To say chalk paint is a popular choice for DIY furniture painting is a huge understatement. When we first started out refinishing furniture we also jumped on the bandwagon. No prep! Easy to use! Sticks to every surface! We were sold. Unfortunately, several projects later, we’ve found chalk paint over promised and under delivered. So before you decide to try it out, here are our 5 reasons not to use chalk paint:
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1 – Chalk paint is not less work
Chalk paint has great adhesion. This is why so many brands claim the only prep needed is a good cleaning. However, to get a smooth, even finish, wood furniture should always be lightly sanded and primed before painting. Yes, even with chalk paint. We sand and prime not only to help paint stick, but to smooth out any imperfections in the wood and cover any stains from the wood itself. If you skip these steps you could end up disappointed in the finished look, like we did.
Even if you proceed without sanding and priming your furniture before you paint, chalk painting is still not less work. We’ve always needed 3-4 coats to get an even color finish with chalk paint. Plus you need a good finishing coat or chalk paint will simply wipe off against the slightest resistance.
2 – It is difficult to achieve a smooth finish
Chalk paint is thick and dries very quickly as you apply it. Although this might seem like a good thing, it makes brush strokes and other application lines more likely. You can correct this somewhat if you put a bit of water on the brush before applying the chalk paint. However, we’ve always found that makes it cover less well and requires more coats to hide the shadowy look. We always feel like we’re battling smoothness against good, consistent coverage when we’re chalk painting.
You can eliminate brush strokes by sanding lightly between coats of chalk paint with a very fine grit. We use this fine grit sponge for light sanding between coats. But again, this extra step to get a buttery smooth finish means more time and effort to get a nice finish using chalk paint.
3 – Chalk paint is more expensive
You’ll notice right away at the home improvement store that chalk paint costs more than latex paint, in the range of about 30-40%. This might be okay if a can of chalk paint stretched further than latex or you really did not need a primer but in our experience, it does not and you do. We once used almost an entire quart of white chalk paint on a dresser just to achieve a consistent white all over. For comparison, we usually use less than half that amount of latex paint on a primed dresser of equal size or even less less with mineral paint.
There are also special brushes that should be used with chalk paint to minimize the appearance of brush strokes in your finished coat. These brushes range from $10-$30 each.
4 – Chalk paint lengthens the overall time of your project
While chalk paint starts to dry quickly, it takes longer to fully dry. Chalk paint therefore requires much longer between coats. Most brands say to wait 24 hours. Any time we tried to rush between coats the results were not pretty – the coat underneath would actually start to rub off in places. So if you have 3-4 coats, plus a protective top coat, you can see how a chalk paint project can stretch on for most of a week. We find the timelines for furniture painted with latex or mineral paint to be much shorter.
5 – Durability is an issue
It’s true that it is super easy to create a distressed or shabby chic look with chalk paint. It rubs off easily with a cloth. But it’s also because of this that durability can be an issue. It’s essential to apply a good protective top coat. We haven’t had much success with the polycrylic top coats on chalk paint as we’ve found it changed the color and left blotchy spots. Wax is a much better alternative but it can be tricky to apply evenly and will change the look of the piece. We recommend this brand as it’s particularly easy to work with.
These are some of the reasons we do not usually use chalk paint. However, having said all that, the super matte chalk paint finish still has a nice dreamy quality to it that for certain projects may still be worth the extra cost and effort. You can read about our technique for getting a near perfect finish – no matter what paint you use – here. What do you think? Chalk paint – love it, hate it? Or like us – both!