How To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint A-Z

Should furniture be sanded before painting with chalk paint? This is the one question I get asked most often and my answer is, that it depends. While many chalk paint brands say their paint doesn't require sanding, I always err on the side of caution, especially considering I sell my painted pieces. But there are some instances where I absolutely won't sand and so here I'm sharing tips on how to prep furniture for chalk paint from A to Z.

How To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint A-Z

I hope you find this tutorial helpful whether you're about to paint your first piece or have a few painted pieces under your belt. You ALWAYS want to have a good bond with the paint.

How To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint A to Z

If you've been following the blog for a bit you know that I have a workshop in the basement of our home. I also live in a cold winter climate and so good ventilation is always a problem. For these reasons, I use low to no VOC (volatile organic compound) products.

Affiliate links are included so you can see what products I use or recommend for prepping furniture. See my disclosure policy.

Clean the furniture before painting

Unless you know where it came from, you're going to want to give it a good scrub. Vacuum all the cobwebs inside, underneath, and on the back. My preference for cleaning furniture is one gallon of warm water with a drop of dawn dish soap and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Wipe down all the surfaces with a damp rag.

Remove the drawers and/or doors before painting

Some people prefer to keep the doors and drawers in place when painting furniture. Unless the piece is really old and there is a chance of not getting the hardware lined up again, I always remove them.

Label the back of each drawer with chalk so you know which belongs where (ask me how I know about this important this step).

Label Drawers To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint

Remove the hardware before painting

Unless you plan on painting the original hardware (which I've been known to do on occasion), remove the knobs, pulls, and door hardware. Place them and the screws in a tub or tray so they don't get lost.

Raise the furniture from the ground before painting

Raise the furniture from the ground before painting so it's easier to paint along the bottom. My preference is these 3-wheel furniture dollies so the furniture can be moved around if need be. Placing it on top of paint cans or blocks of wood also works fine too.

Raise Furniture To Prep For Chalk Paint

If you suffer from back or knee pain like I do, a hydraulic rolling mechanic stool will be your best friend. Raise and lower it as needed and scoot around the furniture as you work. Note: you want one with a short stem that doesn't restrict how low you can go. No more constantly getting up and down or kneeling on a hard floor.

Fill any imperfections before painting

Fill any holes, deep scratches, and dents with wood filler. My preference is this non-shrinking filler compound.

Fill Holes To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint

Do NOT sand furniture if...

  1. You suspect it may have been painted with lead paint. Painted pieces from the late 70's and back are more likely to contain lead. There are lead test kits available should you want to test first. I personally err on the side of caution unless I'm 100% certain. 
  2. It has a smooth Arborite or high gloss enamel finish.
  3. The wood is cherry or mahogany. Sanding will open the grain and cause the tannins in the wood to bleed through the paint.

How to prep furniture that CAN'T be sanded 

For smooth Arborite or high gloss enamel surfaces, prime first before applying paint with either a brush or foam roller. My go-to primers are Bulls Eye 123 Primer or Slick Stick.

For wood that causes bleed through or pieces with stains, my go-to stain blocking primers are Bulls Eye 123 Primer Plus or clear BOSS, especially if you will be painting a light color like white. You may need to apply two coats. If a pinkish hue appears after the first coat of paint, apply another coat of primer in those areas. Both of these stain blocking primers also help to remove odors.

How to prep furniture that CAN be sanded

Note: You'll notice the photos included in this post is of a previously painted piece. I knew it was safe to sand because I was the one who painted it many years ago with latex paint.

Wrap 150-grit sandpaper around a sanding pad and rough up the surface to give the paint some bite.

How To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint With Sandpaper

You may need to bring out the big guns and sand with either an orbital sander, palm sander, or mouse sander. My preference is a mouse sander because I like how it feels in my hands, it can easily get into tight corners, and I feel like I have more control. However, if it's a rather large piece, I'll use an orbital or palm sander.

You can see in the photo above that my mouse sander is well used and a bit of a relic. Time to consider replacing it.

Remove sanding dust from furniture before painting

Wipe the furniture with a damp cloth to remove sanding dust. Remove lingering fine dust particles with a tack cloth.

Remove Dust To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint

Cover holes on the drawer fronts

Place tape over the hardware holes on the inside of the drawers to avoid paint seeping through and clogging the hole or worse, seeping into the inside of the drawer.

Cover Hardware Holes To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint

Now you're ready for the fun part, paint!

