Planning for a baby means typically needing a changing table. We decided to start refurbishing a dresser rather than buy something new, and in the end it has served our family well for almost twp years and it’s about to come in handy again with the anticipated arrival of baby #2.
After much research, I decided that I wanted to find an inexpensive or free dresser to redo rather than buy a used changing table. (If you are new here, you should know that I am all about making more sustainable choices, so buying new is almost never an option for us).The reason I had to research it is because I wanted to be able to have a safe piece of furniture that my child would not ingest anything harmful if for some reason it got chewed on and I also did not want to inhale any bad fumes in trying to redo – especially while pregnant.
I set out to find something on craigslist for under $25. After weeks and maybe even months of looking for something that was wooden and not particle board or some other material, I finally stumbled upon a free one on the side of the road that was an 8-year-old little girl’s and therefore it was ugly and in sad shape on the outside… but was beauty to behold on the inside! After finding it, I proceeded to research my options for safe refinishing.
Here is what I found about safe paints and refurbishing a dresser
- If you must get an enamel because you like the finish better, then you need to read the labels carefully. What you are looking for is a water based enamel that dries to non-toxic. Interesting, huh?
- For walls in rooms or if you know that a piece of furniture will probably have to be redone again in the future, simply find a water based paint with no VOCs (zero VOC paint) (This means volatile organic compound and can be hazardous to developing lungs, or even fully developed respiratory systems for that matter). You can find a specific version of Olympic paint at Lowe’s or try Sherwin William’s Harmony or HGTV paint. If the color you want is a darker color, you will have to go with the HGTV paint. (I LOVE Sherwin Williams because they do color swatching and keep your colors on file!)
- I personally chose to paint my dresser with regular paint, knowing that it would probably chip and not be as durable as an enamel. I am ok with this because safety (to baby and myself) ranks much higher in my book than how something looks, but I know others want their furniture to look immaculate.
Supplies and materials purchased
- I used Sherwin Williams “chip it” program online to match the colors they had with what I wanted based on a photo. AWESOME tool. You should check it out!
- Purchased paint at the local SW store after much deliberation with the employees. I had to tell them I understood the paint I was buying was not necessarily for the job I was performing. (It’s great for walls, but can chip on furniture). And honestly we have now used this dresser for almost 2 years and there are no chips.
- Purchased 400, 300, and 120 grade sandpaper. (For rotary sander, dremmel multi-tool sander, and flat pieces)
I intended to paint the entire dresser blue, but as I uncovered the wood beneath the free curb-side dresser, I feel more and more in love with it. In fact, I thought about not painting it at all. But I still did because we decided the blue would provide some nice contrast. So I set out to paint all but the top part, but then wound up only painting the drawers because with an ocean-themed room, the dresser almost looked like a piece of driftwood!
Process of refurbishing a dresser
- Wearing a face mask, sand dresser down with 120 grade sand paper. This took both a rotary sander and the multi-tool. The multi-tool was very nice because I could get into edges and crevices easily. I chose this grade sand paper because it took off the varnish and all the paint, allowing us to get down to the beautiful wood. It also allowed us to smooth out some of the gashes that were in it.
- Wipe down dresser with a 1/2 and 1/2 vinegar and water mixture as well as vacuum up dust. (Don’t want the dust around while painting!)
- Mix up paint and with a sponge brush, apply a VERY THIN coat of paint. The wood will absorb this very easily and quickly, so no need to waste a lot of paint.
- Let dry and then lightly sand with 300 grade sand paper the rough spots of paint.
- Wipe off and vacuum up any paint flecks.
- Paint a normal layer of paint
- Let dry and then lightly sand with 400 grade sand paper to get rough edges sanded down
- Repeat as many times as you would like ( did 4 times to make sure that it was a very smooth and well-covered surface)
I did not seal it or anything like that because it defeated my purpose of refinishing it the way I had chosen and defeated the purpose of buying the paint that I did. Regardless, it has very smooth surfaces and I love it! Finally, I replaced the handles. Instead of buying handles, I made my own rope handles because it fit with the nautical theme. I had originally been a little bummed about the color because it wasn’t as navy as I would have liked, but ironically it matched a coat rack my husband purchased for me several years ago. Purely coincidence that it is ocean themed AND the same color because I had forgotten about it. We found a great (brand new) changing pad on craigslist and safely attached it, and viola! We had a beautiful solid wood dresser and changing station that cost us under $50 total. I learned SO much from this experience about safe paints and how to refurbish a dresser into a changing table like I wanted.
What projects have you done lately?
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!