What Do I Need to Refinish a Dresser? – The Ultimate Checklist




Ever looked at your old dresser and thought, “This could look so much better”? That’s where the journey of refinishing a dresser begins.

Why do it, you ask? Well, it’s all about giving that piece a second chance, making it shine and fit perfectly with your current style. But seriously, what do I need to refinish a dresser? one might wonder. The answer’s simpler than you think.

What Do I Need to Refinish a Dresser

Refinish a Dresser

You’ll need some essential tools and materials – sandpaper, paint or stain, brushes, and maybe a primer. It’s about having the right stuff to strip the old away and bring in the new.  The process? Clean it, sand it down, slap on some primer if needed, and then get to the painting or staining.

It’s like giving your dresser a spa day, ending with a brand-new look. Throughout this guide, we will reveal “What do I need to refinish a dresser?” So, keep reading!

Key Info –

  • Refinishing means making your old dresser look great again. It’s not just for show; it makes your dresser fit your room better and makes you happy.
  • To Refinish your dresser, grab some sandpaper, paint or stain, and brushes. If you’re really changing up the color, grab some primer too. These are your tools to get the job done.
  • To start the refinishing process, first, clean your dresser. Then, sand it down to get rid of the old finish. If you’re going for a big color change, use a primer. Finish by painting or staining.

Reason To Refinish Dresser

Refinished dresser before and after have different looks and effects that’s why many want to refinish their dresser. You may ask, How to refinish a painted dresser or what is the easiest way to paint a dresser? But before knowing all these, you need to know the reasons for refinishing a dresser. Those are:

Reason To Refinish Dresser

Brings New Life to Your Furniture

The dresser is a favorite piece of furniture for many. You can give your wood furniture pieces a new look again by refinishing your dresser. You can change its color or finish to match your home better. It’s a cool way to make old furniture stand out or fit in. This will cause be a reason to reface cabinet doors.

Increases Value

By refinishing your dresser, you can increase its value. After refinishing, your dresser will look better and will be worth more. However, if you’re thinking about selling your dresser, refinishing is important. It can make your furniture look just right for your place.

Lasts Longer

Refinishing your cabinet, dresser, or furniture means it will look good again and last longer. Your dresser won’t get damaged by water or other things due to its new finish. If you want your dresser to look then refinishing it is the easiest way to do so.

Saves Time and Money

When you search for How to refurbish a dresser with paint? The main purpose is to save money right? Cause you will need to spend a lot of time and money buying new furniture. But, through refinishing your dresser, you can save both. You can avoid the issue of picking out, buying, and setting up new stuff.

Environmentally Friendly

Refinishing your dresser is an environment-friendly option. It’s good for the planet. Thus, it leads to less waste because you’re using what you already have. It keeps furniture out of dumps and cuts down on the need to make new pieces.

Older Is Better

Old furniture is often made better than new stuff that might use cheap materials. You can enjoy the quality of your old dresser by refinishing it. Moreover, refinishing your dresser lets you enjoy a piece of history in a modern way.

What Do I Need To Refinish A Dresser?

Ok, I get the reasons but  what do you need to repaint a dresser? But before that, you need to know what is required for refinishing your dresser. To refinish your dresser, you need the following tools:

What Do I Need To Refinish A Dresser
  • Sandpaper (fine, medium, coarse): Start rough to get the old stuff off and finish smooth to make it nice.
  • Oscillating tool with a sanding thingy: This is like a power sander that helps you sand quickly and gets into all the tricky spots.
  • Cloth: You’ll need this to wipe off all the dust from sanding so it’s super clean before you paint or stain it.
  • Screwdriver: Use this to take off any handles or install knobs. It’s way easier to paint without them in the way.
  • Paint brushes: You’ll paint or stain with these. Get a couple of sizes for the big parts and the tiny edges.
  • Drop cloth: Lay this down first. It catches any mess you make, so you don’t ruin your floor.
  • Water-based pre-stain: This is like a primer for wood filler. It helps the stain look even and beautiful.
  • Pink water-based stain: This is your color. Water-based is less smelly and easier to clean up.
  • Stir sticks: You’ll mix your stain with these. 
  • Silver spray paint: This is for the knobs or handles. It makes them shiny and new.
  • Glitter spray paint: If you want a bit of sparkle, use this on top.
  • Painter’s tape: Stick this on any part you don’t want to get paint on. It keeps lines clean and sharp.

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On A Dresser?

So, now what kind of paint do I need to paint a dresser? Now you have a clear idea of refacing cabinets vs painting. So, it’s time to decide paint. Whatever your dresser style or color is, if you want to refinish your piece of furniture, there’s paint for you.

