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I'm trying to decide if my wife and I should buy some furniture new or buy an old piece and repaint it.

It's basically a large dresser + hutch (made of MDF) and is currently dark brown (we want to paint it white). From my understanding, we really only need to put primer over it (sanding appears to be optional but if we do must be very light) and then repaint it.

I'm a bit nervous because we haven't ever repainted anything but the price difference is ~1000.

Our main concern is whether or not it will look good but also, if the item is scratched, will the dark brown show through the white?

  • Welcome to Woodworking.stackexchange. – Ashlar Mar 5 '16 at 2:23
  • @easycheese: Any update on this? – Andrei Rînea Apr 2 '18 at 15:28
  • We ended up finding a used white one actually – easycheese Apr 2 '18 at 15:50
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MDF is not a very durable material as a finished surface and will not resist scratches well. The only protection you have will be the surface you apply to it. Paint will generally protect it from general water damage and the light wear and tear of everyday life, but not heavy wear or abuse, and not for a long time. MDF is dark brown in color so any scratches will be visible. MDF is also vulnerable to heavy moisture or prolonged exposure to water, so keep that in mind in your decision. The good thing is you can recoat or touch it up if an area is marred. Wet areas will expand and you will have a hard time repairing such damage. Before painting, be sure to rough up the existing surface using a 320 grit or greater or steel wool. The idea is to provide a surface that the new paint can easily bond to. You will get a smoother, more uniform appearance if you can spray paint the furniture.

The other considerations you should include in your decision is how durable the pieces are. How well are parts like the drawers made and how long do you want the pieces to last? MDF is common in lower cost furniture that is not expected to last too long. As for will it look good... that is a question only you can answer.

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Perhaps an alternative. I use MDF for kid's projects, built in mudroom or pantry shelves, etc. where I expect many dings and dents. With a few coats of paint, it also cleans up well with soap and water. However, I'm partial to a good yard sale or estate sale where for 'pennies on the dollar' you can find great quality furniture that may only need a wipe down or a coat of Old English on high quality craftsmanship (e.g. dovetail drawers) and hardwood materials (e.g. oak, cedar, poplar). estatesales.net is my most recent favorite.

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    Sorry, it's a very particular piece that we can't find in the color we want. – easycheese Mar 5 '16 at 15:39
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An alternative to painting might be to apply plastic laminate (melamine or equivalent) to the surfaces. Or to build with melamine-surfaced particle board, available most places that sell MDF.

Caveat: both MDF and melamine board are heavy.

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