When deciding to refurbish a dresser, a great way is to add some customization. Add new legs, different hardware, a lick of paint! With a little time and effort, you can transform a drab dresser into a beautiful and functional piece that will be the envy of everyone you know.
There are many different ways to refurbish a dresser, depending on your budget and skill level. If you’re on a tight budget, paint is always a great option. I always say the power of paint is amazing.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can strip the old finish and stain the wood. You can also add new hardware or completely change the style of the dresser. We are going to look at 7 different ways to refurbish dresser that are both involved and simple. Let’s get into it.
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Refurbishing dressers with paint or stain requires stripping the furniture of any layers it currently has whether that is paint, varnish, stain, etc. This can be done by sanding or stripping. After the layers are removed and raw wood is exposed, then you can decide on paint vs stain vs some other medium.
No matter how you choose to refurbish your dresser, the most important thing is to have fun and be creative.
How To Refurbish An Old Dresser
First let’s look at the basics of refurbishing dressers or similar pieces of furniture such as a chest of drawers or small night stand with drawers. How to sand, the right products to use, and how to protect your piece, these are some things we will cover.
Supplies Needed For Refinishing A Dresser
- Saran wrap
- Drop Cloth
- Safety glasses
- Tack Cloth/Clean Rag
- Steel Wool
- Wood Conditioner
- Stain or Paint of Choice
- Top Coat
This seems like a lot of supplies, but depending on how you decide to refurbish your dresser or furniture piece, you may only need a few of these supplies.
Clean The Dresser
Most of my furniture pieces that I have made over or flipped has come from the thrift store. Whether your dresser to refurbish is old, new, from grandma’s attic, or something you’ve owned for years, it needs a good clean.
The next step is removing any layers of paint or stain that were on the dresser. Cleaning off dirt and grime will help to make your sandpaper go further and also to not gum up the sander. I like to use a degreaser like TSP or Krud Kutter. Hot soap and water will also do fine, just clean a couple of times.
Remove the Hardware
First remove the hardware. This is the first chance to start updating and refurbishing the dresser. Hardware is like the jewelry for your dresser. Here are a few ideas on how to update the dresser hardware:
- spray paint the existing hardware
- clean the old hardware (brasso or bar keeper’s friend work great for restoring different metals)
- change the shape (knob to handle or handles to knobs)
- replace the hardware with something new in a different style
- make your own-My friend Jen made some out of plastic animals
- Thrift or buy some vintage hardware
- add hardware where there was none! (don’t want the old girl to be naked)
Sanding Or Removing Layers of Paint and Stain
Next step is to sand the dresser down to raw wood. This is a messy business no matter how you do it, so do yourself a favor and set up an area outside. Don’t forget your safety glasses and mask!
Take out all the drawers and place them so the drawer fronts are facing up. Using an orbital sander (buy or borrow you one, way faster than hand sanding). Sand off the old lacquer, paint, or stain. You’ll want to start with a high grit for removing things easily such as 60 or 80 grit.
Once the layers of paint or stain or varnish have been removed, it’s time to change the sandpaper grit. Now use 120 grit to start to smooth out the wood grain and go over the whole piece again. Finally, change it to 220 grit for a final sand to smooth everything out and make it really nice to the touch.
If you are refurbishing a dresser with finer details like mine above, grab a sanding sponge and carefully hand sand these areas. Be sure to sand with the grain of the wood. These steps suck, but its worth it to get our stain or paint to lay smooth on our dresser.
I used my blower to get most of the sanding dust off. Be sure to wipe it with a tack cloth to remove the remaining dust. Also wipe or vacuum the inside of the drawers for dust and leftover cobwebs.
You can also use citristrip to refurbish a dresser.