You need to choose what fits your vibe and how much work you want to put into prepping your dresser. Whether you’re using a paint sprayer or brushing by hand, each type of paint has its different benefits.

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On A Dresser

However, you can use any of the following types of paint on your dresser:

  • Latex Paint: Super common and easy to work with. It dries fast, and you can clean it up with just water. Moreover, it gives your dresser a nice, smooth look.
  • Chalk Paint: If you’re into that old-school, shabby chic vibe, chalk paint is your go-to. Many often ask, how to refinish a dresser with chalk paint?” Actually, this paint easily sticks to anything. Thus, you don’t need to sand your dresser before start painting
  • Milk Paint: All about that natural, eco-friendly life? Milk paint is for you. It gives your dresser a cool, matte finish but might need an extra product to help it stick to smoother surfaces.
  • Acrylic Paint: Great for when you’re adding details or if the dresser gets a lot of use. It’s thick, dries fast, and is really durable.
  • Mineral Paint: This stuff is tough and leaves a smooth, beautiful finish. You won’t even need a top coat.
  • Pigmented Poly: It is a paint and a protective layer all in one. Pigmented Poly paint keeps your dresser safe from scratches and stains. Moreover, it leaves a shiny finish on your old dresser.

How To Refinish The Dresser?

Gather everything you need. Great, now let’s start the process:

  • Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace.
  • Step 2: Remove Hardware and Clean Surfaces
  • Step 3: Strip the Old Finish (If Necessary)
  • Step 4: Apply Sanding Sealer
  • Step 5: Stain the Dresser
  • Step 6: Apply Finish
  • Step 7: Reassemble and Finish

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace.

Choose a well-ventilated area for your project, such as a garage or outdoor space, to avoid inhaling fumes. Lay down a drop cloth to protect the floor and nearby surfaces from stains and spills.

Gather all necessary tools and materials, including:

  • Drop cloth
  • Safety goggles
  • Respirator mask (if working with chemicals)
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • Heavy-duty cleaning solution (such as trisodium phosphate or TSP)
  • Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Wood stripper (if needed)
  • Stain
  • Polyurethane sealer
  • Clean rags or cloths

Step 2: Remove Hardware and Clean Surfaces

Start by removing all hardware from the dresser, including knobs, handles, and drawer pulls, using a screwdriver. Keep these pieces in a safe place for reattachment later.

Take out the drawers and set them aside.

Clean the dresser surfaces with a heavy-duty cleaning solution like trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove dirt, grease, and old finishes. Dilute the TSP according to the manufacturer’s instructions and wash all exterior surfaces. Allow them to dry completely.

Step 3: Strip the Old Finish (If Necessary)

Decide whether to use sanding or chemical stripping to remove the old finish. Sanding involves using medium-low-grit sandpaper to smooth out imperfections and remove the old finish. Alternatively, you can use a chemical stripper to dissolve the old finish.

If using a chemical stripper, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear appropriate safety gear, including goggles, gloves, and a respirator mask to protect yourself from fumes.

After removing the old finish, wipe down the surface with a clean rag to ensure it’s completely bare. If using a chemical stripper, lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper afterward to smooth out any remaining rough spots.

Step 4: Apply Sanding Sealer

Apply a sanding sealer to the dresser surfaces to help the wood absorb the stain evenly and reduce the number of finish coats needed. Shake the sealer container thoroughly and apply two thin coats using a small paintbrush. Wipe off any excess sealer with a clean cloth and let it dry completely.

Lightly sand the surfaces with medium-grit sandpaper in the direction of the grain and wipe them again with a clean cloth to remove any dust.

Step 5: Stain the Dresser

Choose a wood stain based on your desired color and the type of wood you’re working with. Oil-based stains penetrate the wood without raising the grain, while water-based stains offer easy cleanup.

Stir the stain thoroughly and apply it with a cloth or medium-sized paintbrush, working in the direction of the grain. Allow the stain to penetrate the wood and achieve the desired color.

Wipe off any excess stains with a clean cloth and let the dresser dry completely. Lightly sand between coats with fine-grit sandpaper if necessary to smooth out any rough spots.

Safety Warnings: Wear safety goggles, nitrile gloves, and a respirator mask when working with chemicals or sanding to protect yourself from fumes, splashes, and dust.

Step 6: Apply Finish

Once the stain has dried, apply a polyurethane sealer or clear varnish to protect the wood and give it a durable finish. Use a small paintbrush to apply a light coat of sealer evenly across the dresser surfaces. Avoid letting the sealer puddle or fill in decorative grooves.

Let the sealer dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions before lightly sanding it with fine-grit sandpaper and wiping it with a clean cloth. If desired, apply a second coat of sealer for added protection and shine.

