This DIY Dresser to Hamper project transforms a thrifted dresser into a practical pull-out hamper. Photo and video tutorials show step-by-step process!
When I was in high school, my best friend was always one of those perfectly dressed people.
I was completely mystified by this, because her house was a hoarders-style mess, and I could not understand how she always put together the perfect outfit when on any given day a quarter of her closet was among the missing.
I mean, I knew where all of my clothes were, and I still struggled to look put-together.
A decade later, my friend now runs a very clean and organized house. I, on the other hand, have still not mastered dressing fashionably. It’s so bad that my friends once made me a “Should I Wear This?” flowchart. True story.
So, needless to say, if I’m to have any hope of looking presentable, I need an organized clothing system. Part 1: The Underbed Dresser Drawers, has already been completed. Part 2: Project Hamper, is what we’re talking about today.
I had grand dreams of a beautiful dresser-turned-hamper to go at the end of my bed. These dreams have come true, although I’m not sure I realized in advance how much work this project would be. To quote my dad: “Adding drawers to a pre-existing structure is no trivial matter.”
This hamper is A) time-consuming to make, B) a little dangerous, C) is not a beginner project and D) costs about $50 in materials. I’m going to break down each of these things a little more so that if you decide to do a similar project, you know exactly what you’re getting into.
This is not a quick project. In fact, I think I could build (from scratch) a similar structure faster than I reworked this one (although that route would be much more expensive – wood is not cheap.)
It took me a full day of work for each drawer-piece, a day to get the drawer slides figured out/strip the top/prep for painting, and a day to paint and finish the piece. It took four days of work total.
Additionally, when both drawers are in the open position, the weight of the dresser is not evenly distributed, and tends to tilt forward. This is unsafe, particularly if you have a child in the home.
It’s easily remedied by securing the back of the dresser to the wall, which I would 100% do if I had a child. But because I don’t have a child, and want to put the dresser in the middle of the room, I haven’t done this, and am just careful to only open one drawer at time.
Obviously, this is fine for my situation, but please be careful if you do a similar project.
I also want to be really clear that this is not a beginner project. Drawers are tricky, and adding drawers to an already existing structure involves a fair amount of troubleshooting.
While I’m going to do my best below to explain exactly what I did, I’ll probably end up brushing over details so this post isn’t overwhelming. I’ll also probably skip over the things I tried that didn’t work, because that happened too.
Finally, this project is either a bargain or time-consuming and pricey, depending on your perspective. It cost me $50 total – $25 for the dresser, $20 for the drawer slides, and $5 for drawer pulls I grabbed out of Menard’s clearance bin.
Everything else I used I already had around the house. This is a great price for a wooden dresser. This is not a great price for a hamper. You decide.
Note: This post is sponsored by Wagner SprayTech. All opinions are my own. Additionally, this blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)
Materials and Tools
- Thrifted Dresser
- Two Pairs of Drawer Slides
- Scrap 1/2″ Plywood
- Wood Glue
- Cabinet Pulls
- Assorted Saws – I used a jigsaw, miter saw, and table saw.
- Wagner Flexio 3000
- Paint and Primer of Choice – I used Zinsser’s Water-Based Primer, and Benjamin Moore’s Gentleman’s Gray Paint.
Part 1: Clearing the Center Supports
On arrival, this dresser had three drawers on each side. My ultimate goal was to have one big drawer on each side, so in order to make that work, I needed to remove all the dividers and supports that existed for the other drawers. I used my jigsaw to cut and remove these pieces.
Anything that was visible from the front of the dresser when the drawers were in place I set aside – I would need those pieces later. Everything from the inside of the dresser went into the scrap wood bin.
Part 2: Building the Hamper Drawers
I had two choices here; build the drawers from scratch, or extend one of the existing drawers to the top of the dresser. I went with the latter, primarily because it seemed easier (and used less materials) than building drawers from scratch.
I started by cutting some 1/2″ plywood that was the height of the drawer opening to act as the new structural drawer front. I used a 3/4″ scrap board for the sides, to add a little extra stability, but I think 1/2″ plywood would work too.
The sides and the front were connected by pocket hole screws and angle brackets
I used a single strip of 1/2″ plywood for the back. While I could’ve had the back piece span the entire back, I knew I was going to put liners in the hamper, so I figured this way would save material.
Once the primary drawer structure was done, I secured it to the original base drawer with countersunk screws.
(Fun side note: If you’re planning to replace the drawer pulls, make sure you’ve removed any drawer hardware before you do this step. The new structure blocks the old screws. Yes, I made this mistake, thanks for asking.)
Then I broke down the two remaining drawers of this side (by cutting the dovetail joints off with my jigsaw.) This allowed me to attach the drawer fronts to my plywood front. This will ultimately give the illusion that there are still three drawers on the dresser (even though it’s going to be one big hamper-drawer.)
I attached the drawer fronts to the plywood using wood glue and brad nails, then flipped the drawer over and added two screws from the back. I’ll also note that in addition to the drawer fronts, I also attached the dividers that I’d cut off from the dresser between the drawer fronts.
One more comment: the dresser came with the unique drawer front in the middle, but I decided after everything was done that it would look better on top.
So you’ll see the unique drawer front in the middle until the final photos, which were taken right after I switched the drawer fronts and reattached them correctly.
Part 3: The Drawer Slides
Once both drawers were built, I got to work adding them to the dresser. While the bottom part had a built-in wooden drawer mechanism, I didn’t anticipate this working smoothly when the hamper was full and pulled from the top handle. Therefore, I added drawer slides about 2/3 of the way up the dresser.
Since the sides of the dresser were not a level surface, I used a piece of scrap wood to bump out the side and provide a place to attach the drawer slide.
I did something similar in the middle of the dresser for the center slides.
Then I installed the drawer slides. There was some tweaking required to get everything to run smoothly (sanding, adjusting the slides, etc.) but after some patient work the drawers functioned.
Part 4: Painting the Hamper
Full disclosure: I actually did parts 4 and 5 simultaneously, which is why the pictures don’t match up. But since they’re really two different tasks, I decided to separate them into two parts.
Before painting, I wood filled all holes with wood filler, briefly sanded the piece, and covered up the top of the dresser with parchment paper because I wanted to stain that portion.
Note: This post is sponsored by Wagner SprayTech. All opinions are my own.
I used my brand new Wagner Flexio 3000 to prime and paint the hamper. This was my first time trying it, and boy do things go quickly. I was done painting in less than 10 minutes, compared a 45 minute job using a paintbrush.
I did an obsessive amount of reading before I started painting, but after I started I realized that wasn’t really necessary. The sprayer is super easy to use. And I love the finish it provides – plus I wasn’t even using the special detail attachment!
After 1 coat.
Part 5: Finishing the Top
I chose to stain the top a contrasting shade rather than paint it as well. To do this, I started by stripping the original finish off. I actually did this part before I painted, because I didn’t want to get the nasty stripping agent all over the fresh paint.
I don’t want to into detail on this process (there’s a full post on stripping furniture here,) but the general process is 1) apply stripping agent, 2) let sit for 30 minutes, 3) scrap stripping agent off, 4) scrub with mineral spirits, 5) sand until wood is bare.
Then I stained and finished the top. I used Minwax’s Cherry.
For more information on finishing wood, be sure to check out my Fabulously Finished Reference Bundle. If you’ve ever had projects become disasters during the stain and finish process, this is the guide for you!
This hamper was a ton of work… but I really like how it looks in the bedroom.
My room really needed something on that half of the space to balance it out, and the hamper is perfect!
Plus, before this was done I was using two laundry baskets on the floor as hampers. This is a much prettier solution.