Every craftsman dreams of that perfect, smooth paint finish on their creations. The secret? Sanding. But timing is everything. Sand too soon or too late, and you’re left with a less-than-ideal surface.
In this guide, I’ll spill the beans on the perfect moments to sand between paint coats, ensuring your home pieces and fixtures shine with professional polish.
Sanding Between Coats of Paint and Latex: Should You Do It?
Many homeowners and DIYers wonder why sanding in between coats is necessary. This is especially true if you are fond of redoing or painting kitchen cabinets and other wooden furniture at home.
Though you might be tempted to skip it, sanding between paint coats is a pro tip you shouldn’t ignore. Once each coat is bone-dry, give it a gentle buff with fine-grit sandpaper. This simple step ensures a smoother finish and a paint job that truly shines!”
This process is not important but it can result in an even finish on your paint job.
Sanding paint coats can remove filth that has accumulated over time as well as help create teeth on a hardened surface for easy binding of any finish. Another reason for sanding is to erase brush strokes and other imperfections on the surface.
However, sanding latex paint can cause some complications, as it has crystalline silica which can enter your lungs and lead to scarring. If you are exposed to this for a long time it can lead to silicosis.
Fortunately, latex paint does not easily adhere to a surface that has paint already. Sanding can help scruff up the surface and allow a new layer of latex paint to stick. This paint also does not adhere to glossy or metal surfaces.
When to Sand Between Layers of Paint: 3 Indicating Factors
Before sanding the surface, you may need to review a few factors before doing so.
Surface You’re Going to Paint
It is best to know where you are going to paint. If it is for outdoor or indoor applications, sanding painted surfaces will result in a really smooth texture. However, sanding is not needed for drywall interior paint applications.
If you are employing glossy paints, painting cabinet doors, flat paint finishes, or paint on a surface that you plan to expose to high light intensity, it is best to sand in between applications. Sanding in between coats will lead to a smooth or slick area.
Type of Paint
The type of paint you will use also affects the sanding process. If you are using inferior or old paint then it will result in more bubbles. Aside from this, cheaper paints can also result in roller defects and brush traces.
Premium paints are good for any paint job compared to cheaper paints. Sanding will enable premium paints to perform even more excellently.
It is necessary to sand in between coats especially if the paint is not “lying flat” or it leaves behind brush marks even after multiple layers. Be careful when sanding on paint, sometimes the pigments are also removed in the process.
Depending on the manufacturer, some types like oil-based paint may not require sanding. For more options, check the best paint for wood in this review!
Duration of the Project
You should also consider the total duration of the project when deciding to sand in between coats of flat paint. The paint applied should dry at least for approximately 24 hours. This period is just enough for the resulting quality.
When dealing with paints, especially latex paint, make sure that it is applied dried to the touch before sanding every after application.
Ideal Sandpaper Grit To Use Between Layers of Paint
There are different sandpaper grits to use before painting or for different tasks. Very fine grit sandpaper will lead to an even finish. The higher the grit, the smoother and silkier the area will be. With this in mind, I highly recommend to use 220 grit sandpaper which is the finest one.
When staining surfaces, it is best to use 100-grit sandpaper or higher to smoothen surfaces. Sandpaper with grits between 360 to 400 will also result in a smooth surface.
How Long To Wait For Paint to Dry Before Sanding
Determining whether sanding is necessary between coats of paint requires considering several factors, such as the elapsed time and the type of paint used. To achieve optimal results, wait for approximately 24 hours before sanding.
This waiting period allows the paint to fully dry and cure, ensuring better adherence and smoother application of subsequent coats.
The drying time and whether you need to sand can change based on the paint you’re using. Always check the paint can’s guidelines. Don’t skip this step; it’s key to a flawless finish!
How to Sand Between Coats of Paint: 6 Steps
Lightly sanding between coats of paint is not difficult to eliminate the rough surface and texture. However, it takes some time and practice to perfect this skill. Here are the things and steps you need to do:
Tools & Materials
Step #1: Cover Your Work Area and Clean the Wood Surface
Cover the work area and the floor to protect it from spills. You can do this by placing draping sheets over the surface or the area. You may also cover it with a plastic sheet and a canvas cloth.
Wear protective and safety gear before cleaning the wood surface. It is important to remove any dirt and debris from the surface before sanding. You can do this by mixing the TSP compound with warm water. Read the manufacturer’s guide  for reference.
