brush, and my favorite thing to discover while doing this project!  It cut my waxing time by more than half.

6. Sandpaper (optional)

  • If you plan on distressing after you paint, use 220 or 150 grit sandpaper.  I started with 220, but got impatient and switched to 150.  I had also applied two coats of paint, so 150 was better for getting through those layers to show the original wood.
  • You can also use a sanding sponge instead of regular sandpaper.  I haven’t used one, but imagine it would probably be easier and quicker.  I always have sandpaper at home, so I just used what I had.


Chalk Paint Directions

1.Remove any hardware from your piece if you don’t want them painted.  I was originally going to replace all the handles, but I actually ended up liking and keeping them.

2. Some tutorials will tell you to do some light sanding before you chalk paint if there are any imperfections on your piece.  I planned on doing that, but the dresser was already felt pretty smooth, so I didn’t.  If your pieces is rough or feels bumpy in some areas, you could do some light sanding.  But nothing that would take more than 5 minutes.

3. Apply your first coat of paint.  Shake your container, stir it, and then go to town.  My second favorite shortcut I learned during this project is you don’t have to paint in one direction.  I’ve always painted with back and forth strokes, and while it’s not hard it can take a little bit of time.  In the Annie Sloan tutorial I mentioned earlier, she said you can slop the paint on and go crazy in all directions!  Ok, maybe not her words….but still.  She said it gives the piece more texture, and I have to agree.  I seriously started painting like nobody’s business, not paying attention to the direction I was going and it was so much faster!  Plus, I planned on putting on a second coat so I knew that would cover any crazy looking spots.  It took me about 20-30 minutes to apply the first coat, including the drawers.

*Also, if you plan on using a chip brush like I mentioned, you may have a few bristles that fall out here and there.  It’s no big deal, and you can pick them out no problem.  I think I had about 3 bristles fall out during the whole process.


4. After your first coat of paint, you want to let it dry for about an hour…maybe less, depending on how thick your coat of paint is.  Chalk paint dries very quickly, and you can actually see how fast it dries if you’re looking at it in the sunlight.

5. I recommend applying a second coat after the first one has dried (even if you plan on distressing your piece).  Even if you paint your first coat carefully, I find that it doesn’t really give the coverage you need.  The 2nd coat takes care of that.  I went a little more “back and forth” with my strokes this time, but still wasn’t super structured.  The great thing about distressing a piece of furniture is you don’t have to worry about covering every single inch with paint (since you’re going to sand a lot of it off anyway).  Again, I spent about 15-20 minutes on the second coat.

6. After my second coat dried, that’s when I got my sandpaper and started distressing.  This isn’t hard, but it’s the most tedious step.  Now apparently you can distress before or after you wax, but I always do it before because I want the wax to be the very last thing.  When distressing, you want to give it that “worn” look so start with places that would get natural wear and tear.  I always have a hard time knowing where those places are, but you can’t go wrong with the corners and edges.  Use your 220 or 150 grit sandpaper and sand the paint in places until it shows the original wood.  Now remember, the more coats of paint you apply the harder you’re going to have to sand.  Don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease in it.  I usually rub sandpaper lightly over the whole entire piece to give it a few scratches here and there, but then I really focus on the corners and edges.  It took me about 45 minutes to distress the whole thing.

*Don’t worry about the sandpaper making your piece look “scratchy”.  Once you apply the wax, those scratches are less noticeable and just add to the distressed look.


7.  After distressing, you’ll probably be covered in paint dust as well as your work area.  Make sure you clear your furniture of all the dust (so it doesn’t get stuck in the wax).  I took a leaf blower to mine, and then used a paint brush with stiff bristles to brush off the excess dust…especially if you have little cracks and crevasses.

8. Now you’re ready to wax!  Even if you’ve never waxed before, it is not difficult.  Plus, if you’re not thrilled with how your piece looks painted or you’re worried you might have distressed a little too much, wait until you apply the wax.  It completely brightens up your paint and really makes those distressed areas look perfect!

Pour a little bit of wax onto a paper plate, dip your sponge in and wipe it on the furniture in a back and forth motion.  You can see from my pictures that I started applying wax in the same manner I painted…crazy!  After about a minute of that, I realized it would look better if I waxed in one direction.  When applying the wax you shouldn’t have any excess to wipe off (which eliminates an entire step), and you will be able to tell where you waxed because it will make your paint a shade darker.

After you wax the entire thing, you need to wait 24 hours before applying your next coat.  I always apply at least 2 coats.  They say the more use it’s going to get, the more coats of wax you use.  Since this is just going to have a TV sitting on it, 2 coats is enough.  My first coat took about 45 minutes to apply.

9. After your first coat of wax, it will seem dry almost immediately.  You still need to wait before applying another coat!  I’m not going to say you have to wait exactly 24 hours, but plan on just leaving it until the next day.

10.  When you’re ready for your 2nd coat of wax, you wax it the exact same way.  I used a new sponge, although I’m sure you could clean and reuse the other one.  This coat of wax went much quicker, because your piece is already sealed.  You’re just going over it quickly with one more coat, and I found you don’t have to worry about covering every square inch because it looks exactly the same (your paint doesn’t get darker with each coat of wax…only the first coat).  The second coat only took me 20 minutes.

And that’s it!  If you plan on applying more coats of wax, just wait a day in between and follow the same steps.  Add your new (or old) hardware, and then put your fancy new piece of furniture in your home and spend the next month staring at it and smiling every time you walk past it!

It looks so good in our living room!  Just to give you an idea, here’s what we were working with before.

Seriously, how big is that wall?!  And that’s only half of it…it extends way beyond the couch.  A big wall needs a big piece of furniture!  It looks a million times better now, plus we’ve got some extra toy storage in the drawers.


Who else loves chalk paint?  I’d love to hear about any tips or tricks you’ve picked up, or if you’ve just been motivated to try chalk paint for the first time!


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3 Comments on "The Busy Gal’s Guide to Chalk Paint"

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Sheila Herron

Amanda, I am Billy’s cousin and we’ve been redoing an old family house. The walls are a really dark stain in most of the rooms and so I wanted a lot of the furniture to be a white distressed look. As you said chalk can be expensive especially if you have several pieces you want to do. I found a recipe on line to make my own. 2 parts paint and 1 part baking soda. It leaves a kind of rough finish but a light sanding takes care of that. Just thought I’d let you know.

Sheila Herron

I had quite a bit of furniture that I wanted to distress to put in our new for, old house. The walls are very dark. Like you said chalk paint can get really pricey if you are doing many pieces so I found a recipe on line. 2 parts paint and I part baking soda. If it gets too thick I just add a little more paint to it. It leaves kind of a rough finish but I was clear coating of the top anyway so that wasn’t a big deal for me.