Refurbishing A Dresser With Stain
- Choose your stain
- Apply wood conditioner in direction of the wood grain
- Let the wood conditioner dry
- Apply your stain with a staining sponge or old rag (I use an old tshirt sometimes)
- Let the stain sit on the wood for about 5 minutes, longer if you want the stain darker
- Wipe away the stain in the direction of wood grain
- A second coat can be applied for an even richer color
- Let the stain dry overnight
- Apply a protective top coat (think about the finish you want: glossy, satin, matte, etc)
- Lightly sand the top coat once dry with a finer grit (220 and above) between coats
- Apply a second top coat and allow to dry for 24 hours to fully cure
I have a lot of dark wood tones and dark floors in my home. It looks historic and I personally like a darker wood tone over lighter ones. I was torn between English Chestnut, Jacobean, and Dark Walnut. Dark Walnut ended up being the winner.
You can test the different stains on the inside of a drawer or less visible spot on the dresser before deciding.
Protecting Your Refurbished Dresser
There are a variety of different protective top coats available for protecting your refurbished dresser. Some of the most popular types of protective top coats:
- Polyurethane: Polyurethane is a clear, hard finish that provides excellent protection against scratches, dents, and moisture damage. It is available in both water-based and oil-based formulas.
- Polycrylic: Polycrylic is a clear finish top coat for wood. It is available in a water based formula.
- Varnish: Varnish is a clear, hard finish that is similar to polyurethane. It is available in both water-based and oil-based formulas.
- Shellac: Shellac is a clear, fast-drying finish that is often used as a base coat for other finishes. It is available in both water-based and alcohol-based formulas.
- Wax: Wax is a natural finish that provides some protection against scratches and moisture damage. It is available in both paste and liquid formulas.
The best type of protective top coat for your wood dresser will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you are looking for a finish that provides the most protection, then polyurethane is the best. However, this takes longer to dry and can yellow over time.
If you are looking for a finish that is easy to apply, then shellac or wax are good options. These furniture pieces should be ones that get less traffic because these options don’t protect as well as a polyurethane or polycrylic.
I prefer to use a polycrylic because it is fast drying, comes in several finishes, and goes on clear. Be sure to apply in the direction of the grain. My favorite brush to use is a high quality bristle brush or a foam roller.
Refurbishing A Dresser With Paint
There are many different types of paint that can be used when refinishing a dresser. If the dresser has finer details or you want a two toned look, paint is a great option. Painting the entire dresser is also an excellent way to refurbish a dresser or any piece of furniture.
Types of Paint
Chalk Paint is a great option and does not require sanding. You can also make your own with just a few ingredients and any latex paint. It may not require sanding before priming, but it does require a top coat for more durability to every day wear and tear.
I’ll say, I don’t use chalk paint any more as a personal choice, but if you have never tried it, give it a try. Some good budget brands are KILZ or Waverly which are both available at Walmart. I’ve heard good things about Jolie paints, Annie Sloan, and Magnolia just released chalk paint too.
Enamel based paint is going to be the best paint to use because of the durability. This even applies to dresser hardware as well. I used this cabinet and furniture paint with an oil enriched enamel formula. It also does not require sanding or priming OR a top coat because of the enamel in the paint.
How To Paint A Dresser
The steps are very similar to staining, but there are a few differences.
- Clean your dresser (no sanding needed!)
- Choose your paint color
- Take off the hardware (always save the old hardware, even if you plan to change it!)
- Prep your painting area
- Grab paint brush, drop cloth, rollers, paint sticks
- Prime if using chalk paint
- Paint in the direction of the wood grain with a foam roller and detail brush
- Apply 2 coats of paint
- Sand in between coats to keep a smooth finish (this is an optional step, I didn’t do any sanding)
- Let dry thoroughly
- If you used chalk paint, now is the time for another light sand
- Apply Top Coat
- Let dry thoroughly
- Reattach or install new hardware
Some things to remember are that it is important to choose a quality brush for the paint job. If you use chalk paint, it is a really thin paint and requires several coats to cover. Priming one time can cut down the number of coats and prevent bleed through of any stain or wood grain.
After adding the top coat, let the furniture dry really well before bringing it back in the house to use. For the best chance, add at least 2 coats of the protective top coat. I used polycrylic, but the choice is yours. Remember polyurethane will yellow over time especially showing up on white paint.
How to Refurbish a Dresser with Chalk Paint?