Get a clean cloth and dip it in the mixture to remove any dirt, dust, and debris. Make sure to let the surface to dry completely. Examine the surface for any scratches, blemishes, and imperfections. It is best to fill them with the best wood filler with a putty knife.
Step #2: Begin Sanding the Flat Surfaces and the Nooks and Crannies
You can begin to sand the rough surface, flat surfaces, as well as the nooks and crannies. Make sure to protect your ears, nose, and eyes. You can sand the surface using 180-grade sandpaper and orbital sandpaper. Sand the smooth as well as the flat sections of the surface.
You do not need to remove all visible blemishes. Just make sure to even out the surface. This step also creates “teeth” or minor scratches to help paint to better adhere to the surface. After this step, you can now move to hand sanding and lightly sand the nooks and crannies.
Step #3: Get Rid of Any Dust
Make sure to remove any dust after sanding. Use a vacuum that also has a brush to help you remove any debris as a result of sanding. It is best to utilize a vacuum with a bag and a reliable air filtration system.
Make sure to also use a cotton rag that is soaked in water and wring it out before using. Wipe this rag on the surface to remove any remaining dirt on the surface.
Step #4: Prime and Sand the Surface
Prime the surface by using a paintbrush or a roller. Apply a second coat of the primer and make sure that it is a thin layer. The primer should have a translucent appearance when completely dried.
Once the primer has completely dried, you can now proceed to sand the primer. Use 220-grit sandpaper, then start light sanding to prevent scraping the primer. Use a vacuum and a clean cloth to remove any dirt and dust.
Step #5: Now, Paint the Surface Using a Brush or Roller
You can now paint the first coat on the surface. Make sure not to apply too much paint.
Apply using a brush on uneven surfaces such as crown molding, furnishings, bare wood, and trim. On the other hand, use a roller for surfaces with large areas and are relatively flat. Allow the fresh paint to dry.
Step #6: Sand the First Layer and Apply the Second Coat
Sand the previous coat to get a smooth and even finish. This step will help eliminate brush marks, lumps, and deformities found on the surface as a result of a brush or a roller brush.
Sand the surface carefully using 220-grade sandpaper. You can also mount the sandpaper on a sander and carefully apply a very small pressure all over the surface.
Open the tack cloth post-sanding and lightly buff it over the surface. Then, proceed to add a second coat of paint. After the final coat has been added, the completely hardened surface will be even more resistant to wear and moisture.
Alternatives of Sanding Between Paint Coats: Do I Have Other Options?
There are other alternatives if you do not prefer sanding in between coats of paint. One option is to use chalk paint to remove this process. Chalk paint can easily stick to different surfaces which do not require sanding.
You can also use mineral instead of latex paint and other common options. It adheres to surfaces without any prior preparation. However, these options come with a price, since it costs more at lower amounts.
my Recommended Sandpaper for Sanding in Between Paint: HSYMQ’s 24 pcs. Sandpaper Variety Pack
This brand offers diverse sandpaper options. This sandpaper, in particular, contains low grit for sanding rough and hard-to-reach areas. It also has high grit to create a smooth texture. It can effectively eliminate blemishes and paintbrush marks.
A word of caution, this product may deteriorate during wet sanding. Otherwise, they last longer than other sandpaper brands available in the market.
Should I sand between coats of paint on the walls?
Yes, you should sand between coats of new paint on the walls. You will get a beautiful room if you sand walls. Sanding walls will eliminate any scratches and result in a smooth and shiny finish. It is recommended to use medium grit sandpaper for this purpose. But how many coats of paint on the wall do you need? Find out next!
What happens if you don’t sand between coats?
Nothing bad will happen if you do not sand in between coats. However, if you do not sand in between coats of paint, the layer might not easily adhere or adhere properly on the surface. It will also lead to flaky or cracking paint.
Should you sand between layers of enamel, gloss, and oil-based paint?
Sanding between coats of enamel paint is not necessary. You only need to do so if you want to remove any defects. You do not need to sand in between layers of gloss paint, either. The same goes with oil-based paints. But how about stains? Should you sand between stain coats? Find out next!
Sprucing up your furniture with a fresh coat of paint? Don’t underestimate the magic of sanding between those coats! Knowing the right time to sand can be a game-changer, not only saving you effort but also ensuring a sleek, professional finish.
While it might seem like an extra step, trust me, that bit of sanding goes a long way in making your piece look truly polished.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.