Refinishing & Refurbishing Tips and Tricks

Why “One Step” is a Myth


In a culture that demands both speed and efficiency, convenience is key for consumers.  People want quick; People want easy; People want affordable.  So manufacturers unfortunately are pressured to market and sell products that aren’t necessarily ready to roll out, products that will typically fail sooner than when would be considered ideal.

The furniture industry is no exception – This goes for both building new, and refinishing old.  The reason we ramble on about this is because we are constantly fielding questions about products that are currently available claiming to be “one step” or “all in one.”  Read on to find out why we have made the conscious and educated decision NOT to use or sell these products, and how those extra steps will be your best option in the long run.

Free stock photo of hand, dark, display, overview

The Importance of Prep Work

One of our most frequently asked questions is “Do I really have to do the prep work?”  By prep work, these questions refer to the “clean & scuff-sand” step before applying the new finish.  The answer is a resounding YES!  Why?  Ask yourself the following questions.  Unless you answer “yes” to every single one, you will surely be gambling with the effectiveness of your new finish, and the durability of the hard work you are about to take on.

  • Have you been with that specific piece of furniture through its whole life?
  • Do you know every purpose that piece was used for?
  • Do you know what was used to clean it?
  • Do you know what finish was used on it originally?
  • Do you know if it has been touched up or restored, and which products were used?

Prep work is essential to ensuring the success of your project; It cleans off years of grease, fingerprints, and damaging cleaning products.  Properly preparing your piece also helps secure the original finish. All finishes inevitably break down through the years, and if the existing finish is flaking or cracking you need to secure or remove it before painting anything over the top of it.  Additionally, the scuff-sand step will smooth out any imperfections you are looking to correct, such as scratches and blemishes, or drip marks from a previous finish.

This picture above shows a prime example of why we need prep work. This end table had consistent drip marks down the side. Natural or stained wood can often camouflage defects like this. The drip marks on this particular piece were hardly visible until the piece was scuffed. If paint had just been applied directly over the top without scuffing, these drips would likely have become very noticeable.

Why not one coat?

In all honesty, we have yet to find a product that – when applied properly – really does only need “one coat.”  You see the commercials, read the ads, and believe the tag lines.  But applying just one coat usually turns out to be just as it sounds:  Too good to be true.  In our experience, at the very least a second coat was needed for adequate coverage.  If you do think you have found that magic product that covers fully with a single application, be sure to check all planes in multiple versions of lighting as this can make a huge difference.

Also, while you may seem to achieve full coverage with one layer, the color of the product may not be reaching it’s maximum intensity.  Often you will see the truer version of the color with more than one coat.

And obviously more coats can mean better protection, but not too many or you could potentially have finish failure. (We will have a blog on this coming up)

A Topcoat’s Duty

With most “all in one” products the top coat is part of the recipe, along with the primer and paint. However since all of the products are mixed together, each layer isn’t allowed to cure separately.  The formulas for primer, paint, and top coat are specifically developed for a purpose, and if they aren’t allowed to cure on their own, they may not be reaching their full potential.  Keep this in mind when considering the future use and traffic of your project.  The primer prevents previous finishes and wood tannins from being pulled through the new paint; The top coats protect against various wear and tear, airborne elements, and sometimes UV rays.  Finish will also protect the wood underneath from getting dry and brittle.  Check out our previous post to learn more about Top Coats.

All of that said, while we are BIG advocates for using topcoats and rarely complete projects without them, we do acknowledge for low traffic items (like picture frames or other decorative items) a product like General Finishes Milk Paint may be suitable without a top coat.

In short, yes, the factors contributing to the demand for speedy results puts a lot of pressure on all of us.  However, as Tara’s mama says, “Better to do it right the first time so that you don’t have to do it a second time!”  That’s the voice we choose to follow, and we believe that’s what will help us stand behind our work for years to come.

Blue Wood

What are your thoughts on All in One products? Have you tried them? Share your successes and failures with us – We want to hear from you!

Happy Junking,

Becca and Tara


all in one products for painting

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Tara Lou
<p>19 years ago, I started my path in furniture by preserving antique furniture, and restoring furniture after home disasters. More recently I have started working with clients to revive their furniture to todays fashions. When I’m not chipping my nails flipping furniture I am out with my kids hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening or hiking.</p>

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