How to Refinish a Dresser in 3 Steps

How to Refinish a Dresser in 3 Steps

Have you been considering tossing your current dresser due to scratches, dings, or other damage? Or have you stumbled across the perfect piece for your bedroom at a garage sale or thrift store only to leave it behind because pink camouflage doesn’t really compliment your home’s current color scheme?

Maybe it’s something as simple to solve as missing hardware or even minor water damage caused by a carelessly placed cup. Whatever the case may be—before you decide to trash, pass, or buy something new—consider transforming your diamond-in-the-rough into the dresser of your dreams with these three easy-to-follow steps.

Before you begin you’ll need the following supplies.

  1. Drop cloth/tarp
  2. Dust mask
  3. Screwdriver (check and see what type of screws your hardware uses to determine the type of screwdriver you’ll need)
  4. Coarse, medium-grit, and fine sandpaper (consider a power sander if the piece is very large or you want to speed up the process)
  5. Paint/stain/wax etc. and applicators depending on the way you’d like your finished product to look.
  6. New hardware (handles/knobs/pulls) if desired
  1. Remove existing hardware and drawers

The first thing you need to do when tackling this fun task is to prepare your piece for the refinishing process. Start by removing the drawers and the existing hardware. Make sure to place any small pieces you remove into a container, and set them aside so they won’t get lost.

  1. Remove existing finish

Now let’s get to work. Lay down the drop cloth, and place the dresser on it. Put on your dust mask and use the coarse sandpaper to start removing any existing finish. Sand every surface—including drawers, corners, and hard-to-reach places—until you expose bare wood, or get as close as you can.*

At this point, if you’ve decided to use a stain or simply want a silkier surface, switch to the medium-grade sandpaper, then your fine grade, and sand until all exposed surface areas are completely smooth. Wipe down the dresser and drawers with a cloth to make sure every surface is free of dust. This is also a good time to break out the vacuum cleaner if you have one. You don’t want particles floating around while you apply your finish.

*If the existing paint or stain seems impossible to remove no matter how much sanding you’ve attempted, you might need to try using a chemical paint-and-varnish stripper. If this is the case, make sure you keep your workspace well-ventilated and follow all the products directions and safety instructions.

  1. Apply a new finish

Finally, it’s time to give your piece of furniture its new face. If you haven’t decided what medium you would like to use, consider the following:

  1. Paint is easy to apply and allows you to match the color of your dresser perfectly to your existing décor—however, it can take away the character of your piece by hiding the natural grain of the wood
  2. Stain is a classic option that allows you to see the beautiful wood grain of your dresser and is also offered in many of colors that make coordinating with your existing furniture a cinch—but it’s less forgiving if you make mistakes during application
  3. Wax allows you to show off the natural beauty of your refinished piece, but it can be a time-consuming process depending on the number of coats you apply and how long you spend buffing

Whether you choose to paint, stain, wax, or utilize some other creative finishing technique, take your time and pay attention to the details. Apply as many coats as needed to achieve the look you want—and make sure you allow each coat to dry before applying the next one!

After your finish has completely dried, remount or replace any missing or removed hardware, return the drawers to the dresser, and admire the results of all your hard work. You may not have made the dresser from scratch, but you definitely made it your own!

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