Asked on Feb 28, 2016

Can chalk paint be used right over varnished stain piece of furniture?

Pamela Langone
by Pamela Langone

Can I just chalk paint over this furniture?

china cabinet
  26 answers
  • Denise Denise on Feb 28, 2016
    It will stick to it but there may be a few other problems. If you use a light color paint, the dark wood might bleed through. And if you use a water base poly on top to seal it, it may give you a crackle affect which you may or may not want. To eliminate these problems, seal it with a coat of shellac first and then use your chalk paint. That should prevent bleeding and crackling.
  • Shari Shari on Feb 28, 2016
    Denise is totally correct about the possibility of bleed through with old, dark furniture finishes. I experienced it first-hand with white Annie Sloan challk paint over an old piece that had a reddish mahogany-like finish on it. It is extremely frustrating to spend the time painting and then find there is a pink stain bleeding through your paint so save yourself a ton of time and headaches and spray or paint your piece with Shellac first. Don't even bother with any other product. I tried a stain-blocking primer first and it didn't work; I still had the bleed through problem. Shellac is what the Annie Sloan chalk paint website recommends.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Feb 28, 2016
    Although many express that you can paint over existing finishes I feel that the paint will be uneven. A light sanding may be needed for the look you are trying to achieve.
  • I ALWAYS prep. I know people and even most paint companies will say you don't need to, but I'm much happier with my finishes (and the fact that the paint actually adheres to the wood) when I prep. And if it's a bleeder then you need primer specifically for tannin bleeds. I use Kilz Complete. Good luck with it!
  • Shellac will cover water marks/stains but it won't block tannins. They'll bleed through sooner or later. Been there. Done that. Tannin blocking primer is the way to go.
    • See 3 previous
    • @Shari I've painted furniture on and off for the last 20 years and I'm still happy with latex. I'm not a paint snob :-) My French line stripe tutorial has received the most views on here of any of my posts and it was all latex.
  • The tattered rabbit said exactly what I was going to advise! Always prep. light sanding. wipe off well. I use a spray shellac but she is correct about the tannins. Mahogany will always bleed. Most of the time the shellac will stop it. If not, try the Zinsser spray primer in white. Plenty of how-to's out there.
  • Pamela, I just wanted to say that's a really pretty china cabinet. Hope you'll post pictures after you're done with it!
  • Rita Rita on Feb 28, 2016
    The really good thing about the Annie Sloan chalk paint is that you do not need to sand it, but feel free to do a light sanding and then just give it a good wipe down with a damp cloth and paint away with chalk paint by Annie Sloan, no primer necessary.
    • Ste33767950 Ste33767950 on Jul 09, 2018

      Absolutely not. For my 1st project I did a Burmese Teak kitchen table and 4 chairs. I cleaned thoroughly, using mineral turpentine AND Krudcutter (which advertises as 'no sanding required') and it bled through after 2 coats. PREP!!!!

