After a couple of coats of Eco paint, this workhorse looks like a glamour girl.
When I was preparing to repaint my piano, good information and advice were hard to find. As soon as I uttered the word piano at my local home-improvement store, the clerk generated what seemed to be an auto-reply: “You need an oil-based paint.”
“But it's a studio piano,” I explained. “It's a workhorse. I don't think it has ever had a high-gloss lacquer on it. In fact, it's so worn it doesn't have any finish on it at the moment, be it polyurethane or anything else.”
Mr. Clerk looked at me like I was an idiot. “Oil-based,” he said, handing me a can of primer.
I had a strong hunch that he was wrong. There had to be more options—more shades of gray if you will, when choosing paint for a piano or, in fact, any type of furniture, especially if you're willing to do some sanding. And as it turns out, I was right. Aside from an oil-based product, you can use a latex (water-based) formula on furniture; the only problem is that it doesn't harden like oil paint, so it won't wear as well.
But now I've found a third option: An earth-friendly covering that dries faster than oil; has a low volatile organic compound (VOC) rating, so it gives off virtually no fumes; and, most important, results in a hard, beautiful finish. The product, Eco, is manufactured by Fine Paints of Europe (800-332-1556, finepaintsofeurope.com) and is a waterborne oil paint. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms—it did to me—here's how the company's owner, John Lahey, explains it: “Paint is comprised of three elements. There is the vehicle, which is either water or solvent; the resin, which is the coating and can be made of either oil or a synthetic material; and the pigment, which provides the color. Our Eco paint suspends oil resin in water.”
Lahey is jazzed about the product, noting that sometimes an environmentally friendly version of an item is not as good as the standard one. But not Eco, he claims. “The paint's color-retention capability is unmatched,” he says. “We're not compromising here.”
Nor did I. I chose Eco 0001—a high-gloss white—for my piano. Before I started painting, I prepped the surface by sanding it—the key to a good finish—and putting down a coat of primer. Then I began with the Eco, which went on with the stickiness of a conventional oil-based paint, a consistency that made it difficult to touch up the area around the keys. But once the paint dried, the result was gorgeous.
Other primer and sanding tips:
• The importance of primer
A high-quality primer not only makes paint adhere better, but it also allows you to use a water-based paint on a piece that was previously finished in oil. With the Eco, I used the recommended Eco-brand primer, but I'd also suggest Benjamin Moore's Fresh Start All-Purpose 100% Acrylic Primer #023 (benjaminmoore.com).
• Sanding counts
I always resisted sanding because I find it time-consuming and tedious, but it is critical for a great end result. Like primer, it helps the paint adhere properly, plus it gives the piece a smooth finish. And since I've discovered Black & Decker's Mouse Sander/Polisher #MS500K (800-544-6986, blackanddecker.com), which vibrates along an object's surface and takes the effort out of sanding, the process is almost enjoyable! —Carole Nicksin, Senior Decorating Editor