Furniture Painting

Furniture Painting 101: Episode 2 Finding and Choosing Furniture to Paint

Welcome back to Furniture Painting 101 Episode 2: Finding and Choosing Furniture to Paint (Fun, Profit and Style)

I hope you enjoyed Episode 1, Prep before the Prep! Glad to have you back! We have lots to talk about this week. (Remember that we are compiling questions for Episode 8, where we will also be covering how to calculate your pricing for a profitable furniture flipping business venture! The last episode will also cover all Q&A’s) If you have any questions message me prior to Episode 8 so I can add them to the episode. Let’s Get started!

Important Tip

I hope one of the most important things I share with you today, is to have FUN! Enjoy the process, the colors, the designs, the possibilities! We are lucky enough to get to play with ALL of the colors, all of the time, how lucky are we??

Sisterhood of the Traveling Brush is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program (and other affiliate programs), an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any opinions expressed are my own honest opinions, and any small fees or commissions that may be earned will not affect my opinion.

Investment And The Cost

The number one topic that most of us need to consider first, is the investment and the cost.  One of the things newbies often forget to take into consideration is the hours you spend looking for, driving, picking up, and storing the furniture piece. For the 2 decades I have been in the furniture flipping business, I have calculated $20.00 per hour. Now, that number works for me. You may have a different number in mind and what will work best for you.  You also have to consider the cost of the piece, the cost of the repairs (if any), and other supplies. However, your time IS valuable, and it can take longer than you think to go from “the find” to the “completed piece.”

Often,  when we first start out,  we tend to select the less expensive pieces for fear that the higher ticket items won’t sell. (Thinking with our pocketbook, rather than that of our customer.) This is an OK starter plan, as long as you remember to factor in all of the supplies, as well as the time it takes you to repair the piece.

I keep a planner, or you can keep a notebook, both for your taxes, and keep track of your supplies. Things to record:  The price of the piece, the RETAIL price of the products you are using (if you sell paint, you should make your full markup on the amount of each product that you use. (The total labor, the total cost of materials including the piece, and the time it took you.) This is how you calculate the actual final cost of the flip.

Then, for your business future, you will need to calculate what percentage is going to work for you to make a profit. For me, that range is about 35%, minimum. This is to pay your business, not your draw/paycheck. You also have to remember to include the cost of selling your piece, your overhead. If you have it a booth, a store, etc, there are going to be expenses that your business will need to cover, plus maintain a profit after all of the expenses.

The Search For Your Piece


This is where you can have even more fun! There are factors to consider, of course,  when you are searching for a piece of furniture to flip. The first thing you need to factor in is what type of vehicle you have and how you are going to be getting the pieces back to your workspace. Will you need to rent a trailer, or have a piece delivered? Keep records of mileage or transportation costs.

The Marketplace on Facebook has been a great place to find some great pieces. You can set your Marketplace setting for as far as you may want to travel. Now a good rule of thumb, if you are traveling a distance, try to bulk purchase. This will bring the cost per piece down. I have not used craigslist, however, other people do. If you are having to rent a Uhaul, the more you pick up the more cost-effective it will be.  Make a fun day trip out of it. This is a more profitable way to get pieces a little outside of your direct area.

Going to a local auction can be another great place to get some fantastic pieces. These can be both in person or online. If you find an auction that has a lot of great pieces that you are interested in, that would be worth the time for travel to pick up. (Remember to check for premiums and fees that have to be paid to the auction house, on top of the purchase price. Often 10-15%).

Habitat Restore, estate sales, Goodwill, tag sales, and storage facilities sales are other great places for you to find those treasures. You can also get a nice piece from Amazon Prime or Wayfair. I have had commissioned pieces be shipped to me by clients, using their Prime shipping!

Last, but not least,  don’t forget to share with your friends and family that you are always on the lookout for some great furniture to paint. They can be a great help to branch out in your search for some great finds. I get calls from friends who alert me of great buys at a yard sale or other places they stumble across some good buys. I may not have a crew of my own “pickers”, but sometimes it feels like it!

Save your receipts, and have fun searching!


