Ideas for Building a Bedroom Dresser


Building a bedroom dresser is a more complex project than many others and should be attempted only after success with several simpler do-it-yourself tasks. You need to know how to use power tools, build boxes with straight angles and how to prepare and attach lumber.

Although dressers can be very different from one another, all dressers should be designed with the following factors in mind: purpose, size, appearance and drawer mechanism.


  • Consider the purpose of your dresser. Do you want it to hold all your clothing, or just your socks and underwear? Do you want it to hold toys or office supplies? Will it go in a formal guest bedroom or into the nursery?

    The purpose will determine many facets of the other factors. For example, a dresser for all your clothes will be much larger than one for stationery. One to match your bedroom set will have a different appearance from one in your childrens' room.


  • When considering how big to make your dresser, first think about its location. For example, if you want it to go beneath a window, it shouldn't be taller than the bottom of the window frame. Once you know it will fit, then think about general dimensions within those guidelines.

    Generally, a dresser should be between 1 1/2 and 2 feet deep. Narrower drawers often fall out when pulled far enough to reach into. Deeper drawers mean losing stuff in the back.

    Also consider the width of each drawer. Some dressers are simply a vertical stack of drawers, each about as wide as the dresser, while others have multiple smaller drawers at each level. Although multiple drawer arrangements can be more convenient to use, they are substantially more complex than single drawer dressers.


  • The appearance of dressers varies widely. Think about how you want it to look before you even visit the hardware store. A dresser built to match your oak bedroom set will look very different from a colorful dresser for the kids' room. These differences will affect your choice of wood, paint and hardware like knobs and pulls.

Drawer Mechanism

  • There are three general mechanisms for dresser drawers.

    The simplest method is building a full shelf for each drawer, essentially building a bookcase with a shelf for each drawer. This makes a very sturdy dresser, although it will be quite heavy. This arrangement also makes for a lot of friction on the bottom of each drawer, thus making drawers harder to open.

    A second method is to attach 1/2-inch strips on the inside of the dresser, level with the opening of each drawer hole. For drawers 2 feet wide or wider, another inch-wide strip in the center is advisable. This arrangement makes drawers much easier to open and uses less wood, although the dresser will be somewhat less sturdy than the bookcase method.

    Finally, dozens of drawer hardware kits are available to buy. These arrangements use tongue-in-groove or wheel-and- runner systems that make for easy-opening drawers. Most are fairly easy to install, although they are more expensive than the other two mechanisms.

Construction Method

  • The actual method for building your dresser will vary substantially based on the choices you make. However, each method will follow these steps:

    1. Measure and cut the lumber for the front, back, top, bottom ad sides of the frame.
    2. Measure and cut the lumber for the drawers.
    3. Cut holes for the drawers in the front lumber.
    4. Prep the lumber by drilling screw holes, sanding and painting.
    5. Attach the top, bottom and sides of the frame together.
    6. Install the drawer mechanisms in the frame.
    7. Attach the back and front of the frame.
    8. Build the drawers.
    9. Insert the drawers, sanding and adjusting for a smooth fit.
    10. Add details like decoration and knobs.

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  • Mr. Stephen Rowland, Licensed Independent Contractor
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