Thursday, October 30, 2014

Painting MDF: An 80's redo

I can't believe I forgot to take a before pic!  I hate when I do that--sometimes you just can't appreciate where it's at unless you've see where it's been! :)
This was a typical 80's style dresser with those hideous, fat "airplane" pulls (as I so fondly refer to them as).  My client wanted to update it with black and cup pulls.  When I started working on it I realized it wasn't wood.  No part of it.  It's MDF with, what I call, a "sticker" over it.  Lot's of people think you can't paint this type of furniture, but you most certainly can and it looks just as amazing as the real thing.  Another fallacy is that all "particle board" or MDF is junk.  That's simply not true.  Now, certainly any piece of furniture purchased from Walmart, or the like, isn't going to be high quality, but I've worked on plenty of pieces that have been particle board and they were good, solid pieces of furniture. 
*I would not paint a piece of furniture made out of particle board if the existing finish is in rough condition, meaning bubbles, peeling, or open spots where the MDF has been exposed.  These can't be smoothed out by sanding. 

I do go over this on my "How I Paint" tab, but I'll just give a quick run down here of what I did.  First of all, this piece had a high gloss finish on it.  I used 150 grit sand paper to take of the shine, but did not get too aggressive with it as you don't want to sand down to the actual MDF.  After I gave it a good scuff sanding I primed it with Rustoleum Painter's Touch primer which is meant to be used for wood, plastic, metal and apparently MDF with a sticker on it! :)  You could use a good adhesive primer as well.  The trick is to not go too heavy with the first coat as you don't want to saturate the surface with wet paint.
Then I just gave it too coats of All Surface Enamel in stock black from Sherwin Williams, let it dry really well, and then finished with 2-3 coats of poly (I'm back to Varathane again). 
The finish is just as nice as on a real wood piece.
 We updated the hardware with cup pulls and new knobs to bring it into the right decade and I just sprayed the existing handles on the middle doors with Rustoleum Painter's Touch in Semi-gloss black.
It's sharp looking now and ready for a modern bedroom. :)


  1. Gorgeous! Way cooler design than my husband's 80s furniture was. ;)


  2. Wow if you hadn't said that it wasn't wood I would never have guessed. Nice job!



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