I get asked weekly about painting versus staining a piece of furniture.  I also get asked, “How do I talk my husband into letting me paint _______ piece of wood furniture?  I can’t answer that question for you but I can give you a few things to consider before deciding whether to paint or stain. I have done both with success and have learned a few things along the way.

1.  How important is this piece to you?

Is the piece you want to refab a family heirloom?  Do you hope to keep this piece in the family? Is it special to you?

If the answer is yes, then take the time to do whatever you think will look the best in your home and also to preserve the piece.

2.  How much time do you have?

If you are limited on time and want a quick fix then the answer is, “PAINT!” It is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Refinishing a piece of furniture to its original finish usually takes a chemical stripper, sandpaper (3-4 different grits), stain and polyurethane.  If you have lots of nooks and crannies that can add to the amount of time as well because you will have to use a wire brush to get in there.  Either way refinishing a piece will take waaaaay longer than simply painting it.

3.  Do you mind getting dirty?

Refinishing is dusty and dirty. The dust flies everywhere and your hands look like they have been beaten and marked. Wearing gloves definitely helps but you will have dust in places that do not belong, believe-you-me. Plus using a chemical stripper is nasty and stinky and you will need a mask. There are some natural products out there.  I have found they do not work as well.  I use the brand Jasco or Bix when I strip pieces.  So if that sounds unappealing to you then paint is the best option.

4.  Still can’t decide?

I know many of you have had an old piece of furniture sitting in your attic or garage for years because you were afraid to take the plunge and/or didn’t know what to do with it.  Let me tell you…anything is reversible.  If you paint it you can always strip it and stain it later.  If you stain it you can always prime and paint it later.  It will take time, yes.  But you can’t screw up.  If you hate it, change it.  But for goodness sake, get out there and do something.  You will be happy you did.

If you have any questions about painting or staining email me at tnbfarrant@yahoo.com.  I would love to help you think through it.

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  1. great advice beckie! I think we always remember each piece we refinish, but not so much about the pieces we paint! 🙂
    they sort of stick with you that way, don't they?
    can you believe it's almost the weekend again? fast week!

  2. Thank you for the advice. It's good to remember that we can always change something if it doesn't turn out the way we wanted.

  3. What perfect timing, we just moved into our first house so I adopted several old pieces of furniture from my parents…when I told my hubby that I plan on painting one of the pieces, he looked at me like I was crazy that I wasn't going to refinish it and stain it! I still plan on painting it, HA!

  4. Good post 🙂 I really appreciate this good advice- as we have done both stain and paint. We just refinished/painted a desk that I posted today. 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I'm still working up the confidence to paint some things. Picking a color is probably the hardest part (I can only look at antique white for so long) but I'm still trying to find the best way to actually paint a piece of furniture.
    Do you have a guide for beginners?

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