Refurbished Particle Board Dresser Tutorial

Let me start by saying that everything about this refurb project was pretty much a disaster. Most of the process was incredibly frustrating and I don't recommend trying it without knowing what you're getting into (like me). I've now sworn off all laminate/particle board furniture, even though I'm sure I'll find another piece of free laminate furniture that is "worth refurbishing". (Note to self: it's not.) Also for those who don't want to read on, but are only interested in results and pictures, here you go:



I received this sad little dresser as a freebie from my sister-in-law, who's best friend had had it since childhood. When it was given to my sister-in-law it was painted white with ivy on it. For obvious reasons, she decided to lose the paint job and attempted to sand and stain it. The dresser is laminate particle board, so as you can probably guess, stain plus laminate do not a good pair make. On top of that, it was missing nearly half of its drawer pulls. So, of course, when my husband was helping my sister-in-law move and texted me to ask if I wanted it, I, like a fool, said yes.

If only I'd known...


I decided that I wanted to paint the dresser a rich gold tone, with an antique finish (like the Anthro dresser below) to give it a rustic look, without the typical distressed, chippy look.


I started off with a quart of Behr brand's premium plus interior paint in Midsummer Gold with an eggshell finish. I picked this up at the Home Depot for about 12 dollars I think, and by the time I finished (including trial and error) I had about a fourth of a quart leftover.


Everything after picking out my paint color was pretty much downhill. I've worked with furniture already coated in polyurethane, so you think I'd have learned my lesson on the importance of sanding and priming. But I'm an impatient person who is still growing and learning in this particular area, so I have to learn this lesson a few times over for it to stick (in this case, literally).

You see, I hate sanding. I loathe it. I will do anything I can to skip over sanding, even if it means my final product isn't totally perfect, which is saying a lot coming from a creative perfectionist. So my first mistake was in thinking that because my sister-in-law had sanded the dresser previously to stain it, that it was ok to paint it directly since it had kinda, sorta once been sanded. My second mistake was forgetting to care that the thing was laminate. This should have been a huge red flag at the beginning of the process, or even when I decided to take the thing home, but the dreamer in me only saw the beautiful gold dresser to come.


Two coats of paint later, I knew I had a problem when I could scratch and peel off a whole section of paint just with my fingernail. From there it was back to the store to pick up a putty knife, sanding sheets and primer.

Two hours of scraping later...


Once I had the dresser close to where it was before, I whipped out my sander (a Black & Decker Matrix with sander attachment), and went to town. I used a medium 120 grit sandpaper and went over everything just enough to rough it up so it wasn't smooth to the touch anymore. You don't want to sand it too hard or the particle board can actually start to split. My sander isn't very powerful, so this really wasn't too hard and didn't take very long.

Once I had it sanded down, it was time to prime. I used Kilz brand interior oil based spray on primer. I found this particular primer to be highly recommended by the pros, as it's extremely effective when working with laminate furniture. Plus at about $6 a can, it was definitely worth it for cutting down paint and dry time. I used about a can and a half of this stuff to cover my entire dresser and it was AMAZING! The whole process was so quick and it gave me a beautiful, clean slate that made me forget all of my past failures and the fact that my arm might, in fact, fall off at any moment from all the scraping and sanding.


The thing that makes this primer so perfect for laminate furniture is that you can actually feel the roughness of it once it's dried. It clings to the laminate and has tons of texture to help the paint stick. Once it dried (about an hour), I noticed the top was a little too rough, so I went over it again with my sander (still 120 grit). After wiping down all the sawdust, I was finally able to paint my first real coat.


The difference between that first coat and my original paint job was night and day. The paint stuck to the primer beautifully and the dresser actually looked yellow when I was finished! At this point, I'm feeling like I'm the best thing that ever happened to home improvement. Where is my HGTV show?? Martha Stewart ain't got nothin' on this!

I let that coat dry overnight (only because we went to bed, I'm not that patient, if my first attempt at painting this didn't indicate that to you). The next morning I went over the whole piece, looking for rough spots to sand out. These spots I sanded by hand, using a finer 220 grit sandpaper and sanding block.


By the second coat of paint I was almost giddy. It was gold! Gold I tell you! (This is the first time in this entire process that the dresser hasn't looked like a highlighter.)


I did a third and final coat for good measure, allowing each coat to dry overnight, about 24 hours in between each coat. My two day project has now turned into five days...

Next it was time for the antique glaze. I used Valspar's antiquing glaze in Asphaltum, available at Lowe's for about 9 dollars. I'd read a lot about the glaze and done my research, but I have to say I wasn't impressed with it. I think this strongly attributed to the wood type combined with the paint type, but it didn't stick or absorb the way all the tutorials described it to.


The basic concept of the glaze is that you paint it on lightly (a little goes a long way), let it dry for a few minutes, then rub it off. Magically, your furniture will be transformed into a chic, adorable vintage piece that will fool even your grandma into thinking it's from the 1920s.



I encountered either one of two problems: either all of the glaze would rub off, or none of it would rub off, prompting me to use a damp rag, which would rub everything off.


After spending nearly three hours glazing, rubbing and starting over, I finally got it to where I wanted it, though it wasn't what I expected or had envisioned.


After I let the glaze dry another 24 hours, I sealed it with a coat of satin polyurethane (Minwax brand), since at this point I didn't want all of my hard work to chip off from wear and tear. I really wanted to try a finishing wax, but since I've never used one I've read that it can be difficult to get the hang of, plus I was unsure about how well it would seal and protect my fragile paint job. And since I already had some extra poly from a previous project, I slapped it on there.

I then added these lovely knobs that I bought for half off at Hobby Lobby ($2 each). I think they're so pretty, and they remind me so much of Anthropologie!


And here is the finished dresser!



I wish I could say I absolutely loved the way this turned out. Don't get me wrong, I do like it, but there are a lot of things that weren't what I envisioned. The color is far too yellow for me, even though I still look at the paint sample and it's totally gold. The antique glaze is sort of black, making the dresser kind of look like it's covered in ashes, which I don't like. I wish it were more of a brown. And finally, I really hate the poly seal I put on it. It came out looking high gloss, which I think is a result of the paint, since it's very muted on the other piece of furniture I've used it on. So I hate the glossyness of it, which made it even difficult to take pictures of since it reflected light from almost every angle.



All in all, this was a cheap fix and easy alternative to buying a new dresser. It's not perfect, but it's beautiful and will hopefully fit our style for many years to come.

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