Tag Archives: upcycling furniture

How To: Refinish a Dresser

Inheriting furniture from friends or family is a great thing. It fills a space in your apartment or house often for the mere price of transportation. However, the pieces that usually get passed along are the cast-offs – a little banged up, a little out of style or a little awkward.

When my husband and I moved into our house, we inherited such a piece – his old wooden dresser from childhood. Unfortunately I can’t find my “before” pictures so you’ll have to just imagine a varnished and scratched up oak dresser with clunky brass handles. In my boredom last winter I turned said dresser (and a similar wooden bed) into good-as-new-beauties for under $30. Sure you can get creative with colors and pulls but for my first refinished project I stuck to the basics.
How to Refinish Wood Furniture

How to Refinish Wooden Furniture:
What You’ll Need:
a handheld sander or multiple sanding blocks – coarse and fine grain
rubber kitchen gloves (if using sanding blocks)
2-3 drop cloths
small paint tray
paint, preferrable one that is designed for wood
wide sponge paintbrush or roller
small sponge paintbrush
drawer pulls (if applicable)
safety glasses and/or construction mask

1. Remove any drawers (if applicable) and unscrew any knobs or handles from your piece.
2. Spread drop clothes in a well-ventilated space and lay out your pieces on the cloths.
3. Sand any old paint or varnish off each piece. Sand until there is no sheen or paint left and the wood appears stripped and smooth. Use paint thinner or stripper to remove stubborn sections if needed. Wear a construction mask and/or safety glasses if you have issues with dust or aren’t sure what kind of chemicals are on the piece.
4. Remove all dust from the piece using a damp rag and let dry.
4. Pour paint into a tray and begin painting each side of your piece using long, THIN layers of strokes. Work slowly until you get the feel of creating a smooth, thin finish. Use wide brushes or rollers for broad sections and a small sponge brush for detail work.
5. Let each coat dry before you apply the next. Continue applying thin coats until the piece is sufficiently covered. If you get any globby sections of paint, use a sanding block to sand it down and repaint.
6. Reattach your new knobs or drawer pulls and voila!
How to Refinish a Dresser

1. If you use sanding blocks, put on a pair of rubber kitchen gloves so that you don’t wear off your fingertips. Ouch. Sanding takes a long time and is not very fun – think of it as a cheap stress reliever/arm workout and you may enjoy it more.
2. Resist the urge to just slap on paint. Painting in thin coats is worth the extra time and labor. I’m talking coats you can see through, which may require like 10-15 coats total. This may take awhile and you may only be able to paint a few coats at a time. However, comparing the bed I refinished (done first) and the dresser (second), spending the extra time on thin coats made the dresser look much more professional.
3. Don’t use a bristled paintbrush. Sponges or rollers deliver a more even, less streaky finish.

PS: I recently inherited a fab old chair from my grandparents…watch for my first upholstery project later this summer!



Filed under DIY