Should You Sand Before Chalk Painting?

Chalk paint is the perfect way to revive old pieces of furniture while retaining a vintage, rustic charm.

One thing you’ll often hear about chalk paint is that you don’t need to sand the furniture down before painting it.

This depends on the surface you’re painting, and the condition the piece is in. Many chalk paints claim there’s no prep or priming required, and this is usually true.

However, if you’re dealing with a particularly worn-out piece of furniture, it’s better to sand it.

Chalk paint is pretty thick, but still, it won’t be able to cover deep scratches and peeling paint. You should inspect the piece before painting, and give it a good clean, too.

If your feeling is that it needs sanding, follow your instinct. Use medium-grit paper to smooth out any prominent textures. Having a smooth, newly sanded surface to paint on will make a huge difference, and you’ll end up with far better results.

Should I sand between chalk paint coats?

Some people find that their chalk paint shows brush strokes once dried. This is part of the chalk paint look – after all, it’s designed to be drier to achieve a more rustic vibe.

However, some DIY’ers prefer a smoother finish, which gives a more modern, mattified look.

It’s perfectly normal if your chalk paint looks streaky at first, and so long as you’re applying it evenly and in thin layers, there’s generally no need to sand in between coats.

That said, some people do opt to lightly sand their chalk paint with fine-grit sandpaper between coats as this achieves a smoother finish and makes each coat adhere nicely to the one underneath.

One technique that is popular with chalk paint is ‘wet sanding.’ This helps achieve a super even finish.

Here are our top tips for wet-sanding chalk paint:

  • Allow your last coat of chalk paint to dry completely, and then use a damp, extra fine grit sanding block to lightly buff the entire surface. The block should be damp but not soaking wet, as the dampness helps reduce friction, resulting in a smoother finish.
  • Avoid applying too much pressure, as you don’t want to sand the paint off. If you do chip away any paint, you’ll need to retouch these, allow them to dry, and then return with your wet sanding block.
  • Once you’re happy that the piece has been sanded enough, give it a gentle wipe over to remove any residue. Then use a dry cloth to completely dry the surface.
  • After wet sanding, it’s time to apply your topcoat (more on this later). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to get a smooth, even finish.
  • This last step can work really well and will give your furniture a buttery-smooth finish. Once you’ve applied your topcoat and it’s completely dry, simply use a brown paper bag to lightly buff the topcoat. Brown paper bags have a very high grit that is around 10,000 – equal to a high-grit sandpaper block. It’s a great hack and works like a dream!

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How many coats of chalk paint should I apply?

In most cases, 2 coats are enough for chalk paint, but if you’re looking for a smoother finish, you may need 3-4 instead.

You’ll also need a top coat or wax to seal the chalk paint and protect it from scuffs and watermarks. This increases the paint’s durability and depth of color and sometimes adds a light sheen.

A water-based poly, such as General Finishes Flat Out Flat topcoat can be a great choice if you’re keen to keep your chalk paint mattified.

Whether you choose a wax or lacquer, follow the instructions on the tin to ensure you get the best results possible.

Will chalk paint stick to a glossy finish?

As we said earlier, chalk paint is frequently favored for its easy application that requires minimal sanding and prep.

However, there are some cases where you’ll need to sand the surface, such as if it’s peeling, rusty, or very glossy, as the chalk paint may not grip the surface very well.

While most of the time you won’t need to apply a primer underneath chalk paint, slick or shiny surfaces should be cleaned and then given a couple of coats of primer. If it’s a particularly problematic piece, you may have to sand it down to the raw wood.

When to prep before chalk paint?

There are some instances in which your piece will need to be filled or sanded before painting:

  • A rough service will need sanding or even filling if there are deep scratches or gouges
  • Loose or peeling veneer needs to be fixed or removed prior to painting.
  • Certain types of wood and some water stains will bleed through the paint. Small spots can be coated with a few layers of shellac, while if the whole piece is likely to bleed, you’ll need to prime it first. If you’ve already applied your first coat before you realize it’s bleeding, just prime right over this, once the coat is dry.
  • Oily surfaces need to be wiped down and any residue should be removed. If the surface has a glossy finish, it’s best to sand the piece down or use a primer.

Final verdict

Chalk paint is perfect for your next DIY project, and one of the greatest things about it is it requires minimal prep – including that dreaded sanding process.

There are some instances in which you will need to sand your furniture before painting with chalk paint, for example, if the surface is particularly rough or glossy. Sanding will help provide you with a smooth surface to work with which will allow the paint to adhere better.

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