How to ‘Prep Like a Pro’

Preparing your surface for paint

how to prepatre furniture prior to painting. |


Preparing your ‘substrate’ (the surface you are going to paint), is probably THE most important part of refinishing a piece of furniture.


We have all heard tell of magical paint potions that allow you to refinish anything with no preparation at all, be it melamine, glass, wax, oil paint, varnish or ceramic. These claims may hold up to an extent. But what about durability and long term use?


As with many things in life, you get out of it what you put in.  When it comes to refinishing furniture, there are plenty of shortcuts and tricks, but skipping the prep isn’t one.



As Jennylyn says “Prep – ah my favourite 4 letter word! I always stress how important prep is, because it is the basis of everything, it’s like trying to build a house on a poor foundation, it will eventually fall over! However if you spend the time to do it properly, use the right materials and follow professional specs for building, it will last a good 100 years! The same goes for paint! If you try to just paint over something thinking that it will solve any pre-existing conditions or issues with the surface, it won’t. Whilst it may temporarily “cover it up” and look pretty good, the longevity of it is questionable. So why do anything without full effort? PREP is really easy! Just follow this Step by Step card we have done up at Fusion Mineral Paint to take away all the confusion with what exactly prep is, and what surfaces need prep. With so many variables out there, laminates, wax coatings, Teflon sprayed  everything resistant coatings, etc the list goes on an on. There is no One Size fits All so to speak! Each piece needs to be assessed and prepped accordingly, no matter what paint you use prep is key! Bu its not something to be feared, it’s very easy and straight forward, and really takes very little time, however if you’re going to put your name on a piece of work- shouldn’t it be the best piece of work possible? “

Take the example below. Because this item was painted with no thought for the wood underneath, (which is Teak – known for oils and tannins), and the surface was previously oiled or varnished, the paint had no ‘Key’ to adhere to. As you can see it is chipping and peeling, and not in the way we love.


Not prepping has caused this paint to flake off - and not in the way we like!


I should say at this point that this example was painted with one of those ‘no prep’ paints, according to the instructions.


If only it had been lightly sanded, and a light coat of shellac based primer applied.


But it wasn’t. On the plus side, it is a great example of what happens when you fail to prepare…you know how that saying ends, right?


So How Should You Prep To Paint?

Prepping the item you are going to paint does not need to be difficult. Often it is simply a matter of cleaning and lightly sanding, (sometimes called burnishing).


Ensuring you properly prep a piece of furniture before you paint it is key. |


If the surface is super shiny, give it a quick sand to create a key. This gives your paint something to stick to.


If there is any grease or oil, use a degreaser to clean.


Check for wax – use your thumb nail to scratch the surface – if it rumples and lifts, you have wax. To take the wax off,  use mineral spirits or the Fusion Mineral Paint Odourless Solvent (available only in Canada).


If you are painting melamine, glass or a shiny surface you may want to use a product such as Ultragrip from Fusion to help the paint stick.

Ultragrip from Fusion Mineral paint - Incredible for adhesion.


If you think the item will bleed stain through your new paint apply a coat of shellac based primer – I like Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based White Interior\Spot Exterior Primer and Sealer and Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac, though the Bulls Eye often needs sanding after application.


See the images below so you recognise them in stores.


Bulls Eye Shellac BIN Zinsser Ultimate stain blocker

The more you paint and as you gain experience will intuitively know what a piece needs, but if you are ever unsure about the surface or the likelihood of bleed through,  test a spot.

Fusion Mineral Paint is superb at sticking (fusing) to most surfaces, but as long as you remember that any paint is only as good as the surface you paint it on and follow our Preparation suggestions, you will achieve a fantastic finish every time.

If you want the full low down on Prep – the long version is what I mean – I have laid it all out for you here.

Still need a little help? Take a look at our super helpful Infographic!


Mineral Paint

  • Michelle Hengel

    Amazing article on the exact way to properly prep furniture! Excellent article…

  • Linda Mayfield Richardson

    Ok guys first of all I love this paint. Hands down the best paint and most durable paint I’ve ever used. Out of one jar of the most beautiful turquoise or real color. I’ve painted the tops of 4 bar stools. A chest my husband built to basically hold his junkbut was by y front door unfished. Preface that I live with my husband and two much loved dogs on the lake in a small block cabin/house. So the kitchen and living room are divided by the island/bar and both look out on the beautiful Tennessee River. I am 57 disabled/retired from working in the legal field for 30 years. Where this all leads to is that I live on a very limited income. Over the past 2 years we’ve been married I have finally begun to embrace saving money doing things myself and making ugly things beautiful on this limited income. All my retirement finacial asset and good credit went to the ex husband. This took several years of intense therapy for me to embrace starting over. So here’s my question to readers. I would love to be able to afford the Ultra grip that seems to be necessary to do my next little project. But the paint not cheap but worth every penny. The new project is a set of the stones are cannisters that my Mom used. They cleaned up really well. I was surprised by soaking in Dawn and water and a scrub brush did. They still had flour and meal. She’s been gone awhile. So I want to paint these cannisters. They have the metal hardware and you buckled them down to seal them. They cleaned up nicely along with the seals. What would it require to prep these canisters to paint with the fusion paint that I still have almost a half jar. Did I mention I love Fusion paint. I assumed I might could first paint them with some white paint on hand. I just don’t plan on painting the inside since I want to use them. They were the last set she owned and she was so proud of them. They are dark green. Any help someone could give me who has used Fusion to paint over ceramic I would greatly appreciate. I look forward to some helpful hints

    • Jennylyn Pringle

      You could use the Ultra Grip after a good cleaning, and it will adhere very well. Try one out to see how it goes 🙂

  • Wendy Jamieson

    Thanks so much for this in depth article on paint preparation. I believe the vast majority of issues, that arise during and after painting, is because the piece was not properly prepped.
    This should be a staple article for every furniture painter to read and every retailer to know to pass on to their customers.