Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We-Design-Day: Upcycling Old Furniture

As part of my basement renovation, I salvaged an old and ugly two piece storage unit from my parents. It was the quintessential dark wood look laminated particle board unit with ugly brass pulls. It is massive too - both pieces are just a little below waist height and about 5 to 6' feet long.


But as period as it is and as heavy and as awkward as any furniture piece could be, I saw the awesomeness that was laying with in. I needed a solution that had ample storage, was flexible in design and could house a variety of items, had a a few doors because I need to be able to tuck away some more dangerous products (like glue - nothing can be more dangerous than a bottle of glue in a toddler's hand). This unit allowed me all of that and more.

Sure, it was a little shabby and I would be it's third or fourth owner and nothing irritates me more than painting laminated wood, but I couldn't watch this gem to to the landfill!


I got ready to refinish this piece. Paint, scrappers, sander, wood filler, nerves of steal, patience of a saint and one very helpful three year old. We set to work late on a Monday morning.

After wiping away a layer of dust, I decided to scrape the chipping layer of paint that had been previously applied to the top of both units (my parents had the units sitting side by side and used the top for display). TroubleMaker kept asking if I was done scrapping as he really wanted to get painting! It took a lot of scraping to get it all chipped away but a short while later, it was done!


Now, I've painted laminated wood before and I'd used melamine paint. It was stinky, hard to work with and not something I saw myself battling again - especially with my extra special helper assisting! I wanted easy, water clean up, a primer/paint all in one and a durable washable paint. I ventured to my local big box home renovation retailer and the paint counter attendant recommended Behr Interior/Exterior Primer/Paint product. Once I'd taken the paint off the top, I got my Palm Sander and started to sand. It made no difference. I had hoped it would rough up the smoothness of the laminated covering but it didn't.

Next I got some wood filler and filled in the holes where the door handles were and filled in a couple of scratches. The product I used is tinted to simulate wood but it is also paintable so it worked perfectly! As TroubleMaker painted the back of the unit, I worked my way around the unit. Once I'd rolled on a good coat, I went back and painted in the corners. By this time, TroubleMaker had lost interest and was off riding his extra cool tricycle with trailer around!


After one coat of paint, it became obvious that this was going to take many more coats... And the surface wasn't as durable as I required. Items will be moving in and out of this unit frequently and I need it to stand up to use. This past weekend, I did the second coat and it does look much better (one more coat should do the trick) the need for a sealer became obvious.

I researched the potential possibilities and have settled on a Minwax Polycrylic Gloss polyurethane. It is suitable to put over painted surfaces and is supposed to resist scuffing... I'm hopeful that it will work!

If I had to do it again, I think I would have specified an enamel paint. As much as I don't like working with them, I like the resiliency of the finish. Design Tip Don't always take the word of the person at the paint store - the Internet is a great resource for finding the right product for your job!

I have a certain paint that I generally use for interior applications - and I buy it from the store - yes, it costs me more and yes, I have to actually go out of my way to get to a store but it is a paint that's quality is rivaled by none. That said, I do use 'cheapo' paint or paint from the local home store. This is one of those situations where I knew what I wanted and what I should've used but deferred to the 'experts' and was (again) let down.

Here are few places to check out - the have product specifications, helpful hints, online paint viewers and access to a whole host of information!

Benjamin Moore
Behr Paints
Sherman Williams
Pratt and Lambert

Please note, I am not affiliated with any of the above paint companies. I do use a few of them personally (and professionally) but paint selection and what type you use is often based on personal preference and experience.

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