How to Refurbish a Dresser to Bring New Life to an Old Piece

Jeff Quiñz
5 minute read

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Refurbishing an old dresser is a cost-effective way to update your home decor while adding a unique touch. Whether you’re working with a vintage piece or a thrift store find, refurbishing can breathe new life into your furniture. Follow this step-by-step guide to transform your old dresser into a beautiful, functional piece.

Materials Needed

Before you start, gather all the necessary materials:

  • Old dresser
  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Primer
  • Paint or stain
  • Paintbrushes and foam rollers
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood filler
  • Putty knife
  • New hardware (knobs, handles)
  • Drop cloth
  • Protective gloves and mask

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Set up a well-ventilated workspace. Lay down a drop cloth to protect your floor, and wear protective gloves and a mask to avoid inhaling dust and fumes. Make sure you have ample space to work around the dresser.

Step 2: Remove Old Hardware

Use a screwdriver to remove all the old hardware, such as knobs and handles. Keep the screws in a safe place if you plan to reuse them. This step is crucial to ensuring an even finish when painting or staining.

Step 3: Clean the Dresser

Clean the entire dresser thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, or old polish. Use a mild cleaner and a damp cloth, then let it dry completely. This ensures the new paint or stain adheres properly.

Step 4: Sand the Surface

Start sanding the dresser to remove the old finish. Use coarse-grit sandpaper (60–80 grit) to strip away the old paint or varnish, then switch to a finer grit (120–220 grit) for a smooth finish. Sanding helps the new paint or stain adhere better and creates a smooth surface.

Step 5: Repair Any Damage

Inspect the dresser for any damage, like cracks or holes. Use wood filler to repair these imperfections. Apply the filler with a putty knife and let it dry completely. Once dry, sand the areas until smooth.

Step 6: Apply Primer

Priming is essential, especially if the dresser is bare wood or if you're changing from a dark to a light color. Apply a coat of primer using a foam roller for flat surfaces and a brush for detailed areas. Let the primer dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 7: Paint or Stain the Dresser

Choose your desired paint or stain color. For paint, use a foam roller for large surfaces and a brush for corners and details. Apply the paint in thin, even coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before adding the next. Apply the stain with a clean cloth, working in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe off any excess stain and let it dry.

Step 8: Add a Protective Finish

Once the paint or stain is completely dry, apply a protective finish such as polyurethane or wax. This protects the surface from scratches and wear. Follow the application instructions carefully for the best results.

Step 9: Install New Hardware

Replace the old hardware with new knobs or handles to give your dresser a fresh look. Use a screwdriver to attach them securely. Make sure to align them correctly for a polished finish.

Step 10: Reassemble the Dresser

Reassemble any parts you removed, and make sure all drawers and doors are functioning smoothly. Place your refurbished dresser in its new spot and enjoy your fresh piece of furniture.

Tips for a Successful Refurbishing Project

Choose Quality Materials: High-quality paint, primer, and hardware can make a significant difference in the final look and durability of your refurbished dresser.

Take Your Time: Allow adequate drying time between coats of paint or stain. Rushing can lead to a less polished finish.

Be Creative: Don’t be afraid to experiment with colors and finishes. Adding stencils, decoupage, or unique hardware can personalize your piece.

Work Safely: Always work in a well-ventilated area and wear protective gear to avoid inhaling fumes and dust.

FAQs

How do I choose the right paint for my dresser?

Choose a paint that suits your desired finish. Chalk paint is great for a matte look and requires less prep, while semi-gloss or gloss paint offers a more durable and washable surface.

Can I refinish a laminate dresser?

Yes, you can refinish a laminate dresser. Proper sanding and priming are crucial to ensuring the paint adheres well to the laminate surface.

What if my dresser has a strong odor?

Clean the dresser thoroughly and allow it to air out. If the odor persists, consider applying a sealant to the inside surfaces to trap any lingering smells.

Is it necessary to remove the old finish completely?

For optimal results, we recommend removing as much of the old finish as possible. However, if the existing finish is in good condition, a light sanding to roughen the surface may suffice.

Can I change the style of my dresser?

Yes, adding new hardware, trim, or decorative elements can change the style of your dresser. Be creative, and think about the overall look you want to achieve.

How long does it take to refurbish a dresser?

The amount of time required depends on the condition of the dresser and the complexity of the project. On average, it can take a few days to a week, allowing for drying times between steps.

Conclusion

Refurbishing a dresser is a rewarding DIY project that can transform an old piece into a stunning addition to your home. By following these steps, you can achieve a professional-looking finish that breathes new life into your furniture. Enjoy the process and the unique, personalized result that only a refurbished piece can offer.

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