How to refinish a chest of drawers

Written by cameron easey
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A chest of drawers, or dresser, is a piece of furniture with usually up to five drawers that are used to store clothing. Many people that have chestd of drawers often obtain them from a relative, such as a parent or grandparent. Some chests of drawers require refinishing because of age or a bad paint colour. To refinish a chest of drawers, first get the proper tools for the job.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Paint stripper
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Paintbrush
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Handheld sander
  • Sand paper
  • Vacuum
  • Polyurethane sealer

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  1. 1

    Check and see what type of stripper is needed for your piece of furniture. Use a cotton swap to first apply a small amount of denatured alcohol and then lacquer thinner to see which one dissolves the finish. If the finish does not dissolve with either, you'll need a liquid paint stripper

  2. 2

    Remove the hardware from the chest of drawers. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws that are securing the handles to each drawer.

  3. 3

    Strip off the old paint and finish from the chest of drawers. Apply the stripper to the chest of drawers using a paintbrush or spray bottle.

  4. 4

    Wait at least 10 to 20 minutes and then scrape the old finish off of the wood using a plastic scraper. Use a piece of steel wool to remove the old finish from corners or carved details.

  5. 5

    Sand the surfaces to make them smooth and remove any left over patches of paint. Use a handheld sander with low-grit sandpaper and lightly go over the entire chest of drawers.

  6. 6

    Clean off the chest of drawers to remove dust and other material using a vacuum.

  7. 7

    Apply the new stain or finish to the chest of drawers with a paintbrush. Remove excess stain with a cloth or rag.

  8. 8

    Apply polyurethane to the chest of drawers with a paintbrush to seal and protect the new finish.

Tips and warnings

  • The finish on the chest of drawers will begin to bubble after soon after the stripper has been applied
  • Many applications of stripper may be needed to completely remove the old finish from the chest of drawers.
  • Let the chemicals do all of the work to remove the finish.
  • The longer the stain stays on the wood before it is removed the darker the final colour will be.
  • Always wear proper protection when working with chemical strippers, which includes gloves, safety goggles and a face mask.
  • Scraping too hard to remove the old finish can damage the chest of drawers.

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