Safety Warnings: Avoid working near open flames or extreme heat, as stripping chemicals and stains are highly flammable.

Step 7: Reassemble and Finish

Once the dresser surfaces have dried completely, reattach the hardware, including knobs, handles, and drawer pulls. Carefully reassemble the drawers and ensure that everything is sturdy and properly aligned. Your refinished dresser is now ready to use and enjoy!

What Is The Easiest Way To Paint A Dresser?

The easiest ways to paint a dresser are:

What Is The Easiest Way To Paint A Dresser

Sand the Existing Finish

If your dresser is already smooth or you’re using chalk paint, you might not need to sand it. But if it feels rough, use some grit sandpaper to refinish the dresser and to make it smooth. A power sander or electric sander can do this job quickly.

Clean the Dresser and Let It Dry

Before you start painting, make sure your dresser is clean. Your painting job can be difficult due to dust or dirt. You can easily wipe the dust or dirt with a damp paper towelAfter that, you should wait until it’s completely dry.

Roll on a Coat of Paint

Read the paint can for any special instructions. Chalk paint might need a little water to be just right. Use a roller for the big parts to avoid brush marks. Don’t forget to paint the drawer fronts for a uniform look across the entire dresser.

Trim With a Brush

You can’t reach every spot with a roller. Use a brush for the edges and detailed spots the roller can’t get to. Let the coat of paint dry fully. You might need up to three coats, depending on the paint.

Buff on a Wax Finish

If you’re using chalk paint, you might finish with a wax coat. Latex or oil-based paints usually don’t need this. Put on clear wax first, then add dark wax on the edges for depth. Buff it well to mix it in smoothly.

Reattach Your Hardware

The last step is putting the hardware back. You can use the old knobs to keep its original look. Or you can switch them out for new ones for a fresh look without drilling new holes.

How Much Does It Cost To Refinish A Dresser?

Are you willing to know how much you need to spend for refinishing your dresser. If yes, go through the table below. The cost of refinishing a dresser is almost the same as the cabinet refacing cost.

How Much Does It Cost To Refinish A Dresser

However, go through the cost details below:

Service Type Average Cost Range Notes 
Refinish, Restore or Paint$626 per dresser $335 – $918 Costs vary by item type and condition
Minimal Work (Lowest Cost)Lower than $100 ————For simple or small projects 
Extensive Work (Higher Cost)Over $1,000 ————-For complex or large projects 
Professional Refinisher Rate $40 – $100 per hour————-Cost depends on the project complexity

Tips And Tricks To Reduce The Cost Of Refinishing Dresser

To reduce the cost of refinishing your dresser, follow the easy tips and tricks below:

Assess the Dresser’s Needs

Look at your dresser closely. What does it need? Sometimes, a quick fix or a new coat of paint is enough. Knowing what to do helps you plan better and saves time and money.

Opt for DIY Refinishing

Doing the work yourself saves cash. There are easy guides online that can show you how to refinish your dresser. You probably have the essential tools already. Try a small test first to get the hang of it.

Smart Shopping for Supplies

Before you buy anything, compare prices. Check out different stores and online. You might find good deals, especially on stuff like paint that’s just got a dinged can but is still fine.

Reuse and Recycle Materials

See what you’ve got at home before buying new stuff. Maybe there’s leftover paint or fabric that you can use. This way, you save money, and it’s better for the planet.

Borrow or Rent Tools

You can borrow or rent tools to cut the cost of refinishing your dresser. Borrowing tools is cheaper than buying a tool you’ll only use once. But before borrowing or renting a tool, make sure you know how to use it safely.

Sell or Trade Unused Supplies

Got leftovers? Think about selling them or swapping them with someone who likes DIY projects, too. It’s an excellent way to get some money back and clean up your space.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I Paint Dresser Without Sanding?

Yes, you can. Use paint like chalk or milk paint that sticks without sanding. Clean it well first. A special liquid can also help the paint stick without sanding.

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On A Dresser?

Chalk paint is easy and looks cool with its matte finish. Acrylic paint is tough and good for dressers you use a lot. Oil-based paint takes time to dry but looks smooth. Latex paint is simple to use but might need something extra to make it last.

Do I Need Primer To Repaint A Dresser?

It depends on the dresser’s look and the paint. If it’s got stains or you’re changing the color a lot, primer can help hide the old look and make the new paint better.


We’re at the end of our guide on What do I need to refinish a dresser? Let’s sum up everything about refreshing your dresser. Fixing up a dresser isn’t just about making it look better. It’s about creating a piece that perfectly fits your style and room. You’ll need some straightforward tools like sandpaper, paint or stain, brushes, and maybe primer. Stay with the restore journey to get more info like this.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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