Antique Dresser Restoration Tips

14 Materials
$15
1 Week
Medium

This dresser was up for sale on my local marketplace website and he was looking for offers around $100 (Hell no) I offered him $20 because I wanted to try and restore it as my next DIY project, which was very ambitious. My Son said he would only offer a match to burn it as firewood.

antique dresser restoration tips

I knew it was in very bad shape but did not realise the extent until I got it home. Not one piece of wood was intact, they were either split or warped or missing. But I went ahead anyway.

antique dresser restoration tips

I started with the structure first if I could not fix that I would give up. All the sides had lifted away because they had dried out and got wet at some stage. I used a hand held steamer and steamed the wood multiple times clamping the wood to the base while it dried. Once the wood was hydrated I was able to glue it back down to the frame. I repeated this for both sides.

antique dresser restoration tips

The frame itself had also come apart as the wood dried out. I used wood glue and ratchet straps to pull it all back together while the glue dried. I did have a small gap in the wood which I filled using wood filler.

antique dresser restoration tips

The legs on the dresser were beyond repair. I used some old ones I had on my scrap pile that were from an old dresser I striped down. I am always on the look out for free furniture to strip down for spares for future projects which keeps my projects free or very cheap. To see how I get my DIY materials for FREE.

antique dresser restoration tips

I had to add a block of wood so that the legs had somewhere to be screwed into.

antique dresser restoration tips

The tops of the dresser were split in half and had water stains all over them. I steamed them multiple times to try and get the two pieces level. The tops were then glued back together and clamped while the glue dried. They did still have a slight warped but once they were glued and nailed to the frame using a nail gun they went flat. There was a very fine gap in places along the join which were filled with wood filler. Because I would be using a dark mahogany stain you would not see it.

antique dresser restoration tips

Every shelf was split in half and the gap was to big to repair. I made some new shelves using plywood and disguised the plywood edges by using veneer tape to make them look like solid wood.

antique dresser restoration tips

The drawers were all falling apart but they were easy to glue back together and the ratchet straps were used again to pull the drawer back together while the glue dried. I did varnish the inside at the end which made them look great. When I went to put the drawers back in to the frame they kept sticking and would not push in. It was like the wood was just to dry. I used some furniture wax along the inside of the frame and the sides of the drawers, and they slid in like butter.

antique dresser restoration tips

All the hardware on this dresser was rusted or missing. To remove all the rust I soaked the hardware on white vinegar for 24 hours and the rust just wiped off.

antique dresser restoration tips

The ones that were missing were replaced with ones I striped off old furniture. They were not the same but were close enough. Once all the rust was removed the hardware was dried and sprayed with WD40.

antique dresser restoration tips

I never paid much attention to the mirror because it was in the house for safe keeping and when I went to get it and saw all the damage my heart sunk. I was so close to the end and without a mirror it would be useless. I knew buying a new one was out of the question because of the expense of cutting the shape. So I tried to disguise some of the damage using mirror effect spray.

antique dresser restoration tips

I removed all the lifting mirror paint from the back and sprayed it with the mirror spray. You could still see the repair but it made the dresser sell able. The new owner could replace it if they wanted to.

antique dresser restoration tips

The frame for the mirror was water stained and falling apart. I glued it all back together and sanded down all the wood.

antique dresser restoration tips

I used dark mahogany stain and satin oil based varnish to finish it off. Due to limitations on this post for pictures lots of other tips can be found on my website.

antique dresser restoration tips

TA-DA and the dresser was restore back to it former glory. To see more great restorations check out this Captains chair or this leather top office desk.


There was no real cost to me for this project, the mirror spray was the only item I bought special for this project. The rest I had at home.

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Anita Moulpied Holland

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Tri1161625
    on Oct 18, 2018

    wonderful what breed is your puppy dog it made me smile.

  • Eun33582811
    on Oct 26, 2018

    The mirror looks great, how'd the big break come out? Surely not by using that spray. Beautiful job, kudos to you!

    • Anita Moulpied Holland
      on Oct 26, 2018

      It was no a break. It was the paint at the back that had peeled off. I used the spray to hide thw damage. It was by no means perfect, but hid enough to make the dresser useable and presentable. I took a close up at the bottom of my post on my website so you can see how the damage looked.

  • Judy Constance
    on Oct 26, 2018

    I was just wondering since you did so much work on that to make it so beautiful, did you intend to sell it? Or do you have a place for it in your home?

    • Teresa
      on Oct 30, 2018

      Such an amazing transformation! I don't think I would have gone thru so much and hoping you sold it for enough to get your time paid for! Wonderful job!

Join the conversation

4 of 172 comments
  • Anna
    15 hours ago

    That doggie is surely making that dresser look good ❤🐕. You did a great job! 🏆🏆

  • Geraldine Edwards
    12 hours ago

    You have restored it to a piece to be proud of. I was so affraid you were going to devalue it by applying chalk paint or decoupage . It has been a quality piece once and is now, again. May it last several more decades

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