How to Refurbish Old Dresser to Make it Look Like New


Do you have an old dresser that’s still in good condition and is still usable but is no longer good to look at? That’s a natural occurrence because things get worn out eventually – but that doesn’t mean that you need to throw it out.

Furniture like dressers can be quite expensive. And if it’s your favorite dresser, I just know you want to save it, if you can. So I am telling you right now – yes, you can!

With a little work, you can give new life to an old dresser. In fact, it can look like new again. It basically involves repainting and changing a few things here and there.

Preparing for the Work

Refurbishing an old dresser is easy, but it can be quite messy. So, look for a particular area in your house where you can make a mess and clean the place up easily – like the garage (or if you have a workstation).

So first of all, prepare all the things you need for the job:

  • Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Sandpaper or Power Sander
  • Poly Finish or Varnish
  • Stain (optional)

Also, make sure that you are properly protected for the task at hand. So have these too:

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Dust Mask

Removing Old Paint is a Must

You can’t simply paint over an old paint if the old finish is already damaged or worn out. This is the hardest part of the process of refurbishing an old furniture – you’ll have to remove the old finish first. It’s actually the most important part of the job too, because the quality of your work will greatly depend on it. Do this part carelessly and you’ll end up with uneven surfaces, rough finish, and a really messy work.

First and foremost, get a sandpaper or a power tool (a sander) to remove all the old layers of paint on your dresser. For the really hard to reach areas, you can use a steel wool to get the old coating from the surfaces.

When I first tried to give an old dresser a new life through repainting, I didn’t realize how important it is to remove the old paint. Somehow, I thought the new coating will fix everything and hide everything. But even little imperfections can make an otherwise great project look mediocre.

So now I really devote a lot of time in getting all the old paint and finish from an old furniture before I begin repainting it. When you do this part of the job, keep in mind that the closer you get to the base material of the furniture, the better.

And finally, when you have scraped off everything smoothly, wipe it with a clean cloth (damp) to remove all the dust from the surfaces. You will need to allow it to completely dry, however, before you can start painting it.

The Actual Painting

You can use flat or matte paint when refurbishing an old drawer. You can even have paints custom mixed these days, so you can really go for the color that you like.

I actually like the painting part of any project. I am reminded of my childhood days – I really enjoyed my coloring books back then.

Anyway, make sure that you get a good quality brush too. The cheap kind of paint brush can get easily deformed and affect your performance. And the bristles can get detached too, and you’ll have to get them off the painted surface. I really hate it when this happens because it ruins my work and its additional effort to keep on having to remove falling bristles from my project.

Another thing to remember is that the surface should be completely dry before adding another coat of paint. So read the product label of the paint to find out how long it takes to completely dry up. Also, consider the weather because a humid atmosphere will delay the drying up process.

To play it safe, allow about 24 hours for the coating to completely dry up. For this part of the job, you need to be patient because painting on a wet surface can make the end result look rough and bumpy. The first coating might even stick to your paint brush and come off when you pass over it – now, that would be a big problem because you will need to re-work on that particular area again (and affect the whole project).

As for the number of layers of paint, I would suggest 2 to 3 coatings. Most of the time, I am ok with just 2 coatings. But if I want the color to become darker, I add another coat of paint.

For the last part of the refurbishing process, apply a coating of finish – either poly finish or varnish. If you’re going for a poly finish, you’ll need to use polyurethane. It comes in flat or glossy finishes.

Varnish is a more common type of finish and very easy to apply too. It also gives your dresser a more traditional looking finish. This is an old dresser that has been repainted to look like new again. Do you like it? I am so proud of it!

This is an old dresser that has been repainted to look like new again. Do you like it? I am so proud of it!

Looking for handles that would look good on my "new" dresser was a challenge. The choices were many, as you can see. But I believe I ended up with the best style for my particular project.

Looking for handles that would look good on my “new” dresser was a challenge. The choices were many, as you can see. But I believe I ended up with the best style for my particular project.

Should You Go for Staining?

Your other option, aside from painting, is staining. Coloring agents can also change the color, shade and appearance of wood. If your dresser is made of really nice wood (like mahogany), you might want to capitalize on its natural beauty.

Stains can highlight the grain on wood surfaces and naturally enhance the design of the wood. For the stain product, you can get a polyurethane mix from your local hardware store.

To make sure that you really like the stain you got, test it on a small inconspicuous area of the dresser first. This way, you’ll get an idea of how it will actually look like once you use it for the entire furniture.

Make sure that you mix the stain well before application. Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to blend and apply it, especially if it’s your first time to use the product.

It’s really easy to apply stain, just brush on lightly on the surface and go for even strokes. With this type of finish, you can actually get away with just one coating, especially if you were able to apply it evenly the first time. You can also apply 2 coats if you want to go for a darker shade.

Again, don’t forget to use a paintbrush with really good (high quality) bristles. You also need to follow the direction of the grain to achieve the best results.

The Final Touch… Changing Drawer Handles

You can really transform the look of your old dresser by changing all the knobs and handles into something new. You have lots of choices for this, it can actually get overwhelming (LOL).

I like this part of the job because I get to look for handles and knobs that will look great on a “new” drawer. There are antique looking and modern looking handles and even ordinary looking ones (if you want that). These are reasonably priced too.

Refurbishing old furniture is actually one of my favorite DIY projects because I can give new life to old useful things. It’s a labor of love and I just love it!

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