I love painted wood furniture. Whether it's going bold with a bright accent piece, crisp and clean with a fresh white statement maker, or adding elegance and refinement with a darker shade, a piece of painted furniture can fit in every room.
If you plan on building a piece of furniture to paint, or modifying an existing piece, it's important to know which types of wood to choose. Choosing the right wood will help you achieve a smooth, painted finish. And knowing which woods will work best for a painted finish will help you choose the least expensive option.
Most furniture projects, especially storage projects, are made up of a carcass, or the main storage component.
The carcass is usually made up of a wider width board. For the carcass, if you want a rustic finish, choose a pine wood. One side note—pine boards usually come in widths up to 11 1/4″, but you can purchase pine plywood. Note that pine is a softwood, and generally will shrink or warp easier than a hardwood.
For a more refined finish, choose birch or maple hardwood veneer plywood, or medium density fiberboard (MDF), cut down into strips in the width you need for your carcass. Hardwood veneer plywood is generally stronger, more resistant to water damage, and can be easier to work with, but MDF can be more dimensionally stable and provide a smoother finish for paint.
Avoid oak plywood; no amount of primer or paint will fill the pores in oak.
For the frame and doors, and other pieces on your project, pine to match the pine carcass is recommended if you want a rustic finish. For a refined, smooth finish, choose poplar or soft maple. These wood species are generally less expensive than other hardwoods, but are smooth and take paint well. Since poplar and maple are hardwoods, they will also resist warping and shrinking, and should stand up to wear and use better than a soft wood.
If this is your first project, I highly recommend starting out with pine, and planning on a rustic or distressed painted finish. Softwood tends to be easier to cut and work with than hardwoods, and is less expensive.
Now you are ready to head to the wood aisle, knowing which types of wood are the most cost-effective without compromising quality of finish.