5 reasons I won’t use chalk paint

I have used chalk paint for two recent furniture repainting projects. Although I tried different brands of chalk paint, I haven’t been satisfied with the paint for either project. Below is a list of five reasons why I won’t use chalk paint again.

Rustoleum Chalked paint and Valspar Chalky Finish paint
Rustoleum Chalked paint and Valspar Chalky Finish paint

The idea of chalk paint was introduced to me by the designer we have been working with on our new home. She suggested it as a good option to paint laminate furniture because of its superior adhesion. I was a bit confused as I had not heard of chalk paint before. I initially thought she was talking about chalkboard paint- which turns a surface into a usable chalkboard. But chalk paint is different. 

Chalk paint was originally created by the popular paint brand Annie Sloan, but there are many versions of this product available at big box stores. There are even DIY recipes available online that generally consist of adding plaster of paris and water to standard latex paints. The paints leave an ultra-matte finish that is often used as part of a farmhouse or shabby chic look. 

Chalk paint

One of the reasons that chalk paint is so popular is for its supposed superior adhesion without the need to sand or prime. The idea is that you just clean the surface of your project and remove any loose paint and you are good to go. I found this very appealing because Brian and I had lined up several pieces of second-hand and salvaged furniture that we intend to paint. Skipping the laborious and time consuming sanding and priming steps was very attractive.

The first project on which I used chalk paint was a table base that we purchased at Arhaus Loft. The original table was in a ‘rustic white’ finish that was very weathered and was more yellow than white. We aren’t big fans of the rustic farmhouse look but liked the shape and style of the table otherwise. We thought that we could easily use chalk paint to make the table base a more clean and consistent white. 

Unfortunately, we were very wrong. Within 24 hours, the paint began to chip and crack. A few days later, the cracks were worse. Tiny webs of cracks appeared on the base and pieces began to flake off. Ultimately, we spent over 12 hours scraping the chalk paint off of the table base so that we could repaint it using the appropriate primer and paint.

The other project that I used chalk paint for was a second-hand book shelf that I intend to put in the closet in the guest room. I purchased a different brand of chalk paint and didn’t have the same problems as the table, but was still dissatisfied with the end result (see #3 below).

The problems with chalk paint: cracking, chipping, and pronounced brush strokes.

Why I won’t use chalk paint again

There are several major reasons why I will not use chalk paint again.

#1: The paint does not successfully adhere to all surfaces without first sanding and priming. 

This is the reason why I used the paint in the first place and it didn’t live up to this expectation (see photos of chipped and cracked paint.) Not only have many DIYers and bloggers suggested that priming and sanding aren’t necessary when using chalk paint, the products that I used also indicate this on their packaging. 

After this failed on my first piece, I was sure to sand and prime the second piece before using chalk paint. This completely nullified the reason I purchased the chalk paint in the first place.

#2: I am not interested in a ‘distressed’ look on my furniture pieces.

One of the reasons why chalk paint is so popular right now is that it can be ‘distressed’ to achieve a farmhouse look. This is typically done by sanding off some of the paint on the edges or by using a colored wax to add an ‘aged’ look. I am not interested in having furniture that is artificially distressed or aged, so I do not find this aspect of chalk paint appealing.

#3: Chalk paint leaves an overly matte finish and clear brush strokes.

Although I am a novice at using chalk paint, I am not a novice at painting furniture. Never have I worked with a paint that left more pronounced brush strokes than chalk paint. The finish is also very distinct. It doesn’t look like a paint finish you would see on a manufactured piece of furniture. Instead, it has a very easily distinguishable finished look and feel. In my opinion, it doesn’t look professional and I fear that pieces painted with chalk paint will become dated very quickly.

#4: Chalk paint is available in limited colors.

Chalk paint brands generally only offer their product in a few colors. Some offer more, but the available colors are rather limited compared to latex paint which can be tinted to any conceivable color.

#5: Chalk paint requires an additional step of a wax finish.

After using chalk paint, it must be covered in a clear wax to protect the finish. When using the paint I describe below, no additional protective coat is necessary. Furthermore, many popular bloggers and DIYers suggest that this wax must be reapplied periodically because it wears off. This seems like a lot of work for a look that is very trendy and doesn’t adhere as advertised.

What I use instead

After the first fiasco using chalk paint, I decided that I should ask an expert. So, I spoke with the professional painter that we used to repaint most of the rooms in our new house. (BTW, if you are in the Cleveland area and need a good painter, let me know.) He recommended using Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel

So far, we have used this paint on five different projects and are very happy with the result. In addition to the table I linked to above, we also used it on a vintage cedar chest and my vanity table; both of which get a lot of use. The paint is somewhat self-leveling so brush strokes aren’t a problem and the coverage is very good. This is the same paint our professional painter used to paint all of the trim and doors in our new basement renovation. The paint is expensive, but is not significantly more expensive than most chalk paint brands which are often sold by the quart.

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6 thoughts on “5 reasons I won’t use chalk paint”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree for all your reasons. I don’t like the flat look of it. I don’t care for shabby or farmhouse. I don’t live in a farmhouse. I want a more modern look. On Pinterest that seems to be the trend,… Chalk paint. I will be so glad when this trend is over. It’s outlasted itself. Thanks Joanna Gaines 😉

    1. I agree. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way about chalk paint.

  2. I’ve used chalk paint that I made myself and have had great results. I did a kitchen table, 5 chairs, a center island and 2 of my dressers in my bedroom. No problems with any of the pieces. I have 3 grandchildren, 2 of them rough boys and everything has held up. Also I made chalk paint out of metallic paint for 3 cabinets in my bathrooms. And I absolutely love it. I can’t say enough about homemade chalk paint.

    1. Making homemade chalk paint isn’t something I have tried before. What recipe do you recommend? Do you encounter any of the problems I mention in the article?

  3. Have made my own ‘chalk paint’ for years. I have ZIP, ZERO, NONE of the problems you mention. I make it with calcium carbonate, acrylic paint and water. Mix to pancake batter consistency… amounts of each can vary without much, if any, difference in the quality of the finish. The paint dries quickly, is much less messy than regular acrylic paint. To avoid the paint being ‘chippy’, simply add some Elmer’s glue to the mix. I NEVER have brush strokes showing. I think that’s why so many people use milk/ chalk paint on kitchen cabinets. If you want a shiny or shinier finish, simply apply a wax and then buff. Easy and fast.

    Waxed chalk paint is a much better choice for painting old furniture, It avoids a crisp, hard ‘new’ look finish, but is still fresh and clean.

    Try it!

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