Tip for testing paint bond

Should you decide to heed the chalk paint brand's claim that their paint does not require sanding, here is a tip to test whether it bonded well with your furniture. Do the fingernail test after 24-hours. Scratch the paint with your fingernail and if it comes off, then you need to do more prep.

If you have any questions about prepping furniture for chalk paint, please feel free to leave them either in the comment section below or press the Contact Me button at the top of the blog to send me an email. Visit my tutorial page for more helpful tips.

How To Prep Furniture For Chalk Paint A to Z

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Talk Of The Town Party 157

Hello friends, I hope your January has been a good one so far. Looks like the Valentine ideas are in full swing and I look forward to seeing each and every one of them. Here are our wonderful features from last week.

Welcome back to Talk of the Town!
Talk of the Town link party
First, let's take a look at what you may have missed from your party hosts!

Last week at My Repurposed Life
Last Week at Interior Frugalista
Here's what we're talking about from last week's party!

Mason Jar Wall Decor Bathroom Organizer - The Country Chic Cottage Oreo Brownies Recipe
Oreo Brownies Recipe - April Golightly

DIY Pallet Wood Dog
DIY Pallet Wood Dog - Sweet Pea Chai Latte Layered Cake
Chai Latte Layered Cake - Veena Azmanov
PLEASE NOTE – There are now *2* separate link ups; the first is for DIY/Vintage/Repurposed links and the second for Recipe links. Thank you!
By linking up at Talk of the Town, you agree that your photos may be used to promote the party, or in other round-ups.
***Please keep in mind that linking up with stock photography or using photos without express permission by the photo owner is not allowed. Links of stock photography or photos that are not owned by you will be removed without notification.***
TotT Something to talk about
DIY|Vintage|Repurposed Links
Recipes Links
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Stuffed Animal Zoo - Adorable DIY Gift Idea From Grandparents

I'm going to say right off the top that we didn't reinvent the wheel with this idea. But when my daughter sent a photo and asked if it was something we could make, my response was heck ya and we'll make them for the kids for Christmas! These stuffed animal zoos are an adorable DIY gift idea for that special handmade gift from the grandparents for birthdays or the holidays. They require just a few supplies and are not that difficult to make and I'll show you how.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea

My grandson's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw two large wrapped gifts coming into his house for him and his sister. He was even more excited when he opened it and saw another wrapped gift inside. They got a handmade stuffed animal bought at a Christmas craft fair with Mommy.

The zoos were personalized and painted to match their room decor. My daughter is happy to finally have our grandson's pile of stuffed animals off his small toddler bed and corralled in one place that not only looks adorable but doesn't take up much space in his room.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea From Grandparents

The growth chart between the two zoos is another great DIY gift idea for grandparents to make. I made this easy stenciled yardstick growth chart shortly after our granddaughter was born. When our grandson was born almost four years ago I didn't know there were stencils for making these. His handpainted yardstick growth chart took longer to make.

Here is how we made the zoos

Starting with the lumber you will need to build the zoo (photo below based on making two zoos).

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Supplies

Please note the Instructions and Materials List are based on making one zoo.

Measurements for cutting lumber

3/4" Plywood Base = 1 @ 12" x 12"
2" x 2" Uprights = 4 @ 30"
1" x 4" Rails = 4 @ 12 3/4"
1" x 6" Trim = 4 @ 12 3/4"

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Cut Lumber

Zoo base assembly

  • Cut 3/4-inch plywood base 12" x 12".
  • Cut four pieces of 2" x 2" lumber 30" long.
  • Set a 2" x 2" upright on each corner and draw an outline with a pencil. 
  • In the center of each outline drill pilot holes with a 3/32" drill bit on the base. 
  • With a countersink bit drill in the pilot holes. This will be the underside of the zoo base.
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Pilot Hole

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Countersink Hole
  • Working on its side, put a dab of wood glue on the bottom of the upright. 
  • Screw #8 2 1/2" wood screw through the pilot holes into your 2" x 2" uprights, making sure it sits flush with the plywood (as pictured below). 
  • Repeat on all four corners.
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Attaching Uprights

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Installation

Attach bottom rails

Cut four pieces of 1" x 4" lumber 12 3/4" long. Apply wood glue at the contact points and nail them to the plywood base and corner uprights with a 1 1/4" brad nails.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bottom Rail Installation

Attach top rails

  • Cut 4 pieces of 1" x 6" lumber 12 3/4" long. 
  • Make a spacer with an offcut piece of 2" x 2" lumber cut 8 1/2" long (this is the measurement between the two uprights at the bottom). 
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Top Rail Spacer
  • To conceal the top of the uprights, place the top of the rail approximately two inches above the uprights (as pictured below).
  • Working on its side, place spacer between the uprights as you work and clamp together to hold everything tight. Apply wood glue to contact points and nail your upper trim piece with brad nails just like you did on the bottom rail. 
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Assembled

Prepping Zoo for paint

Fill all the brad nail holes with wood filler. Once dry, sand the entire structure to get rid of any roughness in the wood with 120-grit sandpaper and a mouse sander.

