Monday, August 1, 2011

How to give an old dresser a new look with spray paint

My first big project of the summer was inspired by the fact that I have no bathroom furniture aside from a sink, shower, and toilet (although I am not sure those are considered furniture). After browsing through some furniture websites I decided I was in no position to buy something new. I had a specific idea of what I wanted in mind so the idea to refurbish an old piece of furniture seemed like the best idea. I was a little hesitant about painting because I do not have a lot of experience with it and I am a bit of a perfectionist. The idea of drips and smears on the furniture makes me edgy. While surfing the internet for information I came across the idea of spray painting! This seemed brilliant to me because I did not have to work with brushes, the paint dries fast, and it is a cheap alternative to using canned paint. So now all I needed was the furniture. I found a great dresser on Craigslist for $30 and brought it to my good friend, who is a carpenter, for advice on how to start. And this is where I got all the good news....

First, the dresser was so old that the paint was probably lead based. This would require special gear to wear while sanding the dresser. Second the entire top of the dresser needed to be replaced due to damage. Awesome. Luckily I was talking to a carpenter who wanted to help with my project, happened to have a piece of wood on hand, and had all the tools to make it look almost exactly like the original top. Awesome!

Next I headed to Home Depot for supplies. There were several things I needed:
  • Lead mask (to make sure I do not breath in the lead while sanding, which makes it airborne)
  • Lead suit (covers me head to toe, literally.)
  • Plastic gloves (for lead poisoning prevention)
  • Sand paper (220 grit - a very fine grit to just scratch up the surface so the new paint sticks), I got a pack of 5 papers for about $4
  • Tack paper (way more handy than a damp cloth after sanding), I bought a couple because they are awesome!
  • Primer Spray Paint (I bought the red primer since I was painting the dresser red), I needed 3 cans.
  • Spray Paint - 4 cans covered the dresser.
  • Polycrylic or Polyurethane (some people say Polyurethane yellows over time so i bought the Miniwax Polycrylic, which also comes in a spray)
  • Spray paint handle (It is a plastic gun thing that clips on top of the spray bottle. It is a cheap and easy way to reduce finger fatigue. Laugh if you want but I was so glad I got one)
*I bought Rustoleum Spray Paint because that is all Home Depot carries. I was very happy with the results. Other people swear by Krylon but I have not tried that brand.

Total I spent about $60 on all the supplies. It was a bit more than expected because of the lead issue.
    Step 1. Remove hardware and separate the pieces of the furniture. Sometimes this is easier said than done. For me this meant pulling out all the drawers and removing all the little antique handles...without bending them.

    Step 2. Sand. By far the least interesting part of the project, especially when sweating in a plastic suit, mask, and gloves. People walking past seemed to walk a bit faster after glancing in my direction. Something about the hazmat suit scared them, I have no idea why. It took me an hour and a half to sand the whole dresser. I mostly did it to take of the previous sealant and sand down scratches and paint imperfections. I did not sand too much because I personally like the antique look.

    Step 3. Prime the wood.  This was my first time with spray paint so I first tried my stroke on some random wood pieces. I HIGHLY recommend this because spray painting takes some practice. You need to spray about 8 inches away from the wood. Too close and the paint will go on too thick and run. Too far away and the paint will not make it to the furniture. I would also recommend waiting for a non-windy day because the paint will be blown away while spraying. Also make sure to wear clothes you are not particularly fond of and be aware that you will get paint on your skin. I happened to go rafting with some friends the next day and I looked particularly funny with my red spray paint farmer tan. I even got paint in my hair which made me look like a ginger (not a bad thing, my mom would be proud).

    You will want to spray in even strokes that overlap. Make sure to start and stop your spray off the wood or it will splotch (a technical term). Here is a video to get the basic idea.

    Do not worry if after your first coat it looks stripey. This is normal. You will need a couple coats. Wait about 10 minutes in between coats. I used three coats of primer and eyeballed it so it looked covered. Here is my dresser primed and ready to go.

    Step 4. Paint. By this time you will be so excited to finally put color on your furniture! I know I was. Use the same technique as the primer and you will be thrilled with the results. I also used three coats for the paint. Do not be stingy about the paint because it will look weird if you have streaks. Here is my dresser all painted!

    Step 5. Polycrylic. This is a finisher to make the paint last longer. The bottle says to use three coats. I was a little annoyed because the Polycrylic kept sputtering on my furniture. Maybe painting this would be easier, but I kept with it and it worked out okay.

    Step 6. Hardware. I decided to spray paint the hardware an antique bronze-ish color to add some glamour to the piece. I had to sand the handles down first and then I washed and dried them before spraying.

    I had some keyholes on my dresser so I sprayed some paint into a dixie cup and hand painted the keyholes.

    Step 7. Put everything together and enjoy!


    1. I am very much pleased with the topic you have chose for. I enjoyed every little bit part of it.

    2. Thank you for sharing the knowledge and the tips. It is so helpful and informative. You can use elcometer to measure the thickness of your paint, so it will get better painting results. Anyways, would love to see more of your work.

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    3. Thank you for sharing your insights. It is very informative and helpful. I might use this as inspiration for my projects. Keep it up! I’m looking forward to your updates.

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