Here is a basic list of the top things that I use when procuring furniture, and getting it settled into my stash area. The number one thing I use are furniture dollies. There are several different kinds.  I have some wheels, I can take these with me when I am out searching too.  My favorite is the furniture dolly board with wheels. Things feel more sturdy to me with the top covered with wood, rather than the open style. This saves your body! Less straining. Keep them in the back of your car. The ones that have an open center are good, or you can just tack plywood on top and make them more secure. I pay about $36.00 at Tractor Supply for the ones I use most.  You can also get them at Northern Tool.

Having a hydraulic table is another important tool when it comes to saving on the wear and tear on your body. It was not an investment I had in my first few years. But, I will tell you, it is worth its weight in gold to me. A hydraulic lift. It is very heavy, not easy to maneuver outside, so it usually does not travel with me, but is waiting on me to help move the pieces out of the truck when I get back to the studio.

Disclaimer:  I have not used this product, but there is a shoulder strap that helps ease the weight when you are carrying it, you need a partner to help when using this, and I have heard good things about easily moving pieces with them.

There is also the hand truck kind you can use. These are all great tools for saving your body. Some of these pieces are very heavy and you do not want to hurt your back or shoulders.

Plastic shrink wrap rolls from the home center can be used to wrap around your furniture to hold the drawers in place while you are moving it, and to help protect it from some small dings. A roll lasts a long time.

Furniture Flipping 101 for sucess ( click photo)

Furniture blankets are lightweight quilted blankets that help protect your furniture when you are transporting it. Put them over the furniture and in-between. If you are having your pieces delivered, make sure the delivery person is using something to protect them during the moves. I include the furniture blanket for the customer when they come to pick up their piece. (Add that $8 to the cost of the piece.)

Zip ties and bungees can be used to strap your furniture in securely while transporting it.  Most trailers have eye hooks to connect them to for security. Just make sur3 it is not so tight that it will rub, especially if it is painted.



It is a smart business decision for people to decide on a style and stick with it. These can become your “signature” style piece. There are certain artists out there that you just know who did it by looking at it. However, it is not a hard and fast rule, and some of us “artist types” don’t want to be stuck in a plan! (This is only important if you want to be known for your design style.) I personally can get bored. I like to create a varied style. The choice is yours. Just know that a signature style or niche will help with notoriety, and building a stronger business, faster.

If you do want to sell a lot of pieces, it is important to know what is plentiful and what is rare in your area. I love antique buffets, I remember them from my childhood. When I find one, I usually pay too much for it because they are rare in my area. In other areas,  they are plentiful, because everyone had one, back in their heyday. A buffet will sell for/cost a lot more in my area than in areas that are more plentiful. ($400 vs $150 for example.) That is something to factor in. If you are going to ship to other areas, this may not be your top concern, as you can buy cheap and sell in an area with higher demand. Etsy is fantastic for getting your pieces into a more profitable market.


The condition is the most important factor when calculating cost and retail pricing. If that piece needs a lot of repairs, you NEED to add that to the cost of the piece. Make sure to inspect the piece with a flashlight before you make the purchase. (Look for mold, bugs, spiders, stains, water spots/damaged veneer.) It is important to know what you are buying, and what it will need for repairs. Have there been previous repairs, is the veneer in need of repair or replacement? What is the market price for that type of piece, will the repairs take you over the market price? Make sure to look at the hardware. It is really expensive to replace all of the hardware, and even more difficult to find or make a matching piece.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a bunch of furniture from an abandoned house. I thought I had hit the jackpot.  I didn’t. I was home with it before I took the time to look for the presence of live bugs, roaches, spiders, and the presence of droppings of mice or rats. We had to burn some pieces that I thought would never be sanitary for use again!

Look for rot. or if the pieces have been exposed to the elements. Check the veneer to see if there is any separation. Check the drawer glides. Will it be a simple repair with some Big Mama’s Butter or a replacement of the slides?  That can be a huge cut into profit. It the piece sturdy. Pay attention to all the aspects that will affect the cost to get it ready to flip.

Next Episode

Thank you so much for joining! I hope you are getting excited about the possibilities of your furniture painting business! In our next episode, we will be going over prep and tools of the trade. For more details on Episode 2  you can watch the entire video here:



Happy Painting!






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