Painting chairs and benches is labor-intensive work! Chairs and benches that have turned spindles with a ton of grooves is even more so. Most paints require a separate primer to be used first and those that don’t require three or more coats for full coverage and then a clear topcoat to protect the finish. Uuuggghh! We want fewer steps! We want a paint that will adhere! We want a paint that will harden beyond belief and be its own topcoat! So what is the best paint for chairs and benches?
If you’re painting furniture, you’ll want to work efficiently. That means working smarter not harder. Choosing the right paint from the beginning for whatever piece of furniture you’re working on is important. Today, we’re specifically talking about chairs and benches.
Now, let me insert a quick note here and say that I do believe that a stain/polyurethane combination finish is preferred for chairs and benches because it’s the most durable finish you can achieve. You’ll see how I do this with some kids tables and chairs I’ll be posting later this week. But, often times, re-staining is not an option or a custom color paint is just preferred.
So let’s get to it.
The Best Paint for Chairs & Benches
After many years of refinishing furniture, I’ve found that the best paints for chairs and benches are enamels, specifically Benjamin Moore’s Ultra Spec DTM low lustre and Impervex high gloss enamel paints.
Both of these paints
- adhere extremely well
- do not require priming
- provide excellent coverage
- dry within just over an hour
- do not require a topcoat
- harden within a day
Prepping Chairs & Benches for Painting
Chairs and benches come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all have in common is that they have multiple small spindles or slats that make up the arms, legs, and back, making prepping and painting tedius work. Almost all of them are also coated with polyurethane that either needs deglossing or sanding – specifically sanding by hand.
I’ve tried Chalk paint on chairs several times. Chalk paint brands claim their paint will stick to any surface, even that shiny polyurethane; but bang into it once and you’ll find that Chalk paint to knick really easily. That’s not a good option for chairs that are constantly being slid in and out at the dinner table and knocked against one another. You could add a layer of polyurethane to harden the surface, but that’s an added step – and when you’re refinishing a set of 6 or 8 chairs, it’s time-consuming.
Milk Paint and Latex paints are a better option for chairs and benches but still not my favorite option. With either of these, you have to properly prep the surface, prime, and in most cases add a protective topcoat. If you choose a semi-gloss or gloss paint finish thinking you’ll have the topcoat built in, think again! Semi-gloss and gloss latex paints take up to 60 days to fully cure. Even after waiting the 60 days, I’ve still had semi-gloss paint pull off of furniture when something is set down on top of it.
Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec DTM low lustre enamel and Impervex high gloss enamel are much better options that will save you a ton of time because of their ability to adhere, their coverage, and the fact that you don’t need an extra topcoat.
Here’s a stained/polyurethaned bench that a client asked me to paint black. The first thing I did was sand with my DeWalt rotary sander with a 60-grit sanding disc to remove as much of the old polyurethane from the flat surfaces as I could.
Some chairs I’ve even gotten really lazy with and barely sanded them at all. My point is the Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec DTM and Impervex paints still adhere to the shiny poly that’s not able to be removed.
If you despise sanding, liquid deglossers like THESE are an option. Simply wipe them on and they’re supposed to degloss that shiny clear coat. The only deglosser I’ve used myself is Velvet Finishes Ready and these Benjamin Moore paints adhered perfectly after using it.
Applying Paint to Chairs & Benches
Benjamin Moore’s Ultra Spec DTM enamel paint is a low-lustre direct-to-metal paint that also sticks to wood surfaces. I used it on these dining chairs, these captains chairs, and these lemon ombre chairs all with great success. The low-lustre finish is almost identical to the smooth satin finish you find on black painted furniture from Pottery Barn.
Benjamin Moore’s Impervex is a similar paint but in a high-gloss. It also sticks to metal and wood surfaces. Neither the Ultra Spec nor the Impervex require priming first, saving you that added step. Both of these paints are sold off-the-shelf in black and white or can be custom-tinted to any color you like.
If you plan to paint a chair that originally had a dark or reddish stain with a light color paint like white, I do recommend first using a BIN primer. BIN is a shellac primer that blocks bleed through unlike any other primer I’ve found and worth the added step if you’re painting with white. So do not skip this!
Here’s a table and set of chairs that was primed with BIN primer then painted with the Ultra Spec DTM enamel.
And below is the bench painted in the high gloss Impervex.
As you can see, both the Ultra Spec and the Impervex paints result in a smooth surface. And the best part is that they’re enamel paints that harden within hours, not weeks or months, of application. You can actually begin using the painted furniture right away. The surface hardens as if you applied a heavy coat of polyurethane so there’s no need for an additional topcoat.
While the VOC levels of the Ultra Spec (<150 g/L) and Impervex (<50 g/L) paints are the same or even lower than some Milk paints (General Finishes <150 g/L) or many spec paints used by house painters (Benjamin Moore Super Spec <150 g/L), they’re still much more industrial than Chalk and some of Ben’s other ‘green’ paints. So I only paint in very well-ventilated areas (preferably outside or with my garage door fully open) and wear safety gloves, splash goggles, and respirator mask rated with the highest P100 rating.
Perhaps it’s time to give your own dated furniture a second life. Then, add a small side table in the same refinish to give it even more notice. Your entryway will be both practical and feel cohesive with two useful items.
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products I use myself.