Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Refinishing a Melamine Changing Table

Yep, another baby post.  This one isn't a craft though, this one is a furniture makeover...more up my ally than the rest of the posts.

Our friends know that my hobby is to build things, so they asked if I'd make them a changing table.  With my complete lack of any free time with the holidays and Chris's school, and my funds running rather short with those two as well, I did the next best thing...I found one on Craigslist and re-did it for them.

Their requests were that the changing table had drawers, not shelves, and that it be coffee colored.  I scoured craigslist for FOREVER trying to find a wood changing table that I could refinish.  I finally found one that looked like it would fit the requirements, with one slight problem.  I found it on the craigslist where my parents live.  I called my T. Mom and asked if she wouldn't mind going to check it out, and if it was wood and looked good, to go ahead and get it for me.  I'm lucky I have nice and helpful parents, I know.

When they came over the weekend of November 12th, they brought it with them so I'd have time to work on refinishing it.  My initial plan was to try to get it ALL done Thanksgiving day, which was an absolutely dumb idea and there's no way it would've worked out.  Thank goodness they're smarter than I am and brought it on over.

Do you see the problem with this furniture makeover yet?  It's not really all wood like I'd build with.  It's the melamine / particle board finish that a lot of furniture is made with, but that isn't all that easy to refinish.  Oiy.

First, I attempted to sand, and then re-stain this.  I knew it wasn't going to work, but I still wanted to try.  I used 150 grit sandpaper just to lightly sand the surface and then stained a small section along the back.  You can actually see that in the first picture.  Unfortunately, my intuitions were right, and all of the stained rubbed off really easily.

Time for plan B.  Gel Stain.  I've used Gel Stain before on my front door.  My Dad actually suggested that we use it when I wanted to go for the stained look, but my door was fiberglass (or so I thought, under like 300 layers of paint, it really was wood, but that's another story in and of itself).

Gel Stain will stick to a lot of surfaces, melamine included.

There are a few downsides though.

  • It's really hard to get a completely even finish.  You can go super slow and think that you have a super even coat, and it still will dry a little uneven.  It's unfortunate, but it's a reality.  Check your "it's got to be perfect" hat at the door.
  • It takes FOREVER to dry.  The container says 6-8 hours before a recoat, and 24 hours dry time I think.  Mine took more like 48 hours.  If you touch it or attempt to do anything with this piece inside of that time, you will leave streaks on it.  I do live in Florida, so I do realize that humidity and temperature play a part here, but still be very cautious on this.
  • You need to work relatively quickly in sections.  You can go over your previous brush stroke, but you've got at max a 5 minute window before you just start smearing the gel.  This plays into the hard to get an even finish qualm as well.
  • Your color options are limited.  My Home Depot had a light wood, a cherry wood, and a brown wood color and that was it.
  • It is significantly more expensive than a can of regular stain.
So again, the huge benefit is that you can get the stained wood look that you want on a less than ideal surface, but it is a wee bit of a pain.

I don't have step by step pictures of this one...I did this whole thing over the course of a week and a half.  I finished up on Monday putting my 2nd coat of polyurethane on it.  Whew...just in time to let it dry before heading over for the holidays.

I got these cute knobs at Anthropology.  Obviously, the pink wasn't gonna work with the baby boy they're having!

Here's a close up of the knobs in action :

I actually didn't tighten the knobs all the way...we have to take it over for the shower, so we might need to remove them then, and I didn't want them to struggle with trying to get them off when they try to transport this beast home.  So, ignore the slightly crooked knobs please!

Here's the finished product :

I'll end on one last picture of my diaper cake standing where it'll go for the shower.  One of the diaper babies is going to go on the changing table here as well, but positioning those babies can be semi time consuming, so you'll have to wait until baby shower pictures to get the full effect.

I really hope the Mom and Dad to be like it!!

ONE more day till Thanksgiving!!!  Woo Hoo!!
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  1. It looks awesome! I would have stopped trying as soon as the word melamine came up. That stuff is tough to work with.

    I'm in New York where the weather is totally unpredictable as far as temperature and humidity are concerned from one year to the next. One summer I scraped 4 or 5 layers of paint and stain from an old desk. What was to be a couple of days project took two weeks! It was a humid, humid year. Drying time between stain coats and the final poly finish were FOREVER.

    Hat's off for not just working with melamine, but having the changing table come out looking fantastic.

  2. You never do anything the easy way, but it sure looks like a different table all together... and in a very good way! Kudos for getting it all done along with all the other tasks you've been busy with.

  3. Love the knobs! ;-) I have to say that was a painful memory for me in Anthropolgy but it came out looking great!! I hope they love it!

  4. I hope you had great Thanksgiving and what a fabulous transformation!

    I also wanted to let you know that you won our giveaway! Please send us an e-mail at with the size you would like and your address!

  5. Looks AWESOME! Thanks so much for linking it up to gettin' crafty on hump day! :)

  6. Wow....what an impact that deep color has. That is definitely an heirloom piece....

    Take care,

  7. I like the color you picked. You did an amazing job.

  8. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

    Spray Gun


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