Refinishing Furniture: Your Sweat Equity’s Highest ROI
Other than our mattress, this dresser is the only piece of furniture in our house that we actually purchased. We got it as a set with a matching dresser, for $40, from the son of a former coworker. After a weekend of sanding, painting, and using a little ingenuity to create my own hardware, I had the dresser of my dreams. We sold the other dresser in the set for $20, so after materials, my dream dresser cost was $40 total, plus about 20 hours of hands on work. I’m not going to go in-depth into how to sand and finish your gifted/thrifted/side of the road used furniture finds, there are hundreds of blogs out there that can help you with that, but I will give you a run down of my process for selecting and designing my furniture makeovers.
- Know what you’re looking for. A gorgeous piece of furniture might pop up on Craigslist or at your favorite thrift store, but if it’s not right for your house you will spend years moving it around trying to make it work (ask me how I know.) I had a general vision for my bedroom, and this inspiration photo from Pinterest to guide my dresser selection. Until the perfect dresser came around, we lived out of boxes. I knew I was looking for something long and low, with a lot of detailing in the trim. Try to stick to solid wood; particle board just isn’t worth the time investment.
- Make sure you have all the needed tools and materials before you get started. This article is a great place to start if you are planning to paint. For example for this project I needed a palm sander with 80 grit sandpaper, 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper to use by hand, high gloss white paint- both a quart can of latex interior paint and enamel finish spray paint, new small knobs for the little drawers, and a variety of copper plumbing pipe, fixtures, and cutting tools to make my oversized handles.
- Have a well ventilated and protected work space. This goes without saying, but figure out where you are going to work and how you are going to address air quality before you start working.
- If it’s a project that requires new hardware, really think about your options. New hardware can more than double your project cost, so consider painting existing hardware or trying a DIY project. For my recent bathroom project, I painted existing knobs instead of replacing and it saved over $50 compared to the (modestly priced) new knobs I was looking at. That being said, if you get a piece of furniture free or cheap, sometimes spending the money can really be worthwhile and bring your project to a new level. If you consider that most solid wood 6 drawer dressers cost upwards of $500, splurging $170 on the most beautiful hardware might turn your project from just okay to something that brings you joy each time you use it.
- Don’t rush. Do allllll the coats. When in doubt, sand and coat again. Do many thin coats of paint or finish. Resist the urge to do a thick coat that covers all at once; it won’t wear as well and it will take far longer to dry enough that you can sand it and keep working. It’s worth it to have a piece that can stand up to everyday use.
While 20 hours is a lot of time, now my dresser sits across from my bed, it is the first thing I look at when I get up each day, and each day I am proud of my work and enjoy the style and function it brings to my space. The return on my investment grows each day that I use and enjoy it.
Have you tried refinishing furniture? How did it go? I would love to hear any other tips and trick you’d like to share.