How to Strip and Paint Wood Furniture Like a Pro

Use these steps to get a freshly painted finish on any piece of wood furniture. After removing the existing paint or stain, you can customize the item with a colorful new look.

Before you haul that old piece of furniture out to the curb or store it for the next garage sale, consider its potential. Stripping and painting wood furniture can entirely change its look. This easy technique is also perfect for rehabbing inexpensive thrift-store or flea-market finds. By removing the existing paint or stain, you make way for a fresh finish on top. Go with a bright color for a focal-point accent piece, or update your furniture in crisp white paint for timeless appeal.

Before you begin, it's important to note that paint-stripping chemicals can be dangerous. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully before starting this project. Follow our instructions on how to strip and paint wood furniture to make old pieces look new again.

green dresser with flamingo artwork
Kim Cornelison

How to Strip and Paint Wood Furniture

Chemical strippers are not ideal for large projects. For cabinets or large furniture pieces, you might want to consider heaters to remove paint or hire a professional to tackle the project.

What You Need

  • Wood filler
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Goggles
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint and varnish remover
  • Abrasive stripping pads
  • Mineral spirits
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander or sanding block
  • Painters tape
  • Stain-blocking primer
  • Paint
  • Polyurethane
removing hardware from furniture before painting
Adam Albright

Step 1: Prep Furniture

Remove all hardware from your wood furniture piece. Fill in any holes with wood filler, then lightly sand all surfaces that will be painted. You can also add furniture feet if desired.

Step 2: Strip Paint from Wood Furniture

Before starting, outfit yourself with chemical-resistant gloves and goggles. Work in a well-ventilated area on a leak-proof drop cloth. Using a brush, apply a paint and varnish remover ($9, The Home Depot) to the areas to be stripped following the manufacturer's directions. To remove varnish from stubborn areas, such as turned legs, use abrasive stripping pads soaked in odorless mineral spirits ($9, The Home Depot).

Step 3: Sand Surface

Vigorous sanding after stripping produces bare wood surfaces. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove the majority of the paint, and finish with fine-grit sandpaper to achieve a smooth finish. Wipe clean with a tack cloth to attract dust and other debris.

applying primer to wood furniture
Adam Albright

Step 4: Apply Primer

After sanding, use painters tape to protect areas you don't want to cover with color. Apply a stain-blocking primer and let dry before applying any paint. Be sure to apply primer and paint in thin coats and let dry thoroughly between coats. If desired, lightly sand between coats to minimize brushstrokes.

applying blue paint to wood furniture
Adam Albright

Step 5: Paint Wood Furniture

For the best coverage, apply at least two coats of paint to your wooden furniture piece, letting the piece dry between coats. After the paint is completely dry, apply a coat of clear polyurethane ($10, The Home Depot) for a durable top coat. Finish your furniture makeover by adding new hardware, if desired.

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