First, clean the dresser with a degreaser. Sanding is up to you, but do prime the dresser. Apply the chalk paint in the direction of the wood grain. Pay attention to the type of chalk paint brush you use, it matters so buy a good one. Paint 2-3 coats and seal with a top coat of polycrylic or wax.
How to refurbish a white dresser?
Another commonly asked question was about refurbishing a white dresser. You can either paint over it with chalk paint or sand it down to stain it. I would sand lightly to smooth the former paint finish to be smooth under another layer of paint. If staining, strip or sand the white paint off.
How to refurbish a laminate dresser?
The best way to refurbish a laminate dresser is to give it a lick of paint. Chalk paint or enamel furniture paint will work the best for durability. Prime your dresser and then apply 2-3 coats of paint. The enamel paint doesn’t need to be sealed, but the chalk paint requires a top coat.
How Much does it cost to refurbish a dresser?
This depends on the the changes you plan to make and how many supplies are needed. You may already have some supplies or may need to buy most of them. The most expensive part is usually the paint or the stain. I would budget $50-$100 for a nice makeover. Stain is less expensive than paint.
How to refinish a dresser with veneer?
This process is much the same to refurbishing a wood dresser. If you want to stain it, the veneer is a very thin layer of wood so it must be sanded carefully. Start with 100 grit and work up to 320 grit to smooth it out.
If you go through the veneer, it may need to be replaced. To paint it, sand carefully, prime, and paint. Then seal with a top coat.
How to stain a darker dresser?
To stain a dresser darker, I would use gel stain. It is much more concentrated than regular stain. Clean the surface of dirt and oils. Scuff sand dresser to allow gel stain to stick. Apply the stain to small areas using a rag. Wipe off after a few minutes. Allow time to dry. Repeat steps until it’s as dark as you like.
How to refurbish a dresser without sanding?
You can use something like liquid sandpaper. This will do the dirty job of sanding for you without the mess. If you are painting your dresser then it is not necessary to sand. I do recommend priming before painting.
Other Examples Of Refurbishing Dressers Or Furniture Piece
Finally let me show you all the different ways a dresser refurbish can completely update your furniture to look brand new.
This ikea dresser had no hardware when it was mine and my husbands. When I put it in my son’s room, I just added some simple black knobs. It makes it look a lot more custom and not so ikea basic.
This is an old side board that my aunt gifted to me. It had big heavy iron rings that hung down for the hardware. I wanted a much softer look. Looking in my hardware stash, I found these brass knobs which were perfect. Now it looks amazing in my office.
Use Peel and Stick Contact Paper
Our old dresser, also ikea, holds things in our media room/my husband’s office. I just wanted to give it a fresh look. Originally, I thought about replacing the drawer fronts with wood. That was until I saw this tutorial on The Inspired Hive where they suggested using this wood contact paper instead. Clever!
Paint Is Magical
We all have that cheap dresser thats just laying around. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it needs a facelift. A good paint job works wonders! When I refurbished this dresser, I painted it with some home made chalk paint and added a wood detail to the top row of drawers with edge banding.
Using Stain To Refurbish A Dresser
Whether you use just stain or a combination of paint and stain, this is an excellent and easy way to refinish a dresser. There are many types of “stain” too. I’ve used antiquing wax as stain and you can water down paint to make a stain color. There are regular stains and also gel stains. Take your pick.
Use Painter’s Tape To Create A Design
I know this isn’t a dresser, but you can use the same idea. This is my friend’s playroom. They wanted a Mario theme and they had this old 9 cube storage unit. I taped it off and painted it to look like bricks from the video game.
Add Trim And Change The Legs
Last, but certainly not least, are these nightstands. I used valspar cabinet and furniture paint on them in Anew Gray by Sherwin Williams. I love this gorgeous greige color. This makeover was the most involved because I took off the original chunky feet at the bottom and added new trim and legs. What a difference!
Refurbishing a dresser is a great way to update your current dresser that you may not love the style of. There are so many benefits like saving money, the sustainability of upcycling something free into something that looks brand new, and the freedom to do whatever you want!
I always have the best time imagining something new out of something old, trying new techniques, challenging myself and being creative along the way. It’s something that anyone can do also. The possibilities are endless! See y’all next time!
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