If there’s one thing furniture flippers want you to know, it’s that anyone can do it. “If I can do it, anyone can,” says Meghan Wheeler, an Austin flipper.
In October of 2020, Wheeler started repurposing and selling old furniture, a creative outlet that quickly turned into a thriving side hustle—she’s also a nurse and a grad student. She posts transformation videos and photos across her various social media accounts, with her biggest presence on TikTok, where she has more than 120,000 followers.
But Wheeler is hardly the only furniture flipper sharing content on TikTok. There’s a whole flipping community on that side of the app—FlipTok, if you will. They tend to have similar stories: Starting with limited knowledge and experience, they quickly realized that with practice and determination creating beautiful furniture wasn’t outside of the realm of possibilities.
“I'm not an artist; I actually dropped out of art class two days into high school,” Christina Muscari, another FlipToker, tells AD. “I don't have an artistic background… it’s easy enough for someone to just pick up, and you learn as you go.”
If you’re ready to jump on the furniture flipping train, your ticket to board is a kit with all the necessary flipping tools. With that in mind, we spoke with a few of the best flippers in the business who laid out exactly what you’ll need in order to turn all those crumbling credenzas into midcentury masterpieces.
@thepaintedpiano A little furniture painting tip. 🧼 Clean before you sand! #tipsandtricks #cleaningtiktok #furnituretiktok #diyfurniturepainting #furnitureflip ♬ Soap - Melanie_Martinez
@redesigned_farmhouse Quick 2 day flip ✌🏼 #QuickerPickerRapper #fyp #foryoupage #furnitureflip #furniture #diy #smallbusiness ♬ Intro - The xx
Before you can flip a piece, it has to be clean. “You can use dish soap, or you can use a spray—it just needs to be a degreaser,” Muscari explains. Old furniture can have a lot of wax on it, and it also might smell or be a little stained after years of use. A degreasing cleaner can help with all of this.
If you’re looking for a really good product, Dawn sells heavy-duty professional-grade degreaser. If you’re aiming for a more affordable option, Maggie McGaugh—another Texas flipper who’s amassed almost one million followers on TikTok—recommends the Krud Kutter Heavy Duty Cleaner and Disinfectant.
“The number one thing that I would recommend, and that is just a bit of an investment, is an orbital sander,” Muscari says. “It will save you so much time and effort and it’ll help you really prep your piece.”
When flipping furniture, painting a piece is often what makes the biggest visual impact. Sanding the item down first gives a piece what Muscari describes as “teeth” for the paint.
“It gives the paint something to stick to,” she says. “If you think of a really glossy surface, you’re just going to slide right over it, so you want the surface to be roughed up just a bit.” Sanders also come in handy when you need to strip a piece or smooth down any holes or dents you may have filled. For this task, Muscari prefers to use the Dewalt 5 Inch Random Orbit Sander.
Maggie McGaugh mentions that if you’re going for the most inexpensive flipping starter pack, at least having sandpaper is a must. But, “once you’re ready to take it a little more seriously, invest in a sander,” she says, and recommends the Black+Decker Random Orbit Sander for beginners.
Meghan Wheeler uses the Makita Orbital Sander. “It just works really well,” she says. “But you can also get orbital sanders for $30 that get the job done.”
Once your furniture is cleaned and prepped, you’ll need a good synthetic brush to finish the flip. Emphasis on synthetic, as those will provide a smoother finish and more precision while painting. Added bonus: You can use them with primer and topcoat too. “My favorites are Zibra brushes,” Wheeler says. “They just give you a really nice finish.”
Muscari likes Dixie Belle brand, but they’re a more expensive option—running anywhere from $20 to $40 for a single brush. Similar to Wheeler, she also recommends Zibra brushes, which are available at $47 for a set of four brushes specifically for furniture.
Primer, paint, and sealer
A Dixie Belle fan through and through, Muscari likes that the paint’s formula is specific to furniture, and they sell finishing topcoats too. “The more you invest in quality products, the happier you’ll be with your end results,” she says.
“My favorite brand of paint is Melange for a more flat finish and Plaster Paint Co. for more of a shine,” Maggie McGaugh says. Neither of these requires primer or sealer, so you’ll save both time and money.
But if affordability is a really important factor in your furniture flipping goals, take a page out of Wheeler’s playbook and grab a $5 sample from Behr paint at a Home Depot. “With the right prep of sanding and priming, it actually sticks and works really well on furniture,” she says.
With this option, you’ll want a really good primer. Wheeler recommends Zinsser brand because it has stain- and smell-blocking capabilities, a particularly helpful bonus when it comes to old furniture. For sealer she likes Varathane because “it comes in all different sheens and provides a very protective topcoat.”
Drill and screwdriver
when it’s too expensive so you just do it yourself 💁♀️♬ Pity Party - Melanie Martinez
While a drill and screwdriver might not be necessary for an absolutely bare-bones flip kit, they can certainly be useful. “If you want to add new hardware, a drill helps,” Wheeler explains. “I also have a tiny electric screwdriver to take off hardware and put new hardware on.”
McGaugh recommends the Black+Decker 4V Max Cordless Screwdriver to those looking to build a basic starter kit. The Black+Decker 20V Max Cordless Drill/Driver also gets consistently good reviews, and it comes with a 30-piece accessory kit.
A piece to flip
Ultimately, none of these tools are necessary if you don’t have a piece of furniture you actually want to flip. If you’re struggling to determine what’s flippable and what’s at the end of its life, a good indicator is basic functionality.
“You just want to make sure that the piece is structurally sound so that you’re not having to do a bunch of work on it before you start,” Muscari says, “You don’t want to have to do a lot of repairs.” Wheeler agrees, “I personally stray away from things that are broken.”
Before you flip an item, make sure it’s standing well, the drawers work, and there isn’t any major damage. Then it’s time to let your creativity shine through—with all your newly purchased tools in hand. As McGaugh notes, “Honestly, so much of it comes down to playing around with different brands and seeing what you like best.”
This was originally published on Architectural Digest US.