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How to Paint a Craigslist Dresser in 4 Easy Steps

I finally had it one day with our cluttered hallway. It was full of plastic bins, boxes of diapers, items destined for Goodwill, and all sorts of odds and ends stacked precariously. We knew that some day in the future we would make built-in cabinets, but for now it was screaming for some TLC. So I began looking on Craigslist for some possibilities.

Tip: Use a Craigslist mobile app – so helpful when you’re not at a computer.

Step 1: Choose your dresser
Using the app, I found several that suited my needs both aesthetically and size-wise. I was looking for something kid-friendly and streamlined, no knobs or funky carvings. Just basic. One in particular was priced just right at $20, and solid oak to boot! No particle board for me, thanks. Ironically, there were two of the same model of dresser for sale (see above photo). The other was selling for $195 (and in much better condition)!

Step 2: Clean & Sand
After bringing the dresser home and taking out all the drawers, we noticed some mouse droppings in a few of them. Alarming, but not a deal-breaker. I looked on the CDC website how to properly clean and disinfect the dresser, including making a homemade bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. It sucked, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Then came the sanding. I was expecting to do the work myself, since my husband wasn’t crazy about my plan, but he kindly offered to do the remaining work for me. He used a palm sander and gave it a good once-over. I recommend using a mask and eye protection. A benefit of this dresser’s flat, no frills style is that there aren’t any details that require special sanding.

Step 3: Prime
We have a huge 5 gallon container of primer left over from when we did our home addition last year. Some people skip this step, and that might be okay on rarely used pieces, but this will be a working dresser. If you don’t want to see chips in the paint the first time you use it, or anytime soon, then you need to prime. Tape off any areas you don’t want to paint, or when a crisp line is desired. Use a roller for ease of coverage, but have a paintbrush handy to swipe corners and other details. We decided to not paint the inner drawers, but I plan to use drawer liners. Once the primer is dry, give it a once over by hand with fine sandpaper (and maybe a sanding block).

Step 4: Paint
Because we were looking for a small budget solution, we decided to use the leftover paint from our bathroom – a medium gray semi-gloss with a bit of blue called “Still Creek”. Make sure to roll it on smooth and constantly check for drips. You can see from the photo that David had a little helper. I thought this might leave streaks on the drawer fronts, but it doesn’t as long as you roll over it while it is still wet. Chloe loved “helping” daddy.

Now that the painting is done, don’t rush to use the dresser until the paint is fully cured. The longer you wait, the harder the finish will be – up to two weeks. Otherwise you risk smudges and marks. I asked at Home Depot about a top coat, but he assured us that one wasn’t needed as long as we waited for it to fully cure.

Ta da! Here’s our dresser sitting in its new hallway spot. Soon it will have a framed wall display to go above it, but that project is still in the works. I hope to be able to share it soon. Until then, good luck and happy painting!

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