Making them pretty with paint

The interior of the zoo is painted with pure white Behr latex paint that we had on hand. The exterior of one zoo is painted with Rustoleum Chalked paint in Coastal Blue and the other with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Antibes green. Both zoos received three coats of a clear matte top coat.

Bungee Cord Bar Installation

Make a jig for bungee cord zoo bars by cutting a piece of cardboard the width of the space between the uprights. Measure for three zoo bars spaced evenly and mark with a pencil.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Template

Place a screw through a flange type washer (as pictured below) and partially screw it into the uprights at your marked points. Repeat until both the top and bottom on all four sides are installed.

On the top and starting at one end, wrap the bungee cord around the screw and tighten down the washer to secure it in place. Pull the cord down to the bottom while maintaining some tension, wrap around the bottom screw and tighten to secure.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Installation

Move to the next screw beside it, following the steps above, then work your way up to the top and over to the next screw and back down to the bottom, and so on. Cut the cord once that side is complete and repeat for the remaining sides.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Washer

Personalize the zoo

If you are lucky enough to have a scroll saw, you could make personalized wooden names but we don't so I placed a custom order on Etsy.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Personalized Wood Names

They are painted in contrasting colors that go with their room decor. They are attached to the top rail of the zoos with E6000 glue.

This green zoo is for our grandson.

Green And White DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo

And the coastal blue and coral zoo is for our granddaughter.

Coastal Blue And Coral DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo

Isn't this just the cutest stuffed animal storage organization idea? I love how at only 12-inches square they don't take up a lot of room but at 30-inches high, they can hold a lot of soft toys.

Personalized DIY Stuffed Animal Storage Zoo

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience so you can see what products I used or recommend to make this project. See my full disclosure policy.

For this project you will need:

Materials List

  • 2" x 2" Lumber
  • 1" x 4" Lumber
  • 1" x 6" Lumber
  • 3/4" Plywood
  • 1 package (20') Bungee Cording
  • Personalized Wood Name (found on Etsy)
  • #8 1/2" Wood Screws
  • #8 2 1/2" Wood Screws
  • 3/32" Drill Bit
  • Countersink Drill Bit
  • 1 1/2" Brad Nails
  • Flange Type Finishing Washers
  • Wood Glue
  • E6000 Glue
  • 220 Grit Mouse Sander Pad
  • Mouse Sander
  • Pneumatic Brad Nailer
  • Rustoleum Chalked Paint Coastal Blue
  • Americana Multi-Surface Paint Shrimp
  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Antibes
  • Matte Clear Polycrylic Top Coat

Stuffed Animal Zoo DIY Gift Idea

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DIY Faux Fireplace With Extra Useful Hidden Toy Storage

For a few years, my daughter has been dreaming about having a cozy fireplace in her rental townhouse, especially during the holidays. The problem is she has a small living room and only one wall that would fit a fireplace. That wall houses much-needed storage for our grandkid's books and toys. When thinking about Christmas gift ideas back in November I came up with an idea for a DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage to surprise both she and her husband on Christmas Eve morning.

There were several things to consider when designing the fireplace. One, that it be a faux fireplace for a rental. Two, that it be portable to move with them down the road. Three, that it contains easily accessible storage for the kid's toys. Four, that the toy storage is hidden for an adult space to entertain guests. Five, that it has adequate storage for media components because the television is mounted on the wall above. Six, that it is safe for a toddler and soon to be crawling infant. A tall order for one cabinet!

DIY Faux Fireplace With Extra Useful Hidden Toy Storage

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage

With consideration of all the criteria, we drew a rough sketch of how we could build the faux fireplace and got busy making it in time for the holidays. At the time I was knee deep into creating content for the 12 Days Of Christmas Blog Hop and my time was limited. So on this project, I was the chief designer and project manager and Mr. Frugalista was the talented cabinet maker who made this gift happen!

