Have you wondered what it takes to start a successful furniture flipping business? Is it affordable, profitable, what will I need to get started? Well, my friend, you are in the right place! This list of my “this or that” top 13 things you need in order to start a furniture flipping business may surprise you, and will definitely answer those questions and more!
(THIS refers to my favorites/suggested items, and THAT refers to less expensive starter options that will work until you get a little more cha-ching in your pocket!)
Let’s start with……….
There are hundreds of paint brands out there, and most of them will work for painting furniture. I recommend that you use a paint that was created specifically for painting furniture. My favorites are Dixie Belle, and DIY by Debi’s Design Diary. An 8 oz jar will do a small piece of furniture. You can start by buying each color, as needed, but I recommend getting the neutrals (white, black, etc.) in the 16 or 32 oz. It is cheaper per oz, and you make more profit in the long run. And making a profit is important for a furniture flipping business.
When I first started, I used Sherwin-Williams sample-sized paint and mixed it in Plaster of Paris. It worked, but I don’t recommend it. If this is the route you want to use, I do have videos for creating your own chalk and clay-based paint. Just know, your recipe will vary, and if you don’t make enough in the first batch, it is difficult to match the consistency from batch to batch. It will save you $2-3 on a piece of furniture.
Paint created specifically for furniture painting has additives like minerals, chalk, and clay, that help the paint to adhere to any surface without much prep work. They are highly pigmented, take fewer coats, and have fewer issues later. It is cheaper, and if I had it to do over again, that’s definitely where I would start. A whole lot of saved effort, time, and money.
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Using good brushes is very important when you are flipping furniture. I prefer synthetic brushes. I like the Dixie Belle Mini, and the Dixie Belle Mini Angle synthetic brushes for getting a smooth finish without too many brushstrokes. When I’m wanting brushstrokes to show for a more artistic finish, I prefer the Paint Pixie #12 and #8. These brushes hold a lot of paint, they go on smoothly, and they were created specifically for furniture painting.
The brush that I used when I started was the Purdy LX Cub. I do love that brush, it’s a very good synthetic brush. It is about half the price of a furniture painting brush, which makes it more affordable to start. But, I do recommend that you get the right tools when it is within your budget. Chip brushes are great for applying stains and textures, but I don’t recommend them for a good furniture finish.
A good random orbital sander (I like the DeWalt) with sanding pads. These range in price from $30-$800. You don’t have to have the top-of-the-line to begin with, but they are important for distressing, removing old finishes, smoothing out details, and prepping a furniture piece.
I still use sanding blocks when I want things lightly distressed, but it takes a lot of elbow grease, and a lot of shoulder and arm work, to totally sand off a finish by hand. Get a random orbital sander when you can, but sanding blocks will help in the beginning. Get one that has an 80 grit, a 120 grit, and a 220 grit to start with, and that should suffice.
Most furniture paint will require, or do better with, a topcoat. You can select a satin (perfect in-between glossy and matte finish), glossy, or flat depending on what you are painting, the paint you are using, and what you prefer. A water-based poly such as Dixie Belle Clearcoat or DIY Big Top After Show, will seal the minerals on your paint and protect your piece, without dangerous fumes or yellowing. I recommend using a good topcoat. Other topcoats you may want to add to your arsenal are glazes, waxes, hemp oil, and salves.
You can start with a satin, water-based poly of most any brand. However, make sure that it is non-yellowing. Make sure to apply thin coats, it’s better to do 2 to 3 thin coats, than one thick coat. Personally, I would go ahead and get waxes as well. I really love the DIY wax, it goes on smooth and buttery, and seals the paint. It can be tinted, with a small amount of paint, to be any color that you would like, so you can just start with the clear.
I started with car wax, and shoe wax, and it was hard. Really hard! It was aggravating, and I do not recommend you do that, but if you absolutely have to, you can. It will likely only save you $2-3 per piece.
I recommend staining the tops of a lot of pieces, because there’s less chance of heavy use damaging the finish. I prefer to use a heavy gel stain and the Dixie Belle no pain gel stain is my favorite. For a penetrating stain, I really like the Dixie Belle gel voodoo gel stain. You can also use the DIY dark and decrepit as a stain, or water down any of the paints to use as a stain as well.
You can water down your paints, or add a little bit of paint to a topcoat to create your stain. You can also buy a store brand like Minwax. Just know that they are more difficult to use, more likely to give an uneven finish, and you’re not really saving any money in the long run.
Primers are only required when you are going to a light color from a dark color, or when you expect tannins to bleed through the finish. Water-based paints tend to draw the tannins out of pieces with knots (like pine) or mahogany and cherry, and make it look like oily stains are coming up under your paint. You can’t just paint over them, they will keep coming back until they are properly sealed. Shellac-based sealers are the best Zinnser BIN, and Dixie Belle B.O.S.S will block out stains and odors. Adhesion primers are used when you are going to paint on a slick surface, (mirror, glass, laminate, varnish) and the paint needs something to adhere to. My favorite is Dixie Belle’s Slick Stick.
You will likely need a primer for bleed-through if you sand too deep, or if your piece is a bleeder. Using Kilz or some other store brand may or may not work, and could require several coats. The savings are negligible in comparison to using the appropriate primer, when you factor in the number of required coats and time.
7. Waxes, Glazes and Antiquing Mediums
I’ve covered wax is a little bit already in the topcoat section. They really are a great finish that can be used as a topcoat, or over a topcoat, in order to give more definition to the details of your piece. Wax is also ideal for aging vintage pieces. It is available in numerous colors through Dixie Belle and DIY, or you can buy the clear wax, and tint them yourself with a small amount of paint (about 1/2 tsp per 4 oz). I find it easier just to buy a small of each color. I use a lot of black, and a lot of brown, so I buy those in large containers. Glazes come in multiple colors from Dixie Belle, but I generally still make my own, as described in the “that” of this section.
