Why You Should Always Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting

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Hi everyone! Glad to have you back on my page today for more tips on furniture restoration. Today I’m talking about prepping furniture for paint. In my opinion, you should always strip and sand furniture before painting.


I truly feel that if you want to sell a piece of furniture for double, sometimes triple the amount that you got it for, you should put in the work to make sure that piece of furniture is 100% worth the money they spend on it.


  • 100% structurally sound,
  • 100% free of stains, mold, and mildew


and most importantly if it is a vintage piece,


  • 100% clear of any lead paint.

If all you do when you start the project is wipe the outside down with a damp rag, there’s no way of telling if the piece has any of those issues.  

Doing it “the hard way” pays off in the end

It is definitely a tough task:

You just bought THE PERFECT paint color, and that paintbrush you’ve been eyeing for weeks. You rush home to get started right in on it – but wait. I think there may be a crack underneath this paint I can feel with my fingernail…

Do I have to strip and sand it??? I know, I know.

Feel free to go your own way on it; especially if you’re painting it for yourself and no one else!

But if you don’t want that crack to get even bigger, or stains seeping through your paint midway through, or a customer calling you to say that your amazing paint job, is being ruined by the veneer bubbling up after a water spill accident…then you will want to finish reading this post.

Trust me, doing the work truly pays off in the end.

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Reason #1 You Should Always Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting:

Structural Damage is Not Always Obvious!

For my first example, one of my favorite refurbished pieces – the Cushman Colonial Creations side table.

Cushman Colonial Creations Side Table Before and After

My other half found this on the side of the road for free! I could not believe it! The paint was not the greatest, something I would’ve liked in high school perhaps during my emo days. 🙂

Inside the drawer was the gorgeous stamp stating that it was in fact a collector’s item and was from the 1930s. Woah!

I knew then that I would be restoring it back to its original state.

So, of course, I had to sand it anyway. But the reason I use this as an example is this: (please excuse the horrible photos this was a while ago)

Staining Wood After Wood Filler Cushman Tabletop


It’s tough to see exactly, but the top is separated into 3 pieces. You couldn’t see that when it was painted. The middle piece was offset from the other two.

It was stuck in pretty well, but we ended up hammering it out pretty easily when we noticed it was off.

Then after some cleanup, Scott used his Kreg Jig and reattached the 3 together for a smooth perfect top as it originally had been.

If I had just wiped off the paint and painted over it, I never would have known there was a problem with the top of the piece.

Then somewhere down the line; be it during delivery halfway across the country, or when the buyer took it out of the box…that piece would’ve popped out.

Then I wouldn’t have gotten the rave review from the customer. {the previous review on my Etsy page is no longer accessible}.

Once the paint is stripped, you can figure out what type of wood the piece is!

Identifying the wood type is one more reason stripping the paint is the best method. You could have a much more expensive piece than you thought if you find certain wood types under the paint!

Clueless on wood types? Check my Ultimate Guide For Identifying Wood Types in Furniture, it should have you covered.

You may even find out that the piece is covered in wood veneer! In that case, you’ll need to decide how to restore the wood veneer furniture. Click the link and I’ve explained the process to you!

Reason #2 You Should Always Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting:

Stains Can Seep Through, Ruining Your Paint Job

For my next example, my lovely Blended Paint Sideboard:

Hand-painted sideboard with natural wood accents before and after

This beauty was a tough one! As you can see, it was completely covered in veneer, which I stripped off all but the 2 sides.

I thought I could get away with just painting over the sides with a rough sanding and nothing else:

always strip and sand sideboard stain leak through

The veneer was a very dark almost purple-ish color. You can see what it did to my blue.

Now, this wasn’t just a need primer situation. The color of the veneer wasn’t just showing through, it was actually staining the paint from the shellac that was used as a sealer back in the day.

It came on slowly and were the lighting a little different in the garage where I was painting it, I may not have noticed it right away.

(Edit) I recently came across a stain-blocker:

Rust-Oleum 03551 Cover Stain Primer, Tintable White ~ Gallon
Rust-Oleum 03551 Cover Stain Primer, Tintable White ~ Gallon – $25.98

from: Hardware World

Had I known about it then, I would have tried it. It does stop things like shellac from coming through on your paint – if absolutely necessary – as it isn’t the cheapest product in the world.

But sanding worked fine for this one after I realized the issue:

Always Strip and sand sideboard

This one sold for nearly 500$. I would not have felt right charging that amount if I hadn’t spent weeks on it.

Although, had I not tried to skip that one step, I would’ve saved myself a little bit of time!

Reason #3 You Should Always Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting:


– if the piece was made before 1978: check for lead! Then remove the paint properly before covering it up with new paint.

This last reason should not be messed with that is for sure! If your piece is vintage, before 1978, you MUST test the paint for lead before doing anything else!

You can find lead test kits here.

They’re super easy to use, and if the paint does contain lead, there are some serious precautions you need to take before removing the paint.

Check out https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2502/ or https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/steps.pdf

For information on exactly what to do in case of lead.

You want to protect yourself, and your family!

Adding paint on top of the old paint doesn’t just seal the lead in forever. Eventually, that paint will chip away and it could seriously hurt someone. So please be careful about that one.

In Conclusion…

Why Should You Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting?

  • Structural Damage is not always obvious until you’ve got the paint off.

  • Stains from the old paint can seep through and ruin your paint job slowly.

  • Older pieces may be painted with lead paint, which is still harmful if painted over.

What do you think? I know that a lot of people will completely disagree with me on this.

Please share with me if so! I am open to any and all opinions! There are some serious new paints out there now that make it super easy and doable to not sand nowadays, and that is 100% fine with me if that is your route of refinishing furniture. This is just mine 🙂

We all need something to set us apart from the rest and I guess this may be my downfall (I’m sure a lot of you are thinking), but I’m sticking to it!

I take my prepping seriously, it’s the only way I can feel good about selling my pieces for the price I think they deserve.

Starting with a clean, freshly sanded, and properly repaired piece of wood means that piece will last as long as it should!

For more furniture prep info you can find out the best method for preparing wood for staining or learn 5 game-changing tips on sanding wood furniture to produce the perfect restored furniture piece.

If you liked this post please pin the image below!

Always Strip and Sand Furniture Before Painting

Until Next Time,


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