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How to Paint Over Compressed Wood

Compressed wood must be sanded and sealed prior to painting.
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Compressed wood, also known as particle board, can be painted, but first the wood must be properly prepared. Compressed wood has an uneven, slightly bumpy surface and it's very porous. Some types of particle board also have a faux wood veneer. Many furniture items feature both types, with veneer on the exposed surfaces and bare particle board used on drawers and inside cabinets. Both types of compressed wood require sanding, which will smooth the bumpy surface or scuff the smooth veneer to allow for proper paint adherence. Sanding is followed by the application of a sealant.

Things You'll Need:

  • Face mask
  • Protective goggles
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block or random orbital sander
  • Large paintbrush
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Water
  • Oil-based seal coat primer
  • Two medium synthetic paintbrushes or rollers
  • Indoor paint


Use a seal coat primer designed for sanded wood. Zinsser Bullseye SealCoat or Cover Stain are examples of suitable primers for this project. Most furniture items and cabinets have a combination of raw, unfinished compressed wood surfaces and veneer-covered surfaces. Use acrylic, latex or oil paints for this project. Textured paint works well for this project, as it will hide minor flaws. Patch compressed wood gouges and scratches with a general-purpose wood putty. Allow it to dry and harden before beginning this project. Avoid paints with a glossy finish, as these will highlight minor flaws. Opt for a semi-gloss or matte finish instead.


  • Do not place compressed wood outdoors or in a location where it will be exposed to water. Compressed wood is comprised of small grains of wood that are glued together to form a board. When exposed to moisture, the wood will swell and the particle board will disintegrate.
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