Top coating and protecting your work is the final and MOST important step when tackling a refinishing project. This post will primarily apply to hand brushing techniques (although we can also speak to spray application as well if you have questions). We will mainly focus on waterborne finishes, such as poly-acrylics and pre-catalyzed solutions. NOTE: If you want to learn more about different finish options, visit this post about them! We also have an entry on wax and why we don’t use it.
Over the years we have learned a LOT through trial and error. Getting an even, smooth finish is not always so easy; especially when refinishing and are unsure of the full history on the piece. You can run into cracking, peeling, and blushing in addition to undesirable textures like orange peel or fish eyes. Here are some pointers on how to choose and apply the correct finish for your project.
1. Select the correct product: First and foremost, it is important to use a good quality topcoat. This decision can make more of a difference than you might imagine. Switching topcoats to a higher quality product may solve many of your finishing problems, and will most likely improve the overall look of your hard work!
2. Use Extender: Brush application can be challenging in certain climate conditions if finishes start to dry too quickly. Extender can drastically increase the open time of the product, allowing you more flexibility with manipulating the product to fit your project’s demands. Do your research on your product and find out what you can use to extend the workability of your finish.
3. Choose an appropriate applicator: Rule of thumb is, the larger the surface, the larger the applicator. If you are doing a table top use a larger or wider applicator like a sponge or pad. Tara has used this one and loved it. If you are doing a narrower frame or edge or a surface with crevices, use a narrower sponge or bristle brush. Tip: Make sure your applicator doesn’t hold too much air. This can cause air bubbles to rest on your finish creating divots in your final surface texture.
4. Avoid brush strokes: Brush strokes are something we see quite a bit of. Some people prefer this look, with the perspective that it gives the more authentic “old world” look, which is fine! However, many modern finishers opt for the smoother look. To achieve this, most companies suggest 2-3 coats of finish. To reduce those brush strokes, scuff in between coats with 220 grit (or higher). Steel wool and mirlon scuff pads can also work wonders.
5. Consider going the professional route: If you are painting furniture and selling it for income, have you considered spray application? If not, why not? There are many options for spray guns including airless, air assist, and HVLP (high volume, low pressure). Look into your options, assess your budget, and decide what would work best for you. Tara usually uses a Greco HVLP with an Apollo 7500 series. She also uses a CA Technologies TJR gravity gun with the PPS adapter and bladder system.
What are some other things that you have done to get a smooth flawless finish? We would love to hear from you!
Tara & Becca, The UpCycle Girls
- Photos curtsy of Kaleidoscope Interiors, Services SE Wisconsin for interior painting and kitchen cabinet painting.