Being a Good Ju Ju vendor is a joy. Where else can you do what you love and meet lots of wonderful people in the process?
Occasionally, we will hear customers (typically a husband and wife), talking about a piece of furniture that we've repurposed, only to hear one of them (sorry guys, it's usually the husband) say, "We don't need to buy this -- I could do this!" We agree with them, with a gentle reminder to look closely at what such a project entails. And ladies, we won't talk about all those projects that our husbands start but never finish. So, in the interest of full disclosure, we'll take an example and see what it actually takes to 'do this.'
Let's look at a dresser renovation. Now, if you already have the dresser -- great!. If not, then searching through garage sales, estate sales, thrift shops, used furniture stores or Craigslist will take some time. Be sure to purchase good quality furniture, with sound drawer runners and no structural damage. Solid wood/wood veneer pieces will cost considerably more than those made of MDF (medium density fiberboard) or particle board.
If you plan on painting your dresser, then it's time for a trip to the hardware store. You will need paint $15-20), a paint brush ($5-10), some sort of topcoat/polycrylic ($15-20) and a foam brush ($1) for the topcoat. Before you paint, you might need to sand or degloss the original finish. Add to the list sandpaper in a variety of grits ($5-15) and/or a liquid sandpaper/deglosser product ($10-20), and tack cloth ($5) to remove any bits of sawdust or debris. All of the above implies doing things manually. You could invest in an electric sander or paint sprayer instead, which would cost more. Or, if you would like to use a chalk paint & wax technique rather than latex, that will add another $20 to your paint cost and $20-30 to your brush cost.
If you're utilizing a piece of furniture you already have, then your costs so far are in the $56-81 rangeIf not, add in the cost of your dresser. But wait. If you want to change the hardware or replace missing hardware, then add that in. Most good quality hardware runs between$5 and $10 per drawer/door. On a 9-drawer dresser that can add up. We won't include hardware in the above totals, but be sure to keep it in mind.
Now let's list the time involved in the project. You've spent at least an hour at the hardware store (not counting drive time). You get home, get your supplies laid out, and are ready to get started. Remove the hardware from the piece (15 minutes on average). Sanding/deglossing & wiping down (1 hour). Let's start painting. Depending on the size of your piece, allow at least 1 hour per coat. Most pieces take at least 2 coats, sometimes more. Allow for adequate drying time, sometimes up to 24 hours between coats in humid weather. If you want a distressed look, more sanding will take 15-30 minutes. Another wipe down with the tack cloth and you're ready for your topcoat. You'll need at least 2 coats (sometimes more) to achieve the desired finish. Each coat should take an hour. As with the paint, allow adequate drying time between coats. Reinstall your hardware and reassemble your piece. Looks great, doesn't it?
So how much time did it take, and what is your time worth per hour? A rough total of the above (not counting drying time) adds up to a minimum of 8 hours of hands-on work. At the current minimum wage of only $7.25 an hour, that's $58. Of course, a professional would charge more for their time, with a more professional-looking result.
Just in supplies and labor the costs are a minimum of $114 or more (depending on your actual supply list and labor cost). Be sure to add in the cost of the dresser itself and any hardware repair/replacement.
It can certainly be rewarding refinishing and repurposing your own furniture. There's nothing like the satisfaction of looking at a piece and saying, "I did that." However, if you're not the handy type, or don't have the time to devote, then a $200-300 dresser at Good Ju Ju doesn't look like such a bad deal!
By Mary Farley