How To Paint A Cedar Chest? [9 Easy Steps]

Cedar chests are an excellent addition to any home. I have owned a vintage cedar chest for a long time and had been thinking about painting it to give it a new look. Inheriting old furniture taught me how to paint a cedar chest. So I went ahead without wasting much time.

To paint a cedar chest, you need to start by sanding the wood. Then you need to apply primer and stain blocker. You can paint the chest with either latex or chalk paint. If necessary, use multiple paint coats, but make sure you let the paint dry for 72 hours before using the chest.

Painting a cedar chest is not really a nut job. You only need the basic painting idea to paint correctly. And if you are not a fan of shortcut ideas, you can check out the rest of the article to know more about painting a cedar chest.

Is It Necessary To Paint A Cedar Chest?

No one wants their ancestors to roll their eyes from heaven. That’s why many of us choose to keep the chest the way it is if it is a family heritage. However, if you bought the chest yourself or found it in a vintage or second-hand shop, it seems legal to have an urge to repaint it.

Nevertheless, it is up to the user to decide whether or not you want to paint the chest. So, even though it is not mandatory to paint cedar chests, you can go ahead and do it if you want to.

How To Paint A Cedar Chest

So, have you decided to paint the chest? If you have, you will find the following part helpful. Here, I have provided a step-by-step guideline to help you do the job in the simplest way.

Things You Will Need

  • Dropcloth or plastic tarp
  • 80-100 grits sandpaper
  • Orbital Sander
  • Rag
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Foam roller
  • Latex or chalk paint
  • Protective varnish (optional)

Step 1: Preparation

Make sure you have prepared the workplace before starting everything. You need to spread drop cloth or plastic tarp where you want to work and make sure the place is well-ventilated. You may need to tape the corners of the drop cloth or plastic tarp so that moving items like paint buckets or the chest will not move it.

Step 2: Remove The Removable Parts

I used a paint roller to paint the cedar chest efficiently. That’s why it is essential to ensure there is no obstacle on the way. You can take out the removable parts, such as the chest’s drawers, and put them away for later.

It is best to paint the drawers separately. If the drawers have handles or knobs, remove them as well and keep them somewhere safe.

Step 3: Sand The Chest

You will need medium-grit sandpaper to sand the entire painting surface. I used 80-100 grit sandpaper with an orbital sander to sand my cedar chest, and the result turned out to be better than I had expected.

You can also sand the chest by hand without an orbital sander. Sand in a circular motion to help remove any raised giant.

Remember to sand a bit lightly to avoid damaging the wood. And don’t forget to sand the raised edges and corners of the chest.

Step 4: Wipe The Chest

After finishing the sanding part, use a damp rag to wipe the dust and the sanded debris off the chest. It is essential to clean the entire surface before continuing the next steps.

Make sure you don’t miss any spots during sanding or wiping because they tend to show up after painting. Then let the chest dry for around half an hour.

Step 5: Apply Primer

It is best to go with basic white ones when it comes to primer. They help bring out the color you paint the chest with. Use a foam roller to apply a thin coat of primer on the chest and ensure it covers every bit of the area you will paint.

And if you do not want to paint certain areas, you can cover them with painter’s tape to avoid getting primer or paint on those areas. You can also apply the primer using a paintbrush, but it can be time-consuming.

Don’t forget to prime the removed drawers as well. Then wait for at least 6 to 8 hours to let the primer dry completely.

Tip: It is best to go with the same type of primer and paints. If you are using a water-based primer, you need to make sure you are using water-based paint. The same goes for oil-based primer and paints.

Step 6: Paint The Cedar Chest

You can apply chalk paint to paint your cedar chest. However, latex paints are even better, in my opinion, as they can also leave a chalky look on the wood. Besides, this paint is suitable for setting on primer flawlessly.

Then take your paint roller and apply thin and even coats all over the chest. Apply with large strokes on the frames and faces of the chest. And if you think painting the drawers with the roller is challenging for you, you can opt for a paintbrush.

Step 7: Apply More Coats

Let the first layer of paint dry for at least 3 to 4 hours. Then apply the second layer of the paint in the same way.

To make sure the paint dries perfectly, you need a friendly environment. It is better to keep the doors and windows of the workplace shut if the weather is rainy or humid.

Step 8: Finishing Look

It is not mandatory, but applying a coat of varnish can make the paint appear more vibrant and glossy. It also works as a protective layer to prevent issues such as scratches and moisture. Apply a thin coat of varnish and wait for 2 to 4 hours for it to dry.

Step 9: Reassemble Everything

After all the parts are dry, put them together one by one. Start by installing the handles or knobs of the drawers you removed, and then putting the drawers in.

If you do not want the old knobs, you can purchase new ones that fit the new color. Now, your newly painted cedar chest is ready to add more shine to your room.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On A Cedar Chest?

You can use both oil-based and water-based paint on a cedar chest. However, oil-based paints are more popular for painting cedar chests. But make sure you are using the same type of primer as your paint.

Can I Use Chalk Paint To Paint My Cedar Chest?

Yes, chalk paints are suitable for painting cedar chests. However, this paint requires some prep work before applying.


Cedarwood always feels smooth against the skin as they do not have raised grain. Most people choose to leave the cedar chest alone because it will look good no matter where you put it, whether it is old or new. Yet, sometimes it is hard to resist repainting such furniture.

And now that you know how to paint a cedar chest, you can give your cedar chest an entirely new look with your painting skill. Just follow the instructions, and you will be good to go. And remember to put on a mask and safety glasses if you are allergic to dust.

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