  • Stephanie Schultz Stephanie Schultz on Feb 29, 2016
    I agree with The Tattered Rabbit, prep is crucial for a quality finish.
  • Jane Jane on Feb 29, 2016
    Why would you? Decorators suggest to clean it well. Once painted it will devalue it.
  • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Feb 29, 2016
    its scratched and had plastic covers on chairs so they are messed up. Its 60 yrs old and really needs a facelift kinda like me
  • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Feb 29, 2016
    I dont know if Im going to or not. My husband says no now
    • Dolores DeLuise Dolores DeLuise on Feb 29, 2016
      @Pamela Langone I've painted over all kinds of furniture, some expensive antiques, when I got sick of the look of wood. I didn't want to buy any new furniture, but wanted a change. I have wood upholstered dining room chairs that were 750 each 34 years ago. I've caned them twice, painted them white, and now have painted them with chalk paint (the easiest procedure). I've loved them more and more all these years. I've painted over all my stripped pine furniture and my French cherry wood armoire. I don't regret any of it. I have to live with it. If had asked my husband, he would have said "no," so I didn't ask. It seems to me that the dark, imposing china cabinet you have there isn't a particular design or designer, so why not make yourself happy? Check out pinterest and some boards here with chalk painted objects. Some paint on that will make you very happy. And that's the best we can do in life.
  • Julie Julie on Feb 29, 2016
    While I agree that painting SOME antique furniture pieces does devalue the piece and effects its resale value, pieces you love that you plan to show off in your home and never re-sell can always benefit from a face lift. (I have an upcycling/restoration business, and I can tell you honestly that when it comes to value, most pieces I renew with paint have a tremendous resale value...and many, many decorators LOVE painted furniture!) You need to ask yourself: what makes ME happy? If your piece is valuable and usable to YOU, regardless of what antique dealers or the "I hate painted furniture" people think, then do with it what makes you feel good about it in your own home. If you're not happy with its look, then you will not be happy with it in your home. You will walk by it every day and cringe. It's your piece, your home, and your decision. There is no "one size fits all" opinion about painted furniture. It is subjective and unique to each person. Personally, I think your piece would paint up beautifully and give it new life, as it seems kind of drab and boring to me as it is.
  • Elaine Elaine on Feb 29, 2016
    While I agree with Julie (from Canada) I'm just answering your question re varnished pieces. Most people tell you "yes, Chalk paint adheres to varnished/slick items". I've used it twice now & find the following. For my first piece, I painted an un-sanded varnished item & found I needed 2 to 3 coats before it covered the varnish. The second item, I lightly sanded & found it adhered much better. Be sure to stir the paint WELL as the chalk can settle at the bottom & be almost like a thick layer of almost hard "sludge"! Not all Chalk paints do this but it's better to be safe than sorry. I'm trying a third piece today with a different brand of Chalk paint & will NOT be sanding just to experiment & see if this other brand sticks better to the shiny varnish.
    • See 3 previous
    • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Mar 09, 2016
      @Elaine Hun its a full set I have the china cabinet the buffet and table with 6 chairs. I was going to paint all . The table is very pretty but has some deep scratches the buffet top is nice but the rest has some deep scratching from a dog who was afraid to be left alone. Had fixed but it came right back. Most of the chair backs the top piece is bad but rest is fine. Maybe I need to add some more pictures for you all to understand. Id love to mix it some how with the wood and black
  • Elaine Elaine on Mar 09, 2016
    I can now understand your hesitation, Pamela! I was unaware it's the ENTIRE dining room set you are referring to - that IS a lot of work!! Can you post some photos of the chairs? A two-tone table is a very nice look; by that, I'm meaning the legs are painted a color but the top is either painted (or stained) very dark. Real sharp looking OR if you want it slightly more casual, do the top an antiqued creamy white. You could paint the dining room legs the same as the hutch and chairs to tie it all together but having the tabletop treated differently, breaks up the matchy-matchy look a bit. If the chairs have upholstered seats (and not plain wood), that helps to break up the set a bit too. Go on Google and Houzz (type in "dining room furniture") and that might help give you some ideas. Check out Paula Deen's dining room furniture too as she usually has pretty painted pieces. If it were mine, I'd probably do the whole set an antique white but stain the table top. Good luck.
  • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Mar 09, 2016
    I was thinking a dull black
  • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Mar 20, 2016
    or even a gray
  • Trish Trish on Apr 30, 2017

    If it has shiny finish or oil give it a light sanding then use chalk paint. Just make sure you wax it really well

  • Fleur Costello Fleur Costello on Jul 23, 2020

    I know this thread is super old - but I am new! I am about to paint this cupboard and know nothing about tannin marks - so am going to prime before painting - any advice would be wonderful

  • Homeroad Homeroad on Dec 10, 2020

    Yes you can! I use Fusion Mineral Paint which comes in many colors. It can be painted right over the top and needs no sealer.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Aug 31, 2021

    of course ! with no problem

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Oct 13, 2021

    Yes, but don't forget to seal it with a wax or varnish.

  • You may want to seal it first. Tannins do have a tendency to 'bleed through'.

  • Leeanne Leeanne on Mar 30, 2023

    Have you tried fusion mineral paint!!! It’s amazing

  • Mogie Mogie on Apr 03, 2023

    When painting over dark wood bleed thru is a very real possibility. So prime first. To be safe I would apply one coat of primer and let it dry over night to see if bleed thru still comes thru and apply another coat if needed. Better to be safe then sorry.