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Design Hacks: Creating Built-Ins from Dressers Like a Pro

Do you love the look of builtins but the thought of turning a pile of lumber into a builtin intimidates you? I am here to tell you, that it is not as difficult as you think if you create built-ins from dressers. If you have never done it before, it may be a journey and may feel scary and intimidating, but I promise if you follow my tips and tricks, it will not be as difficult as you think.

Tip #1 to create built-ins from dressers: Get a saw

You will need a saw. You can make a circular saw or jig saw work. They are much more cost effective. But if you have access to a miter saw and table saw also, they will make the job much easier.

Tip #2: Pre Made Dressers

Use premade dressers, then build/frame around it so that you do not have to build the drawers from scratch. You may need to put the dresser together, but it is much easier to put furniture together, than to build it from scratch.

For the built in drawers in my kids art closet I used THESE IKEA dressers. I got 2 of them, and put them together.

Tip #3: Remove Existing Baseboards

Where ever you are putting the builtins, remove the baseboards. This will allow your builtins to go all the way to the wall, so it looks like an extension of the wall. It will look like it was always there. I used my multi tool to cut the baseboard, then a box cutter and a crow bar to remove the base board.

Tip #4: Build a Base

The best tip to make it look built in, is to add baseboards to the front of it. Continue the baseboards on the wall next to the dresser to be in front of the dresser. To do this you will probably need to add a base to raise your dressers up. Otherwise the baseboard will probably run in front of the dresser making it so you cannot open it.

I used some 2×4’s and made a square, then added a couple pieces of wood in the middle to act as support. You then stack your dresser on top of that. Depending on how tall you baseboards are, you may need to add additional layers, or use smaller boards so the baseboards you add to the front of your dresser matches the existing baseboard AND fits the dresser.

Tip #5: Secure the dressers to the studs

This tip is 100% a safety thing. Obviously doing this helps the “built in” aspect, but it definitely is for safety. Locate the studs behind where the dressers will go and secure the dresser into the studs. If you are using multiple dressers, and they will be touching sides, you will also want to screw them together. Essentially you are connecting them together so they do not move.

Tip #6: Frame it out.

Now, depending on the width of your dresser, compared to the space you are working with, you may need to frame out the sides and between of the dressers. You want to make sure the built ins fill the space you are working with. You do not want there to be a random 2-3 inch gap between the sides of the dressers and the wall.

In my case, I decided to place the dressers so they touch the side walls and there was a gap between them. To close that gap off, I installed strips of wood to between the dressers, attaching it to each dresser, connecting them together. I then placed a nice piece of trim to those strips and it created a solid surface between the dressers. Be sure to set the strips back far enough so when you frame it out, the trim piece sits flush with the front of the dressers.

Tip 7: Don’t Skip the Finish Work

I think this is the part that seems to take the longest and feels monotonous, but gives the builtin ins a clean, professional look. This is where all the little mistakes disappear.

Caulk, wood fill, sand and prime. Caulk where ever 2 things meet at an angle, wood fill all the nail holes and the butt joints, sand it all down and prime.

Built-Ins from Dressers progress

Once all that is done, you are in the home stretch. Just paint it, add hardware, any decorations and you are done. Keep in mind, creating built-ins from dressers is not a quick or simple project. But its absolutely doable! Take breaks, plan out your steps and really put your heart into it and you will love it! I would love to hear about if you tried to create your own built ins.

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