How many of you have found an old window sash at your local antique store or a fabulously crusty stool that has amazing patina and chipping paint? Now how many of you have scratched your heads as you wondered how you’re supposed to display your gorgeous finds without bringing all of that mess into your home?
You know, stuff that looks like this:
I had the same thoughts until I learned that you can clear coat these types of pieces and seal in all of the chipping paint. My favorite product to use for the job is Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint “Tough Coat“.
Tough Coat is a non-yellowing water-based top coat that is perfect for sealing in chipping paint. Let’s break down those two features. Non-yellowing means that over time, your piece won’t develop a yellow tinge to it. This is especially important if you are sealing pieces that have white paint on them. Second, it’s water-based which means it can clean up with soap and water. There’s no need to deal with any paint thinners or harsh chemicals.
Tough Coat does have a very faint odor but it’s completely safe to use inside. (Almost all water-based products have a slight smell to them, so this isn’t unusual.) In addition to being low VOC, Tough Coat is self-leveling which means that as it dries, your brush strokes flatten out. This helps minimize their appearance and makes your surface look glassy smooth.
I have been using Tough Coat on a weekly basis and it is officially a must-have product in my paint cabinet (right alongside Hemp Oil). I recently used it on an old mantle from the 1700’s. It was absolutely gorgeous but it was very crusty and had TONS of chipping paint all over it. It was the perfect chance to break out my bottle of Tough Coat and let it shine!
I like squeezing out my Tough Coat into a smaller container, like an ironstone mug or a ceramic bowl. I used a decent amount for my mantle because it has a lot of surface area and I applied two coats. The bottle in this photo is brand new, and by the time I was done, the bottle was down to the top of the label.
I apply Tough Coat with a foam applicator or a paint brush, depending on the surface. If I’m doing the top of a table or dresser, I’ll use a foam applicator because my surface is flat. Using a foam applicator REALLY helps to hide brush strokes. Try it! For my mantle, I used a regular old paint brush. The bristles would hold up better as they glide across such a chippy and ragged surface. I certainly didn’t want bits of foam to dry in my layers!
When you put Tough Coat on an old wood piece, you’ll notice that the wood will darken slightly. I personally LOVE this because it brings out the character of my piece and creates contrast between the wood and the chipping paint.
See what I mean? The left side is untreated and the right side has one layer of Tough Coat. All of the paint instantly popped and instead of looking tired and faded, the mantle was looking striking and brilliant.
From start to finish, this “makeover” took roughly 1 hour of application and 4 hours of dry time (2 hours per coat). It didn’t bother me because I’ve been on a project palooza and I’m cranking out one after the other. Plus, I’m currently binge watching “Gilmore Girls” so I had plenty of entertainment. After some staging and bracket installation, my mantle was ready for its glamor shots. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It’s absolutely stunning and now it’s 100% safe to use!
All of the original paint is sealed in and isn’t going anywhere. The texture is amazing! As you run your hand over the surface, there aren’t any splinters or flakes that come off anymore. It feels smooth and sealed.
Some parts of the trim are missing, but the majority are in tact so I’m calling it a “win” considering how old the mantle is. You can see some missing parts on the column’s left side, and on the left side of the top. There are trim pieces that go there, but they’re long gone. I don’t mind because to me, the missing pieces tell a story. It lets you know, “Hey! I’m old.” There’s even a cool wooden peg just to the left of the column. See it?
I staged my mantle with some little gray roosters and a pair of lanterns. My cow bust is front and center, ringed with a burlap wreath that I made years ago.
These lanterns are my favorite. There’s something about the combination of wood and metal that really appeals to me. They’re safe to use too. There’s an opening at the top for your candle’s exhaust (is that the right word?) to escape. Can’t you picture a soft glow at night?
While this mantle is probably too short to surround a real fireplace, it would make a fabulous accent piece in a bedroom or office. You could put some faux logs pieces in the opening to round out the look or have a few vintage apple crates with blankets and pillows at the bottom. The possibilities are endless!
If you’re now inspired to Tough Coat some treasures, here are a few tips that I’ve learned during my experience with this product:
* Gently swirl your bottle to combine the contents if necessary – don’t shake. This will create air bubbles that may show up in your finish if you don’t brush them out. Unlike James Bond, you want to stir, not shake.
*After application, Tough Coat will be dry to the touch within 30 minutes or so. This makes for a quick makeover, but the product does require 30 days to fully and completely cure. Be gentle with your piece during the cure time.
*This is a biggie – Don’t over brush your Tough Coat when you apply it. Just put it on and let it be. If you brush too much, you’ll create brush strokes. That goes for any water-based product (Polycrylic, General Finishes High Performance Topcoat, etc.).
*Tough Coat is for INDOOR use only. If you’re looking for something to use outside, consider Tung Oil or General Finishes Exterior 450.
*Tough Coat is not food safe, so it’s not recommended to be used on breadboards or wooden bowls. Use Hemp Oil for those projects instead.
I hope you’ve been inspired to give crusty and chippy pieces a chance now that you know what to do with them.