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage Rough Sketch

I should mention that this isn't a detailed step-by-step tutorial because we just didn't have the luxury of time to take the necessary photos for every single step BUT you should have no problem getting a good idea of how we built it as you follow this post.

I've included affiliate links for your convenience so you can see what products I used or recommend to make this project. See my full disclosure policy.

The fireplace was built using 16-inch wide WoodCrafters Pine Laminated Boards (purchased at Home Depot) and cut to size on the table saw (see dimensions below).

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage Pine Boards

Wood Cut Dimensions:

Top and Bottom Boards = 15" x 70 1/2"
Sides = 14" x 33 1/4" (2 each)
Middle Shelf = 14" x 67"
Middle Divider = 14" x 9"
Bottom Cupboard Sides = 14" x 23 1/2" (2 each)
Right Cupboard Shelf = 13" x 19 3/4"

Fireplace Middle Shelf Assembly

First, the middle shelf was attached to each side of the cabinet 9-inches from the top. They were held in place with adjustable corner clamps and attached with a #8 drill bit and 2-inch wood screws. But first pilot holes were drilled with a 1/16" drill bit followed by a countersink drill bit so the screws were inset (will be concealed with wood filler later).

TIP: Another option for no screw holes on the exterior of the cabinet is to assemble it with a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig where all the joints are screwed together from the inside of the cabinet and the underside of the shelves.

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage Shelf Assembly

Fireplace Assembly Center Support And Cupboard Sides

Next, the center support on the top shelf was attached much the same way as in the previous step. Then the sides of the left and right cupboards were attached based on a 30-inch wide firebox opening.

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage Assembly

Fireplace Top And Bottom Assembly

Before the top and bottom boards were attached, the front and sides of each board were softened with a router and 1/4" corner rounding bit. This not only gives it a more finished look but was a safety consideration so there were no blunt edges for our grandkids to poke an eye out. The total height of the fireplace is 35 1/4" tall to fit perfectly under the wall mount television that will hang above.

Firebox With False Back

The depth of the fireplace is 14-inches, much too deep for the firebox which will house two layers of tall flameless LED pillar candles. We decreased the depth of the firebox to 9-inches by building a frame with 1" x 2" pine strips, offcuts from the top and bottom pieces.

DIY Faux Fireplace Firebox False Back Frame

A piece of 1/4-inch thick hardboard cut to fit the back of the firebox opening at 30" x 23 1/2" and attached to the front of the frame with wood glue and brad nails.

Shelf Inside Right Cupboard

Inside the right cupboard, a stationary shelf was installed in the center of the opening with a piece of pine cut 13" x 19 3/4". But first, two angled pine brackets were made from offcuts screwed onto the sides of the cupboard. They were angled on the front so they would be less visible when the door is open.

DIY Faux Fireplace Cupboard Shelf Brackets

Pictured below is the shelf after installation.

DIY Faux Fireplace Cupboard Shelf Installation

To give the back of the cabinet a finished look it was sheeted with 1/8" hardboard and attached with brad nails.

Cabinet Doors With Decorative Metal Panels

We found 21"x 24" cabinet doors at a local salvage yard for $6. The center panels were removed and replaced with decorative metal that will conceal the media components housed inside but allow remote control sensors to transmit through the closed doors. Plus it gives a modern look to the fireplace cabinet.

To do this a hole was drilled into the center of each door panel and cut with a jigsaw (pictured below).

DIY Faux Fireplace Recessed Door Panels Removed

The 2' x 3' decorative aluminum sheets with a Paulin profile were flimsy enough that a child could push them out. To remedy this the sheets were doubled up, making the panels were more rigid and cut them to fit the opening.

They were attached by running a bead of construction grade hot glue along the tongue on the inside of the door and finished with narrow trim (sorry I didn't get a photo).

Prepping Fireplace For Paint

Now that the fireplace was built all the screw holes were patched with my go-to non-shrinking patching compound. Once dry the entire cabinet was sanded smooth with a palm sander and 150 grit sanding pad and the tight corners with a mouse sander. Next, it was hand sanded to a smooth finish with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block.

After the sawdust was vacuumed and the fireplace wiped with a tack cloth, it was primed with my go-to Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Primer rolled on with a 6-inch foam roller.

Fireplace Paint And Clear Coat

The fireplace was painted with three coats of satin Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint in a custom warm white color similar too Raw Silk (Fusion Mineral Chalk Paint). The paint was also rolled on with a foam roller and sanded with 220 grit sandpaper between coats.

