What do you do with a boring, top heavy, old $25 dresser? Why turn it into 2 new and marvelous pieces, of course!
Like any mom of littles, we are always in desperate need of toy storage. But I wanted to make it low enough for the kids to use and safe from tip overs. I also needed a place to stack all of my sons puzzles. He loves puzzles and his collection is growing fast. I knew I wanted a shelf on top of the toy storage to separate the puzzles into different stacks. Sorting through one big stack was just frustrating and generally ended with all of the puzzles on the floor. (TODDLERS, am I right?)
We also needed to jazz up our powder room with a new vanity. We had a boring pedestal sink, but I wanted one of those powder rooms that people walk into and instantly love. I had spent hours looking for a vanity that would transform that room. The annoying thing about vanity shopping is that it is mostly online.
It’s too easy to make a cheaply built vanity look great in a picture. I didn’t want to spend $1000 and risk getting a rickety, poorly built vanity. Plus, all of the vanities I really liked were actually $1500 or more. Isn’t that always the way. I wanted to keep this remodel under $300, so I decided to build my own vanity.
I knew the $25 4-drawer dresser I found online could work perfectly for both of these projects. And it worked like a charm. So, let me tell you how you can cut a dresser in half to make 2 new pieces, like I did.
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Disclaimer: Make sure to always read the directions for any products or tools you use while building. Always check for square and double-check those measurements too. Read the full disclaimer.
Cut a Dresser in Half to Make 2 New Pieces – DIY Steps
I stripped all of the paint off with my ever trusty Citristrip. This stuff is great. Just brush on with an old paint brush and leave it on for an hour or two. It’s nice and thick, so it even sticks to vertical surfaces for you. And it doesn’t stink. In fact it smells like oranges. Who doesn’t love that?
After the Citristrip has done it’s magic, grab a putty knife and start scraping. Make sure to wear gloves while applying and scraping. You never want any chemicals to soak into your skin. Although, I need to get better at remembering that too. Must protect the skin, people! If the paint is thick, you may need to apply more stripper to the whole piece or just a few spots. Give it more time to bubble up, then scrape again.
After stripping, I decided to cut the dresser so that I could work on the pieces separately. I carefully measured the middle and marked it with pencil. Then used my circular saw to cut along the line. For this dresser makeover, the bottom would be used for toy storage. The top for the vanity.
Step Three – Rebuild the Bottom Half
The bottom half needed new supports along the edges to hold the new top. Luckily the dresser had vertical 1X2’s running along the corners from the base to the top of the dresser. I used my own 1X2’s to create the new top frame. I glued and nailed these into place. I also added screws to the corners (not in picture) for extra support when I lift the storage for moving. Once that was dry I was ready to add a top. I just used a scrap piece of 3/4″ plywood I had in the garage.
Step Four – Rebuild the Top Half
The vanity makeover needed a new base. I used 3/4″ plywood again. It was nailed and glued onto those vertical 1×2’s that ran each corner of the dresser. Depending on the style of your dresser, you can always add molding to frame out the bottom to hide any plywood that could be showing.
This piece also needed legs, of course. I wanted the vanity to be at a comfortable height for hand washing, but also needed enough space underneath to hide a stool for the toddler. I was tired of straddling his stool every time I needed to wash my hands. Plus, it just made the room feel cluttered with that stool without a home.
I measured the stool and the other sinks in the house to come up with a range of leg heights that would work. I headed off to Home Depot and bought the legs and mounting hardware I needed. These are simple to install. They just require some screws and a drill.
Cut a Dresser in Half to Make 2 New Pieces – Toy Storage Design Notes
My 3 year old son actually got to help design this piece. He picked the paint color I used on the top and the circular closet rods to use as posts for the shelf. I decided to leave most of the piece stained (Minwax Wood Finish in Jacobean). I feel like stained wood hides the constant nicks and dings my boys inflict on our furniture. Kidding, not kidding.
The top and shelf got kicked up with that beautiful blue my son picked (Valspar Project Perfect Spray Paint in Exotic Sea with Gloss Finish). I painted the shelf posts orange for some contrast and extra color (Krylon in Bauhaus Gold with Gloss Finish). Then I decided to add lighter blue stripes to the drawers to add a bit of color to the base (Behr in April Mist Latex Paint with Eggshell Finish). I used painters tape to mark out the stripes before painting.
After drying, everything was covered in 4 coats of my favorite matte polyurethane (Rust-oleum’s Ultimate Polyurethane). Matte is great for hiding those dings too. 4 coats seemed like a good idea for a piece that would take lots of abuse. 😉
I should have photographed how I attached the posts. It was pre-blog, so I didn’t think to photograph everything. But it’s actually pretty simple, I used little dowels. I drilled holes the size of the dowels into each end of the rods and to the shelf and toy storage top.
Then I put a bit of wood glue in each hole and pounded the dowels halfway into the rod with a hammer. Then I glued and hammered the rods into the toy storage top. Finally, I carefully used my body weight to press the shelf down on top of the rods, after adding glue, of course. And voila, adorable toy storage on the cheap.
Cut a Dresser in Half to Make 2 New Pieces – Vanity Design Notes
After everything was assembled, I stained (Minwax Wood Finish in Jacobean) the piece then added white stripes (Behr Latex in Polished Pearl) to the drawers to add a bit of character. I used 4 or 5 coats of matte polyurethane (Rust-oleum Ultimate Polyurethane) on this piece, too.
Now, all I needed to do was find the perfect sink. After hours of sweating over a decision that probably wasn’t important enough to take that much time, I found one I loved, the Jacuzzi Anna Farmhouse sink. When it arrived, I used the template that came with it to cut a hole in the vanity top and moved the vanity into place to test it out.
I instantly realized I had a problem. The raised sink threw off my previous measurements. The sink was so high it felt a bit awkward. Easy enough to fix. I just chopped about 2 1/2″ off the bottom of the vanity legs with my trusty Miter Saw. Easy, peasy.
We happened to be doing a kitchen remodel at this time. I had enough quartz to cover this vanity, so why not? The wood top looked gorgeous and would have worked, but my boys always drip water all over counter tops. The poly would have protected the wood, but you get a bit of a hazy spot underneath water that’s left too long. It dries out and looks normal shortly after wiping up, but who needs the stress, right.
The counter top, sink, and faucet (we had a new Moen faucet) were installed and ready to go. It all looked beautiful together. I am so happy with both of these pieces. Yea!
UPDATE: August 2018, This vanity has a brand new look with light grey chalk paint and beautiful bone drawer pulls. Stop by and see the updated vanity next.
So glad you stopped by to see How to Cut a Dresser in Half. Let me know if you have any questions. I’m always happy to help!
Looking for your next woodworking project? Check out my Chunky Leg Farmhouse Bench DIY.