Never fear, I have devised some strategies and done some (very scientific) testing, and have come up with a few tips on how to get your DIY chalkpaint to hold up and do you proud.
1. Sand - I always sand. I know it’s about as fun as poking darts in your own eyes, but it really is important to rough up the surface. Now, I realize the 'beauty' of chalk paint is that you don't have to sand, but it really does produce a better result, particularly with the DIY stuff. Plus, if you are anything like me, you are buying pieces that need a little TLC anyway, and sanding is necessary to help get rid of some of the gouges and scratches. I have done OOOODLES of paint / primer experiments on furniture with loads of different paints, and SANDING always makes stuff stick better to it than if you don’t. I even tested a patch on a dresser where I sanded a section, and didn’t sand a section, I then painted on some Zinsser BIN on both sections. Two days later I did my ‘fingernail’ test, and the sanded section would not scratch off, the unsanded section allowed me to get my fingernail into it in a couple of areas where it wasn’t able to form as good a bond with the surface below. That’s with BIN – probably one of the best adhesion primers you can find, so it just goes to show, sanding is always a smart idea.
2. Prime – this is particularly important if you don’t really want a distressed look and you want your chalk paint to really hold up. If you are going to do a fair bit of distressing, than I find its fine to skip this step. Also, if you use a high adhesion paint, than I also find its ok to skip this step. But if you are using a cheapie sample pot of paint, then I would give it the best chance-at-life by priming first (have a good dig and Im sure you can find an old can of primer kicking around). You can tint your primer to be a similar shade to your paint, but I do find when you distress with primer underneath you get a great peekaboo technique of the different coloured primer underneath showing in places – it makes for a great layering technique.
3. Use a paint that has good adhesion. I think this is the most important step in creating DIY chalkpaint. I used to just get sample pots of Behr from Homedepot, add my plaster of paris or grout with some warm water and get painting. Even after two days of dry time I could scrape my fingernail across the painted surface and it would easily scrape off. I painted an entire piece once with Behr self leveling paint ($36 a gallon) turned into DIY chalkpaint and it did not adhere whatsoever. It would scratch off easier than sunburnt skin. Use a paint that has good sticking power because no, they are NOT all the same. I love Dulux Diamond (Im not sure if it is available in the USA but it is made by Glidden). Its more pricey at $68 a gallon, but they frequently have buy one get one free sales making it as affordable as the big box store paints. If you turn a better quality paint into DIY chalkpaint, you will have a better quality chalkpaint. Plain and simple. Even with the additional cost, you still save money over the brand name chalkpaints and have greater colour freedom. I actually get tint directly from the paint store and I tint my own paint freeing me up to not have a gallon of paint tinted one colour.
4. Wait to wax. I know this is the hardest step to follow, because after you have finished painting and you see that light winking at you from down the tunnel, you just want to be done so you can stand back with a cup of coffee and admire your own amazingness. But I urge you to wait. Allow that paint to fully dry and cure a bit before you moisten it back up with wax. Whenever you put something wet on uncured paint (such as another coat of paint, or a coat of wax) you re-add moisture to the surface and essentially make the paint below vulnerable and soft again. Of course it re-dries, if it didn’t, we would only be able to paint one coat on anything, but, I find with wax, it seals the paint below a little bit and makes it more susceptible to staying softer. If you give the paint a little more cure time (say two days-ish at a minimum) it stands a better chance of being more durable. Annie Sloan would disagree with me, ahem, however, I even tried this with her brand. After I finished painting and let the paint dry overnight (about 10 hours) I tried the fingernail test and it wouldn’t scratch off (yay). So I waxed. Well, after I waxed, even 24 hours later, I could still scratch the paint off. This is all goes to the heart of how important good cure time is. Cure time is not the same as dry time. Most paints are dry to touch in a few hours. But most paints take 30 days to fully cure and be ‘durable’. So it is always important to be as patient as possible! This included being patient with putting your object back into ‘use’. So because of that, I always try and give my paint as much cure time as I can before I topcoat it (wax or poly).
5. Sand Between Coats. With the DIY versions, most of them dry a little sandpapery feeling (I know both the grout and the plaster of paris do). This is easily rectified by taking a 220 sanding sponge and quickly smooth things out between coats. I guarantee you will notice the end result looks way better than if you skip this step.
I hope all my experiments and experiences help you get the most out of your DIY chalkpaint! Id love to hear from you with questions or comments. Feel free to leave me some love!
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