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Five MORE Mistakes To Avoid On Your Furniture Makeovers - Newbie Mistakes I Made Early On

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you are all having a great week filled with good food, lots of laughs, time to relax and are surrounded by people you love. Because.. Well, that’s pretty much what I aim for in my day-to-day.


We are back with part 2 of this series going over mistakes you can avoid on your furniture makeovers where I walk you through newbie mistakes I made early on in my furniture refinishing journey, and let you know how you can avoid making them for yourself. If you haven’t read the last blog post, make sure you hop on over there after this because I outlined my first 5 mistakes that you’ll definitely want to check out.


This week’s compilation of mistakes conveniently breaks down into two categories: mistakes surrounding sanding and mistakes surrounding painting.


The first mistake that I made was pushing down and applying force when sanding using my electric sanders. This was an oopsie I made a lot early on when I first started furniture flipping, in part because I didn’t really know what was normal to expect in terms of the sander eating through the finish and how long that should usually take, and also in part because I’m impatient. So if the finish wasn’t immediately getting eaten away, I would apply some pressure to the sander until I saw it really disintegrating what I was trying to plow through. If you didn’t already know, with electric sanders, you are to put it against the finish but there is no need to apply pressure or push on the sander– it’ll do the job just fine without it.


There were two negative outcomes that came from this incorrect method: first, I ate through a lot of veneer early on from doing that. Since pieces of veneer are so thin and typically rather delicate if they’re older and dried out, they’re really easy to damage or eat completely through in some spots (particularly along the edges, those were my kryptonite), if you’re using an electric sander and also pushing down. At the time, I was using a orbital sander too so it really would just blow right through that veneer when it was in that spot for not very long. I typically stick with my Surf Prep 3x4 electric ray sander these days which does help to avoid that in addition to not pushing down on it, but when I do pick up an orbital sander, I always try to make sure I’m not working with veneer just to be on the safe side to avoid that happening again. Because depending on how much veneer you go through and what the piece looks like, that could make the difference of having to switch up your entire design plan if you were planning on staining the piece but the mistake you made is a difficult repair so you end up having to paint the piece, or at least that portion of the piece.


The other thing that happened when I would push down on that orbital sander is that I actually ended up breaking the sander completely. That added pressure was hard on the little motor inside it, but I also ended up eating up the velcro pad part on the face of the sander so then the sandpaper pads weren’t able to stick to the surface properly and once I would turn it on and it would start spinning, it would be like a ninja star looking to take out someone’s eye or slice your leg and go flying across the room. So that was pretty unideal.


Like I said, these days I only really use the orbital sander when working on solid wood pieces or those that I know has a really thick finish I need to work through that the orbital will help to speed the process up on. But even still, in those cases I’ll typically start out with scraping what I can off anyways so I typically only need to do some quick touch ups with the 3x4 sander afterwards. So beware… no need to push down on your sanders, ladies and gentlemen!


Another sanding-related mistake I made when I was new to furniture flipping was not switching my sandpaper out often enough for them to be optimally effective. Again, this was simply due to the fact that I hadn’t seen anyone specifically mention when it’s ideal to switch this part out because it’s such a tiny detail that nobody would think to mention it in the tutorial videos I had been endlessly binging, but turns out, important little thing to know!


At the beginning I was also really weary of spending too much on products and supplies for my projects because I wanted to keep my profit margins high and I also wasn’t charging near enough for the pieces I was selling (and if this is something you feel like you’re also struggling with, I’d recommend you check out 12: Pricing Your Painted And Refinished Furniture and 14: Keeping Supply Costs Down For Your Furniture Makeover).


So, I would keep using these sandpaper pads well past the point of them actually being the grit that they stated because it had basically all been sanded away already, and/or the sandpaper pad would be so gummed up from the finish or maybe even some leftover dirt and grime so it would basically just be buffing the piece at that point instead of sanding it. These days, I’m stopping to check my sandpaper much more often to see where it’s at and if I should switch it out for a fresh piece and if I find that I’m sanding but not a whole lot of the finish is coming off like it should or like it was earlier on in that sanding session, I’ll err on the side of caution and switch it out.


That leads me to my third mistake that I made early on in my journey upcycling furniture that I recommend avoiding, which is that I used to throw those pieces of sandpaper away after they were off of the sander or if they would no longer stick properly to the sander’s pad due to dust getting kicked up in between the two items before I had the shop vac hooked up to my sander.


Hang onto that sandpaper! I have a basket that I will now throw those pieces and they are perfect to have on hand for when I need to do hand sanding, particularly when you need to fold up sandpaper to work it into grooves or to get at the beveled edge of a table or something like that. The sandpaper may be a bit worn down from the grit that it previously stated but it often will still work great in this context, and then you’re not having to fold up a perfectly good piece of sandpaper just to do some of that grunt work.


If you have pieces that have gotten gummed up like I mentioned before and have, basically, what looks like little polka dots of grime or dirt build up on them, I’ll just grab one of my little metal scrapers and scrape off what I can while it’s still on the sander and that usually will get rid of the chunks so then it’s still perfectly useable for another project or two. We’re all for upcycling and using secondhand things, after all!


