How to Make a Plank Top Dresser
Create a Farmhouse style dresser by adding weathered wood planks to the top! You can cover a damaged dresser top with it, without replacing the dresser top! Get this painted dresser with wood top look on your own dresser! Here’s how to make a plank top dresser!
Get more ideas for DIY Dresser Makeovers here!
If you’re looking to add a wood top to your dresser, you’ve come to the right place!
Let’s dive into how to DIY replace a dresser top with wood planks, without actually replacing the dresser top!
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How to Make a Wood Plank Top Dresser
Create a farmhouse style dresser by adding weathered wood planks to the top! You can cover a damaged dresser top with it, without replacing the dresser top! Here’s how to make a plank top dresser!
- Old Dresser
- 1" Common Boards
- Measuring Tape
- Pen / Pencil
- 220 Grit Sandpaper
- Nail Gun with 1 1/4" nails
- Wood Stain
- Polyurethane Topcoat
- Measure the top of the dresser.
- Measure and cut wood planks to fit.
- Line up wood and nail the boards in place.
That’s the simple version of it! Haha
Now let’s dig into each of those steps!
Step 1: Measure the Top of the Dresser
It’s pretty self-explanatory. You need to know the length and depth of the top of the dresser.
Now add 1 1/2” to the length and 3/4” to the depth. This will give you an overhang of 3/4” on each side, and no overhang on the back.
Step 2: Measure and Cut Wood Planks
If you have a table saw, this next step is super easy. If you don’t, you’ll need to do a little bit of math.
Divide the depth + 3/4” into however many wood planks you want on top.
*It really doesn’t matter how many wood planks you have, but I try to keep the amount and the size either really random, or symmetrical. Avoid doing 5 of one size and 1 of another completely different size.*
So if you need 20” of wood planks, and you want there to be 5 planks, then each piece of wood needs to be 4” wide.
If you aren’t familiar with wood, you might think you can just grab some 1” x 4” common boards and be set.
But those common boards don’t actually measure like their names suggest. A 1” x 4” board actually measures somewhere around .75” x 3.5”.
If you have a table saw:
With a table saw, you can easily rip each 1” x 6” board down to 4” wide or you could use (4) 1” x 6” boards ripped down to 5” each.
You can also get fancy and rip them into different widths so your plank top has a lot of character and dimension!
If you don’t have a table saw:
If you don’t have a table saw there is still hope! I used to put wood plank tops on dressers all the time before I had a table saw.
The trick is to find a combination that gets you close to what you need.
So in the 20” example (your dresser top is 19.25″ deep), you could use (4) 1″ x 4″ boards and (1) 1″ x 6″ board to reach 19.5″. You would have only a 1/4″ overhang instead of a 3/4″ overhang, but that’s perfectly fine!
I would place the 1″ x 4″ boards on the outside and the 1″x 6″ board in the middle.
Pick Straight Boards and Cut Them to Size
Once you figure out your layout, pick out straight boards (you can even lay them on the ground next to each other in the store to make sure they fit together nicely!)
Then cut each board down to the length that you need them (length of the dresser plus about 1 1/2″)
Make sure to sand each board down smooth with this 220 grit sandpaper, especially on the edges before moving onto the next step!
If you are working with reclaimed wood, make sure to sand it all down smooth!
Step 3: Line Up the Wood and Nail into Place
Lay your boards how you want them on the dresser top.
I like to start with the board in the back and line it up with the back of the top of the dresser.
Then I measure the overhang on each side to make sure the wood plank is centered.
Nail the Wood into Place!
Randomly nail the boards into the dresser top with a nailgun. I also like to add extra nails near the edge to make the wood plank top extra secure when someone lifts the whole dresser by the wood planks.
Then line the next wood plank up against the back wood plank.
Make sure there aren’t any major gaps between the wood planks. (You can use a few wood clamps to squish them together and hold them onto the dresser!)
Once it’s all lined up, nail that board into the dresser top.
I have this cheap brad nailer, with 1 1/4″ brad nails and a small air compressor that gets the job done!
Keep repeating the process until all of your boards are nailed to the top of your dresser.
Should I remove and replace the dresser top?
The old dresser top helps secure the wood planks on the dresser top. So it’s best not to remove it.
If the old top is really warped or badly damaged structurally, then you would want to replace the dresser top.
But if your top has some water damage or cosmetic damage, this is the perfect way to cover a damaged dresser top without having to replace the top.
Learn how to replace a dresser top here.
Also, I prefer to make a plank top dresser on a dresser that doesn’t have a super nice top, to begin with. This dresser, in particular, had an MDF top that was wrapped in wood veneer. So I wasn’t putting holes into a nice or expensive wood top.
What wood should I use for the wood plank top?
Typically I use 1″ common boards. They are cheap and easy to find.
These particular boards are reclaimed weathered wood planks from our friend’s basement remodel.
When is the best time to stain the wood?
It’s best to stain the wood planks before you attach them to the dresser. You don’t want the stain to get onto your dresser!
Make sure to stain the top and sides of each wood plank really well. You may end up seeing the sides of each wood plank in the gaps.
I also like to stain the bottom of each plank, just where the overhang area is. That way, when someone looks under the dresser, they will see all the wood is stained.
What stain did you use on this plank top dresser?
This stain is a homemade mixture of a water-based stain.
Did you know that you can make stain out of latex paint?
I only use it on wood planks, but I love it because it doesn’t have a strong smell like oil-based stain, it dries quickly, and cleanup is easy.
I just thin out brown latex paint to the consistency of stain. Then brush on the “stain” and wipe it off immediately.
You can still see the wood grain in the wood too, so it looks just like a stain!
I talked about this more in-depth here (about halfway down the post) and I used the same exact color.
When I do use an oil-based stain on dresser tops, I usually use this wood stain.
If I’m painting the dresser, when is the best time to attach the wood planks to the dresser top?
Make sure your dresser is completely painted and dry before turning it into a plank top dresser.
You don’t have to paint the top of the dresser ( I like to give it one coat, just in case you end up seeing it through the gaps), but make sure you paint the sides of the top as you will still see them.
How much overhang should I have on each side?
I like to have about 3/4″ of an overhang on each side and front. But really, anything goes. You can have it line up exactly with the dresser top, with no overhang, or you can have it overhang further if needed.
Every piece of furniture is different. Look at other furniture to see what size of overhang you like, and go with that!
Also, sometimes the overhang on the front is different than the overhang on the sides. That’s perfectly fine too!
How do I protect my plank top dresser?
Make sure to seal your wood planks with at least 3 coats of polyurethane.
I really like to use my favorite water-based poly (if you use oil-based stain, wait at least 48 hours before using water-based poly)!
Just brush it on, wait for it to dry, and apply at least 2 more coats.
Then be extra careful with it for at least 48 hours, and then careful for 30 days until it has completely cured.
Green Painted Dresser
Get all of the details on this Mid Century Modern Farmhouse Dresser Makeover in Olive Green, including the green furniture paint used here.
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