Giving New Life to an Ugly, Broken Dresser

When we moved back to Idaho, the tenants who were renting our house left a dilapidated dresser. I almost threw it away, but in the end decided to refinish it. It was made out of real wood so I figured there was potential with the piece of furniture.

In preparing to have everyone over for our big New Year’s party, we repainted Rachel’s room, bought some new decorations, and refinished an old dresser and bookshelf. (You’ll recall I made Rachel’s sleigh bed for Christmas, so we had to finish making her room look good for the big event.) It was a busy week with lots of late nights, but the improvements to her room were worth it.

You wouldn’t believe how much the dresser changed. I only wish we had thought to take pictures of it beforehand. So instead of seeing photos, picture in your mind this: worn wood on the drawer fronts, missing knobs, a broken foot, a missing side panel, and a cracked top. If the word “ugly” came to mind, then you pictured our old dresser.

Here’s what I did to refinish the dresser.

  1. I first stripped the old finish off. I used paint stripper for the hard-to-reach areas, namely corners and groves. For everywhere else, the hand-held belt sander did the job. Removing the old finish probably only took about 2 hours.
  2. I cut a new side panel out of stronger material than the flimsy cardboard stuff that had broken. I used a 3/8″ piece of scrap plywood.
  3. I traced a pattern of the good food and then cut out an exact replica. I then glued and nailed the new foot on and hid the gap with spackle.
  4. I filled all other cracks or holes in with spackle.
  5. I painted the dresser white and the side panels pink.
  6. Finally, I attached new knobs.

Total refinish time was probably about 4 hours.

It really turned out cute. It looks just as good as what you see in expensive stores such as Pottery Barn. So without spending more than $5, I gave Rachel a new dresser that looks like it’s worth a couple hundred dollars.

If you ever see a dresser while garage sale shopping, first check to see if it’s made of wood. If it is, it might be an ideal candidate for a furniture restoration project. (If it’s constructed out of that junky composite stuff, just politely walk away.)


~ by Clearwater Hackle on January 3, 2008.

One Response to “Giving New Life to an Ugly, Broken Dresser”

  1. cool. I bet Rachel loves it.

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