It’s been a little over five years since chalk paint first became popular, which is a lifetime in the world of home decor.
Five years is enough time for color trends to change 3 or 4 times, for “Farmhouse style” to transition to “Boho”, and for navy to become the new gray.
It’s also plenty of time for new types of paint to come on to the market–paints like Fusion Mineral Paint that promise the same ease of use but greater durability than chalk paint.
So a lot of folks are starting to look at those chalk-painted pieces from five years ago and asking what it would take to paint them again. Maybe their tastes have changed and they’re ready for a new color scheme, or maybe that chalk painted desk isn’t proving to be as durable as they want it to be and a new paint job promises better results.
It makes sense then why one of the most frequent questions I get these days is “Can I paint over chalk paint?”
Well . . . I’ve got good news for you! The answer is YES, you can!
Whether you want to just change the color with a new coat of chalk paint or try out a different type of paint, it’s important to ask a few questions before you start so you can take the right prep steps.
1. Was a wax applied as a topcoat?
The typical topcoat recommended for chalk-painted pieces is paste furniture wax (wondering what that is? You can read more about that here). Before you start painting over chalk paint, it’s super important to figure out if a wax was applied or if the chalk paint is bare.
It’s pretty easy to figure out–just scrape the piece of furniture with our fingernail. If wax builds up under your nail or you can see the scratch mark in the finish, there is wax on the piece.
So here’s a bit of bad news . . .
Before painting over the chalk paint, the wax MUST be removed.
Wax acts a resist, and just about any paint you put over wax (with one exception–which I’ll tell you about later) will not adhere well. The new paint may stick initially, but long term it will have poor adhesion and may come off with the slightest scratch.
How to Remove Furniture Wax
Taking off furniture wax is not a difficult process, but is a little time consuming and a bit messy.
The best way to remove the wax is to scrub the piece of furniture with a slightly abrasive sponge and mineral spirits. The mineral spirits will break down the wax and as you scrub the wax will start to pull away from the paint.
After you scrub the whole piece, wipe off any residue with a wet rag. Then you will need to give the entire surface a light sanding with a mid-grit sandpaper (180-ish) to remove any possible residue or wax left after your cleaning.
2. Is the finish free of grease or dirt?
If you’ve done the wax scratch test and you didn’t find evidence of any wax, there still may be something else on your furniture that may cause you problems.
Over time, grease and grime tend to build up on furniture and if not properly cleaned before painting, the new paint will have problems sticking.
Because of this, I always clean my pieces before I paint with a degreaser. My favorite is Simple Green–you can get it anywhere and it’s eco-friendly. You can also use Krud Kutter or TSP.
You want to spray down your piece and with a mildly abrasive sponge, scrub the entire surface. Pay careful attention to any areas that feel like there is a residue or where the finish looks dark or discolored–those are likely areas of built-up grease and grime. Also, kitchen furniture is notorious for being greasy! Be sure to clean kitchen tables, chairs, stools, etc. extra well!
After you scrub the piece with your cleaner, wipe off any residue with a water-dampened rag.
3. Is the finish glossy?
Even though wax is the recommended topcoat for chalk paint, sometimes painter use polyurethane products or other glossy topcoats instead.
If you can see a shine or gloss on your piece, it will be helpful to give it a quick scuff with a mid-grit sandpaper (180-ish grit) to open up the pores of the finish. If you’re using another DIY furniture paint to paint over the chalk paint, it really can be a quick sanding– 5 minutes, quick scuffs in the direction of the grain should do the trick.
Now you’re ready to paint!
After you work through these 3 questions, your piece is ready for a new coat of paint!
But there is one short cut . . .
Remember when I said above that there was one exception to the rule about having to remove wax before you paint?
Milk Paint can be that exception! Depending on the final finish you are going for . . . I have had success painting over a waxed finish if I am ok with a bit of distressing and texture with my milk paint.
Milk Paint is the one paint (that I am aware of and in my experience) that can be painted over a waxed finish typically without major adherence issues. The wax must be fully cured–meaning it has been on the piece of furniture for 30 days or more–and a light scuff with sandpaper is recommended before you paint.
A word of caution though–if you want for certain a super sleek, non-distressed final finish, it still is probably best to remove your wax with mineral spirits before using milk paint. Sometimes milk paint can do weird things and it still may react to the wax underneath–it’s a bit of a gamble!
So now you know what you need to do if that turquoise chalk painted piece from 2012 is staring you down!
As always, you can find the full range of products from each line in my online shop.