Two coats of non-yellowing Varathane Premium Diamond Satin Wood Finish was brushed on with a 2-inch synthetic bristle brush and sanded smooth between coats with 600-grit sandpaper.

Tiled Fireplace Opening

Now that the fireplace was painted it was time to dress up the firebox opening. We considered embossed tin panels until we priced them out. Onto plan B, a far less expensive option because we found glossy grey taupe Cracked Pebble Datile 3" x 6" tiles on clearance at Home Depot for a total cost of under $20.

The tiles were installed on the back and sides of the opening in a subway pattern and butted right next to one another without a grout line so we didn't have to grout for a clean look. After playing with different configurations we decided to lay the bottom tiles in a vertical direction for visual contrast and a clean look.

The tiles were cut when necessary with a wet tile saw that made the job so much quicker. The tiles were attached with ceramic tile adhesive.

DIY Faux Fireplace With Subway Tiled Firebox

Finishing Touches On The Fireplace

Once the tiles were installed the doors were hung with inset cabinet door hinges. Pretty brushed nickel knobs that I had in my stash that echo the metal decorative door panels were added.

This is where the hidden toy storage comes into play

Six collapsible 9" x 11" x 8" cork color fabric cubbies with silver metal handles were lined up along the top shelf of the fireplace for easily accessible but hidden toy storage. Also, the cupboard on the right with the shelf is perfect for taller toys and books.

Let there be light inside the faux fireplace

I found a set of nine wax flameless LED pillar candles at varying heights with a multi-function remote control on Amazon. With the timer function, my daughter can set the candles to go on automatically each day. A safe alternative for illuminating the fireplace when you have little ones.

So are you ready to see it?

Here it is just before we loaded it in our vehicle to take to our daughter's place on Christmas Eve.

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage

I wish I had taken more photos before we delivered it but unfortunately, this thing was so hot off the press that I didn't have the opportunity.

Our daughter and son-in-law were thrilled when they saw their handmade Christmas gift. Our grandson on the other hand immediately gravitated to the cupboards where he decided they were perfect for playing hide & seek (not what I had in mind).

Here it is at their house after my daughter decorated it for the holidays shortly after we left. Finally, she had her fireplace mantel to hang stockings on Christmas Eve. If the high heel boot stocking looks familiar it's because I made one for her too.

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage Decorated For Holidays

Next week I'll be sharing what we built for the grandkids.

This isn't our first fireplace build. A few years ago we turned a mid-century modern headboard into a faux fireplace. Then we made a real log fireplace insert for it. We also built a custom electric fireplace for our living room, which we love.

To build this faux fireplace you will need

Building Materials:

Precut Laminated Pine Boards:
  • 3 @ 16" x 72"
  • 3 @ 16" x 36"
  • 1 @ 16" x 48"

Hardboard Sheets:
  • 1/8" x 4' x 8'
  • 1/4" x 2' x 4'

  • 2 @ 21" x 24" Cabinet Doors (Salvaged)
  • 4 Inset Cabinet Door Hinges
  • 4 @ 2' x 3' Aluminum Decorative Panels (Paulin Profile)
  • 60 @ 3" x 6" Ceramic Tiles (Cracked Pebble SE22)
  • 2 Brushed Nickel Knobs

Construction Materials:

1/16" Pilot Hole Drill Bit
Countersink Drill Bit
1/4" Corner Rounding Router Bit 
#8 Drill Bit
#8 2" Wood Screws
1" Brad Nails
Adjustable Corner Clamps
Wood Glue
Construction Adhesive
Ceramic Tile Adhesive
Full-Size Hot Glue Sticks
150 Grit Sanding Pads
220 Grit Sandpaper
600 Grit Sandpaper
Tack Cloth

Paint Materials:

6-inch Foam Roller
Small Paint Tray
Zibra Stubby Handle Brush
Synthetic Bristle Paint Brush (for clear coat)
Non-shrinking Patching Compound
Behr Premium Plus Ultra Satin Paint (custom Warm White color)
Varathane Premium Diamond Satin Wood Finish (non-yellowing)

Power Tools:

Table Saw
Wet Tile Saw
Palm Sander
Mouse Sander
Dremel with Grinding Disc
Pneumatic Nail Gun
Heavy Duty Hot Glue Gun

Decorative Supplies

6 @ 9" x 11" x 8" Cork Color Collapsible Fabric Cubes
Set of 9 Pillar LED Flameless Wax Candles with Remote

DIY Faux Fireplace With Hidden Toy Storage

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.

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