The Two Day Turned Two Month Dresser Refinishing Project

by Kevin on June 12, 2008

My wife and I decided to refinish our white clothes dresser over her spring break this past March. We figured we would do it ourselves to save money and to enjoy the experience.

It’s the same dresser she had growing up and is in great shape. However it didn’t really go with our other brown furniture (night stands, primarily).

“We’ll sand it one day, and stain it the second day.”, she said.

“Sounds good. Let’s get supplies.”

Off to Lowe’s for a handheld power sander, sandpaper of various grit levels, wood stain, new drawer hardware, and a few sponge brushes.

We removed all of the clothing, stacking them along the big window in our bedroom. “This is going to be great”, we thought to ourselves as we took the drawers and dresser out separately. We set up our little workstations and set to getting the job done on the patio.

The sander worked fine — but boy, this was taking a while. Her parents had painted the dresser back in the day, and apparently put several high quality layers of clear coat on it. Followed by several layers of paint. Several. Oh joy.

This is going to take longer than two days…

Needless to say, our progress was quite depressing after one afternoon. We were exhausted and no where near finished. The white paint was coming off, but you could definitely still see it in the wood grain of the few drawers we were able to tackle. We hadn’t even gotten to the actual dresser yet. Our two day dresser refinishing project was going to take much longer than two days. Some would say we underestimated the task before us.

We put the dresser into the garage and stacked the drawers beside it. Busy during the week, we were forced to work on the project on our beloved weekends. Naturally other plans would interfere from time to time, so we didn’t even work on it every weekend.

Time seemed to drag on forever.

Weekend after weekend, my hatred grew for that dresser.

It was now just another thing on the never ending to do list. The difference between it and the other items on the list being that it actually was affecting our lives — our clothes were still piled up on the floor. I missed my clothes being in drawers. The mess made our bedroom seem out of alignment with the rest of our well kept house (not my doing, my wife is amazing).

All of the paint eventually came off (see photo above), and we were able to stain it. Even the staining wasn’t easy. Humidity is very high in our area, so we had to put on one stain and let it sit for two days before adding a second coat with a different color. Wait two more days, add clear coat. Wait two more days, add final clear coat.

Finally, after two months of primarily weekend-only work, we moved it back into our bedroom. You can see the end result to the right. We think it looks great!

What did we learn?

  • Know what you are getting into before you commit. We were uninformed on how long our task was truly going to take us. We paid for it in weeks of frustration.
  • Doing it yourself can save you money. All told we spent around $100 to $125 on refinishing the dresser plus time. A new dresser from a furniture store might have cost us $300-500.
  • Doing it yourself can be frustrating and rewarding. My wife noted that a lengthy project was much more her thing — and probably would not be fit for many guys. I was simply too impatient for a long, drawn out project. I wanted it fixed and done.

What about you? Have you ever refinished a piece of furniture, or underestimated the length of a project? Tell us about it in the comments!


Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet June 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

looks great!! I know what you mean about not realizing what you are getting into. I thought landscaping our backyard ourselves would take two weekends. LMAO!! It took 2 months of working on it every single day.

Philip June 14, 2008 at 8:01 pm

At least you did complete it, if it had not been that you needed it so badly back in your room, what are the odds that it would be done by now?

I know I have my stack of projects that are hey, this sounds like fun… the first day. The real problem is these projects have me go spend money on stuff for them, then never complete them, so money out for nothing.

Alison @ This Wasn't In The Plan June 15, 2008 at 8:54 pm

We had a similar experience with a dresser we found in front of a neighbor’s yard with a free sign, I’m glad we did it, but man it was a lot of work. And we had to paint it in the end instead of just staining it because after we removed all the paint, we noticed that one door was a different style wood and if we were to stain it, it’d need to be replaced. That would’ve turned into a year long project and probably a much more expensive one!

Like you, it did teach us to better realize the amount of work we are choosing to take on.

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