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Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique demonstrates the best way to paint furniture built out of MDF from priming to the final top coat.

How to Paint MDF Step-by-Step

  1. Start by priming the edges on the inside of the cubbies with an oil-based primer. Once all the edges have been cut, use a roller to paint the rest of the bench.
  2. Allow the primer to dry and then add a second coat the same way.
  3. Once the second coat has dried, fill in the nail holes with wood filler and a putty knife.
  4. Sand all the filled holes with 220 grit sandpaper.
  5. Wipe down the bench with tack cloth to remove the dust from sanding.
  6. Paint the top coat of water-based paint on the bench using the same technique as priming.

What to Use When Painting MDF

To prevent water from damaging the MDF, Mauro recommends using an oil-based primer, since it repels water. For this bench, Mauro used BIN shellac base primer, manufactured by Zinsser.

For the top coat, Mauro used Benjamin Moore Advanced in “Simply White” with a semi-gloss finish. The top coat is a water-based paint.

The other painting materials Mauro used, including the wood filler, paint brushes, and rollers, can all be found at home centers and paint supply stores.

Special assistance with this project was provided by Mauro’s Painting.