And if you’re someone who has had the thought that you might want to try having a business or side hustle selling your furniture makeovers, you are in the right place, my friend. I came from the world of social work and victimology so I had absolutely no idea what to do when I decided I wanted to start a business doing furniture painting and refinishing– so if that’s you and you’re like, what am I supposed to be doing and how does this all work– I got you!


I put together a free guide and checklist for starting your own furniture refinishing business so you can get started today, and follow a step-by-step road map so you don’t miss anything important. I also recommend this for anyone who found themselves unexpectedly running a business selling their refinished furniture, because that’s often what happens, you do a couple pieces for your own home then do some for friends then get convinced to sell them and then BAM! You’re a business owner and you didn’t even know it. So if that is you, I also think you’ll really benefit from this to help you make sure you’ve ticked all of the boxes and aren’t missing anything you ought to be implementing. So check out www.meldiditherself.ca/guide-to-starting-furniture-refinishing-business to download the free guide and checklist today, and let’s get you started on the right foot!


So now let’s jump into the last two mistakes for you to avoid making that I struggled with early on in my furniture journey, which specifically have to do with painting. Now, when I first started doing this as a hobby and trying out a few small pieces, I got my hands on some chalk paint. I was able to get it from my local hardware store, a lot of the people I was watching do this work online were choosing it as their paint of choice, and because it was available at the beginning of the pandemic when, like, absolutely nothing was available; it just made sense to me.


But since I was new to using that type of paint, I really didn’t know how to ensure I made it look as good as it could. I found that when I would apply it and try and get it to cover the thing I was painting, it would often end up looking kind of textured and the finish wouldn’t be smooth and flawless like I had hoped. This is why I ended up doing a lot of farmhouse-looking pieces early on, because I would just distress it and make it look intentionally textured and worn, like that was part of the design. And a lot of the pieces ended up looking nice in the end, but again, they just weren’t the smooth look I was trying to achieve.


There’s two things I should have been doing differently, and are things that I now do when using chalk paint on my pieces: firstly, watering down the paint a bit. Chalk paint is much more thick than most other types of paint and so it can have a tendency to go on much thicker and more textured if you just apply directly to the piece. I find that is particularly true with cans that you have previously used and have been sitting for a bit after having been exposed to air because it tends to thicken them up a little bit more over time. What I have found to be most effective is to take however much you think you will need for your project and put it in a separate container and add just like a teaspoon of water at a time, mix it into the paint, and keep doing that until it’s a more thin consistency that is a little more workable.


The second thing I should have done differently was not aim to achieve full coverage on the piece right from the get-go. Watering the paint down helps with this a bit anyway, but the reason I was getting so much texture is because I was always applying so much paint on each layer so it was adding more product than was needed. Instead, I now have my watered-down paint and I will do multiple thin, even coats and let the piece dry thoroughly in between in order to build up that coverage over time. Lightly sanding with a high grit sandpaper in between each coat also helps to ensure you’re keeping texture out of your finish and getting that smooth, even look that I had been aiming for before. We live and we learn!


The last mistake to avoid making is not choosing the type of paint that works best for you, your piece, and the finish you’re aiming to achieve. The reality is, when I was working with chalk paint and I was trying to make it look a certain kind of way, that just wasn’t the proper type of paint for the looks that I was really trying to aim for. I wanted something more sleek, modern looking and with a bit of sheen… in order to get chalk paint looking that way, it required more effort than was necessary. Instead, I should have spent the time I used up fiddling with the chalk paint and instead spent some time researching other types of paint to figure out which one would help get me that finish I wanted without the effort.


Eventually, I did figure that out and I opted for Fusion Mineral Paint, which, if you have been listening to the podcast for awhile now, will come as no surprise to you that it is the paint I choose for the majority of my pieces these days, both for my clients, my pieces I sell online, and for my own home.


Ultimately, it provides that sleek look with a bit of a sheen and it has self-levelling properties so it provides a great finish without having to do a bunch of fiddling to get it looking how I want it to. Their colour selection is totally up my alley and they are always releasing new colour collections to keep up with the trends and to set themselves apart, I really enjoy the packaging and the built-in acrylic resin topcoat means that there is added durability in the paint so if you have a piece that won’t get a whole lot of wear-n-tear, in theory you don’t even need to add a topcoat after painting (although, to be on the safe side, I do always recommend adding one anyway). This is just the kind of paint that is my personal favourite and works for the style of pieces I typically lean towards, so if you have found that you’ve been struggling to get the paint looking how you want it to on your furniture flips, maybe figuring out a different type of paint that will work well for you needs to get added to your To Do list.


If you want to give Fusion Mineral Paint a go, a reminder that you can always use my link to save 10% off of any products on their site using the link that I will add into the show notes of this episode, or you can grab it by going to www.MelDidItHerself.ca/favourites#fusion.


And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.


So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.


Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!


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