Jack’s Dresser, Part 1: A Hot Mess

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  April 18, 2012 — 8 Comments

This weekend I got started on tackling the $25 dresser I got for Jack’s room. Very exciting! I knew this baby would need a lot of work, so I set a manageable goal of just getting it ready for paint.


Step 1: Remove the drawers to see what I’m working with. I vacuumed and wiped out the inside of each drawer, then took a gander at the inside of the dresser itself.

DANG this thing was dirty. Paper and trash was shoved into the corners and a thin layer of dust covered every surface. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a little extra surprise mixed in with the trash…

OMG, feathers!!! There were BIRDS living in this dresser! I was officially disgusted. I vacuumed it all out and wiped down the whole thing, but the citrus wood cleaner I was using didn’t seem to pack the disinfecting power I was looking for. I didn’t really want to use anything stronger, so I decided right then that I would paint the inside to cover up all evidence of its former life as a bird habitat. But that’s another project for another day. Back to prep work! I gave the whole exterior a quick pass with a sanding block to rough it up and smooth any messed up areas.

I actually was able to peel the paint off of the entire top. It started with just a little bubble, then I realized that I could use a flathead screwdriver to scrape up a little bit of the edge and peel off a big ‘ol piece. It was oddly therapeutic, pulling the paint off one 6-18 inch chunk at a time.

Once the whole top was paint-free, I applied wood filler to all the spots that were dinged, scraped, or dented. I haven’t really worked with wood filler before, since I usually just slap some flat paint on a piece of furniture and chalk any imperfections up to character, but I decided to use semi-gloss paint on this piece (wipeability seemed like an important quality for something that will double as a changing table). The higher the gloss, the more imperfections stand out, so I decided to take a few extra steps for a smoother look this time.

After the wood filler dried I sanded it down. See how it filled in the dents?

The bottoms on each side were the worst. The veneer was cracked and peeling. I peeled off what seemed unsalvageable and glued down the rest, then slapped some wood filler over the whole area.

Since I’d laid it on pretty thick, I let it dry overnight, then came back the next day to sand it smooth. I propped the edge of the dresser up on a small paint can to make it easier, but it was still a weird angle for my wrists. I ended up having to add a little more and sand again, but since the touch-ups were in thinner layers I only had to wait 15-30 minutes before sanding.

Eventually I had a pretty smooth canvas to later paint. It’s not perfect, but it’s a vast improvement over the warped and cracked veneer I started with.

After all that sanding I wiped down the entire exterior with a damp cloth. I even removed the knobs and pulls so that I could thoroughly clean the drawer fronts. And with that, this baby was ready for Phase 2: Paint! I already started painting the inside and, let me tell you, I’m realizing why I was always too lazy to paint the insides before. It’s a giant pain. Once I get the second coat on I promise to show you pictures. I gotta tell ya, I’m kind of nervous about the top after seeing all that paint peel off so easily. I’m thinking of doing something I almost never do–using primer. Ugh. I hate primer. I don’t even have any on hand. I’d have to make a special trip to the store just to get it. So inconvenient! Maybe I could just slap on a coat of some old flat paint I have lying around and that would do the trick just as well?

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


8 responses to Jack’s Dresser, Part 1: A Hot Mess

  1. Man, you sure picked a mess of a dresser! No good…

  2. I picked up an old dresser off the side of the road once that was pretty much in the same condition as Jack’s (sides peeling off, etc.) and to remedy the top from getting scratched/paint peeling, I got a 3/4″ sheet of glass cut to size. It’s much easier to clean and dust and I’ve even put a few keepsakes underneath the glass. This could be an option for you (unless you plan to use this as Jack’s changing table).

    Also, if you do choose to go the primer route, it does come in a spray paint can–quick/easy/cheap/no fuss. ‘Nuff said :)

    Good Luck!

  3. Also, avoiding oil based primer will help ease the process (if you opt to use primer). Our nightmare-ish experience with primer at the apartment was definitely made exponentially worse by using oil based. I avoid that stuff like the plague now, haha.

  4. Maybe instead of glass you could use plexiglass and fasten it down ;)
    I like the keepsakes idea for underneath too.

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