Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Chalk Paint {and my desk makeover}

I finally jumped on the chalk paint bandwagon.  I bought a desk off of Craigslist a few months ago.  It's fake wood with that plastic-y coating and it was in pretty bad shape, but it is the exact size and shape that we were looking for. 

Since it was so cheap, I figured if my chalk paint experiment failed, I could just scrap it and look for a new desk.  So far I am pleased with the results, but there are a few caveats to my satisfaction, which are outlined in my "pros" and "cons" list below and explained in more detail in the rest of the post.

What is chalk paint?  It's basically a thick, matte paint that can cover just about anything with very minimal prep work.  Ann Sloane sells the most famous line of chalk paint and has some pretty good information on her website.  Her paint is quite expensive though.  The color options are also somewhat limited, so I decided to make my own.  There are a whole bunch of different "recipes" out there, but I went with the plaster of paris option.

I simply poured about 4 tablespoons of plaster of paris (which can be found at any home improvement store) into a solo cup then slowly mixed water in until it reached my desired consistency.  (The thicker (less water) it is, the more coverage it will provide, but it will also be a bit harder to work with).  Then I added regular old latex paint until the cup was about 3/4 full.  It doesn't matter what finish your base paint is, it will turn out matte when mixed with the plaster of paris.  It also lightens a bit when you add the plaster, so you may want to go a shade darker with your base paint.

Application of the chalk paint was so easy.  All I did was wipe down my desk with some soap and water (since it was used), fill in some dents and divits with wood filler, and then I got to painting.  After the first coat, it was pretty streaky and the coverage wasn't great.  After the second coat, it looked much better, but I applied a third coat just in case.  It dries very quickly so I basically started my second coat as soon as I finished the first.  You do get some little lumps from the plaster so I lightly spot-sanded between coats.  If you want a really smooth finish, you should probably sand the whole thing between coats, but I was ok with seeing some brush strokes.

After first coat

After 3 coats

Application of the paint was easy.  The wax finish coat was not. 

It took me about an hour to do all three coats of paint and then about another 3 hours to apply the wax.  I'm normally a big fan of plain old polyurethane, but I had read in several places that polyurethane doesn't work well with chalk paint so I went with the wax as most people suggest.

The wax (I used Miniwax Finishing Wax) is pretty hard in the can, so it was difficult to get any onto my rag at first.  After a while it became easier, but it was just very time-consuming and tedious.  And it smells!  I applied one coat to the whole desk, and then an extra two coats to the top.  I already nicked a spot on the front of the desk, so I think I may add another coat to the whole thing.  You definitely need to apply the wax, because the chalk paint chips very easily without it.

I really like how the chalk paint turned out visually, but I'm not sure that it's going to hold up to wear and tear in the long run.  We shall wait and see.

Will I use chalk paint again?  Definitely!  But I will first do some research on easier ways to apply the wax finish.

Have you bought into the chalk paint craze yet?  If so, what's your opinion?


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  2. I've used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint twice: first on a nightstand ( and then on our desks (

    With the nightstand I was really impressed... I didn't have to use a lot of paint, it dried really quickly, the wax was easy to use (thought I think I applied a little too much) and it hasn't chipped at all. The nightstand isn't used constantly, but we did move it and it's held up great and is easy to clean. It was originally a laminate with poly topcoat.

    The desks were originally unfinished and had been painted red, but had never received a coat of poly. When I painted them with the chalk paint, it really soaked it up -- which felt wasteful since it's so expensive. I didn't wax it initially, and it did chip and stain. Since then I've applied another coat of paint and waxed it, and it looks much more durable, though it hasn't been that long yet.

    However in both cases I thought the wax was really easy to use -- which makes me wonder how different it is from the Minwax?

    It was interesting to hear your experience... and I love the color you chose for the desk!
    - Lora

    1. That's interesting... I may have to splurge for the Ann Sloan wax. I just checked out your nightstand post and maybe it was the missing step of scooping out the wax first that made the difference. Though the wax in your pictures does look a little softer than mine. I'm going to try to spoon trick for my next coat though. Thanks for the tip!

  3. I believe you have done a great job turning an unsightly desk into a very nice piece of furniture.
    As for the wax, I have had good luck with Johnson's Paste Wax.

    1. Thanks Sgt Rich... I'm definitely going to check out Johnson's. Welcome back!!

  4. Colette, what color did you use? Is it like a grey? And does chalkboard paint come in all colors?

    1. Yes, it's a dark gray... I can't remember the exact name. This was just chalk-paint, not chalkBOARD paint (big difference!). And my base was just regular latex paint, so the color choices are virtually endless. The do sell different colored/tintable chalkBOARD paint too though. I've seen it at home depot and lowes.

  5. the desk looks awesome!!! I've recently started thinking about buying an old wood desk to pain but so far I have not gotten up the nerve to attempt it! that and it seems like it would take forever and I am not certain I can find the time.. very jealous of your skills!! :)


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