You can create your own glazes using your satin topcoat, and add a half teaspoon or so of paint to tint it. Even more cost-effective is mixing the paint 50-50 with water, and applying it like a glaze. That’s called a wash. That way, you can have an unlimited supply of glaze colors for various techniques, without having to buy all of the different colors. You can do the same with the waxes. Dixie Belle’s Best Dang wax is water-based and can have a topcoat painted over it after it cures. The DIY wax always has to be the last thing that you apply. Use the same ratio of 1/2 to 1 tsp of paint to 4 oz of wax for tinting.
8. Furniture Dollies
– Get This:
I like the ones that have solid wood through the centers. These Lifesavers can save your back when you are painting furniture. You can easily move the piece around to access all sides. They also help you with transporting furniture from room to room, and out to the vehicle to be loaded. These are a must-have in my situation.
I absolutely love my hydraulic lift for getting the piece of furniture up to eye level. It is critical for saving my back, and a tremendous amount of strain. Definitely worth it to me! It was four to five years before I invested in one.
I love the small furniture dollies that the wheels just go under your piece, I do use them often. They work like the big dollies. Now and then your piece will rock a little bit on them , and furniture has the potential to fall off when you are trying to move it over rough terrain like a threshold, or a bumpy area that is not even. They are good place to start, but are a little tougher to use.
9. Drop cloths and furniture moving blankets.
These are affordable, and can be purchased at Harbor Freight, Lowe’s, or on Amazon. I like to have a very large dropcloth when I’m doing a bunch of chairs at one time, a very large piece, a bedframe, or something like that. I also like to have smaller drop cloths. (Sometimes I will just cut a larger one in half.) The smaller ones are perfect for going over tables, going under small pieces. like a small dresser or a nightstand. These are ideal for protecting your floor, your table, and your surroundings. The furniture moving blankets are also affordable, under $10 each, and can be used as a dropcloth in a pinch. they are effective in protecting your piece when moving it from room to room, when storing it in a room, and when moving it into a truck or trailer.
I have used old blankets, quilts, and sheets that I was no longer going to be using for drop cloths, and for furniture moving blankets, and it works just fine. They do not have as much padding, and they sometimes will let the wet paint seep through, but these do work in a pinch.
10. Temperature Controlled Environment
Paint does not dry well, (it drives too fast) if it’s too hot of an environment. If you have to have a fan on, it’s gonna blow everything in the world, dust-wise, onto your finish. If it’s too cold, the paint won’t dry fast enough. It will be streaky and sticky, have raised edges, and it won’t self-level. It is very important to have a temperature-controlled environment.
That being said, lots and lots of people paint in their garage and/or outside. I don’t know how they get by with it. I feel like I need an air-conditioned and heated, controlled environment. But, do what you have to do, don’t let your environment prevent you from working on your furniture. Just have space heaters, fans (but blowing in the other direction) if you need to. One very important thing to remember, is that you can never let your paint freeze. It should not be kept in a cold garage or in a storage building. Freezing the paint changes the texture, and the properties of it, and it will not be any good. You will need to discard the containers, if they have been frozen.
A few more minor “this and that’s”
11. Wood Glue
-This & -That:
Wood glue is specifically made to bond wood together. There is no other glue that’s going to work on your woodworking project better than wood glue, so definitely get that. The brands that I recommend are Tite Bond and Gorilla.
Another is Dixie Mud vs Wood Filler. Both will fill holes, fill in missing veneered areas, etc., but Dixie Mud is my “This”. It can be painted and stained, and used for raised stencils. It is inexpensive, easy to use, and has no smell. It’s a great multi-purpose product.
Wood filler will do, but it is more expensive, dries harder, and is harder to apply. Most can’t be stained, or used in stenciling.
Applicator pads are another necessity. They are my This because they are multi-purpose, inexpensive, and easy to use for applying and removing things like a stain, hemp oil, and Butta.
Rags. I cut up all of our old t-shirts and save the pieces in a plastic jug for applying and removing stains, wax, and other rub-on products.
This is the most important piece of advice. Get as high of a quality piece of furniture as you can afford. When you’re first starting out, you can do a few repairs, and make more money off of your piece for buying it at a cheaper price. Having real wood, rather than particleboard and laminate will also help you have a better finish. It will help your finish adhere better, and help you have a higher-end piece of furniture to sell in the end.
Just paint what you have. Paint things that you own already. Ask your friends and family for pieces. Buy pieces at garage sales. Buy pieces at flea markets. Everything can be repaired, but you have to remember the value of your time involved with this, and all of the repairs, all of the work that it will take to get it to be a presentable piece. Count that hourly rate for yourself in the final price for your piece, too. (I calculate my hourly rate at $20 per hour for labor, plus the retail cost of supplies.)
People think the furniture that is out there today is great furniture, like Ashley, Broyhill, etc. Most of the time, today’s furniture is made out of particleboard, with veneer on it. It’s heavy, hard to move, doesn’t take a finish well, and is going to need to be sanded. If you sand it too much and go through the finish, then you’ve ruined that, and created a scenario for bleed through. Any kind of water damage to that piece is going to make it swell up, and make it not look good, and make it not sell quickly.
In conclusion, paint what you can, and try to gain experience, so that you can quickly move to higher quality, real wood furniture.
If you have any questions about furniture flipping, please ask away! Happy Painting! Terri