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How To Paint a Wood Dresser

Updated on July 22, 2012

Refinishing a Dresser

I believe furniture is one of the best areas to spend money on for the value because of all the use it gets over its lifetime. But, that doesn't mean that saving a bit of money by putting work into it isn't a good idea. Refinishing furniture is an inexpensive way of getting great furniture on a budget or it can be ideal for getting the perfect color. My top three reasons to refinish are

  1. Save money by purchasing used furniture
  2. Getting something old can be very stylish
  3. Getting the perfect color

Refinishing a Dresser

Our daughter has outgrown the changing table we currently use to store her close and my wife wanted to replace it with a dresser. In our room, we have my grandmother's old dresser from the 1940s. It's part solid wood and part laminate and still in pretty good shape. My wife purchased a new dresser for us and she wanted to get Lila a peacock blue dresser. So we decided to refinish our old dresser peacock blue for our daughter.

Refinishing a dresser requires a few tools to help make it easy. I'm a beginner at this, so if I can do it, pretty much anyone can.


  • Screwdriver or electric screwdriver
  • Automatic sander
  • Sandpaper
  • All purpose wood primer
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint roller
  • Paint stirring stick
  • Paint tray
  • Paint drop cloth

Remove the hardware from the dresser

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Remove the handles and feet

If there is any hardware on the dresser, the first step is to remove all of it and put it in a bag to reuse. I used an electric screwdriver and pulled off all the handles in this example. After the hardware is off, clean each draw and the entire dresser by wiping it down.

Sand the dresser

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Sanding the dresser

Preparing the dresser to refinish is one of the most important steps. I used 150 grain sandpaper and an electric sander to sand the entire dresser. I did the face of the drawers fist and then the body of the dresser. If the dresser is ornate, a dremel tool can be used to sand out all the grooves and engravings. I did the grooves by hand by folding the sandpaper in half and running it through all of them. For the big flat surfaces, the electric sander saves a ton of time and work. It's worth getting one of these for this type of work. The only downside is that it throws dust particles everywhere so my tip is to sand outside in a place where it doesn't matter if dust gets everywhere. Once done sanding, get an old towel and wipe off all the dust from the dresser.

Priming the Dresser

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Priming the dresser

When refinishing a dresser the two main options are to stain or paint the dresser. If staining, select the stain and apply it, however, if the plan is to paint the dresser, then a priming coat is recommended.

Get an all purpose primer. i selected 1-2-3 All Purpose Primer. Pour it into a pain tray and apply one coat evenly to the dresser.

Tools for this step

  • Primer
  • Paint tray
  • Brush and Roller (small roller)

I pour the primer into a paint tray and then I use the small roller for all the flat surfaces to apply the primer. This goes on easily and works well on the solid wood pieces and the laminate. After all the big flat pieces are rolled, I touch up with a brush and get all the places that a roller won't work for like the grooves and the feet. To prime the dresser and four drawers it took about thirty minutes to apply the primer and I gave it about an hour to dry on a hot day.

Painting the Dresser

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Applying the Paint

The first step is to select a paint color. My wife took a picture of the blue color she wanted to the paint store and had a gallon mixed up. To paint a dresser, two quarts is plenty of paint.

The tools needed for painting are the same as with priming. I get disposable paint trays, brushes and roller covers and throw them out when I'm finished, so I recommend two sets of each so one for priming and one for painting.

Pour the paint into the tray and roll the paint on the dresser evenly. Then touch up with a brush. Let the paint dry and then apply a second coat. If the roller and brush are placed in the freezer while the first coat dries, then they won't dry and can be used again for the second coat of paint.

After the second coat is dry, put the hardware (dresser handles in my case) back on, and I recommend getting a glass top for the dresser. Our glass top is on the way and there you have a refinished dresser that takes about six hours from start to finish.


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    • profile image

      SusieQ42 6 years ago

      I never heard of putting a paint brush in the freezer! I've refinished an antique trunk complete with the old picture inside. I've refinished our double doors on our Victorian style house (back in the 80's) when some crazy painted them orange. But all these years never heard of keeping the paint brush in the freezer! Great hub!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Paul, for this fantastic lesson. Very useful

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 6 years ago from Illinois

      Your dresser came out great. I love the color selection and the look it has of old and new combined.

      I recently refinished a wood kitchen table that had years of scuffs and damage from being wiped down. I decided to try staining it the original stain color after sanding it, but before staining it I also used a primer for staining. It made it so the stain absorbed evenly and I have to say it came out great. I then had a custom piece of glass cut for $100 to protect it and I think it looks better than it did even when it was new.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      I like projects like these but am too lazy most of the times. My boyfriend is no help either.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      I love the finished product; I've been wanting to do a couple of similar projects in my home and I'm too scared to start since I haven't done it before.

      By the way, I hope you don't mind me pointing out a typo but the first sentence in your second capsule reads funny (out loud, especially) because you have "close" instead of "clothes." ;)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Just keep in mind...refinishing antiques can irreparably harm their value!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      So by sanding you eliminated the need for stripper?

      I LOVE refinishing nice old solid wood furniture, but I HATE all strippers. Even the ones that are supposed to be "safe" irritate the lungs and the skin, and those don't work very well.

      I guess with mostly flat edges the sanding works fine. I always get lumped with some sort of finely carved thing that I have to use toothbrushes and everything else on - to get in little crevices and niches of design.

      I would refinish furniture for a living if I weren't certain that strippers were all carcinogenic to the max.

      In the Park Cites and places like that in Dallas, people just set things out on the curb that they'd paid thousands for ten years or so earlier, then someone comes along, picks it up, and sells it on craigslist :=\