DIY projects sometimes aren’t worth the work. Refinishing Red’s toddler bed turned out to be one such undertaking. We snagged a sturdy bed off of Craigslist for $20. It was painted an ugly mousey brown, but we thought we’d just refinish it, give it a nice dark stain to match the other wood in the boys’ room. Silly us. We didn’t realize the amount of work it would take. Wait. That sounded like I actually did most of the work. I didn’t. Caveman did all the literal and figurative heavy lifting, so I asked if he would write a post describing the endeavor. Give him a warm welcome, folks! Here’s refinishing a toddler bed, from Caveman’s perspective.
Was stripping, sanding, and painting a used toddler bed worth it?
Time-wise and frustration: A definite NO.
This project started out due to Red graduating from the crib. He was getting too big for it, and we needed the crib for Number Two anyways. Where is the first place you turn to find cheap kids items? Craigslist.com. We found a toddler bed for $25 on CL and pretty much bought it on the spot for the negotiating price of $20. The picture on CL was totally different than the actual bed (they had painted it brown instead of factory white, as the ad showed). Apparently they forgot to mention that they had painted it since taking the picture; but that can be forgiven for the $5 off I received.
The general idea of the process was to strip the bed down to bare wood so we could stain it a dark brown to match the rest of the furniture in the boys’ room. I figured that we’d just strip the paint as well as we could and then sand the rest of the paint off. That sounds so much easier that it really was. We used Citristrip because it was the “green” option and doesn’t contain harsh caustic chemicals, but we weren’t impressed with performance. After about three hours of stripping the bed I had had it. The end result was mediocre at best—about half the paint was still on the wood. Once we realized that there were more than two coats of paint covering the bed, we gave up on the staining idea. It wasn’t going to happen. We decided we’d just have to paint it. Of course, by now we’ve already removed half the existing paint so we had to finish the job as best we could. Mental note: Never try to strip paint again. It’s a messy, time-consuming job.
On to the sanding. I was happy that my hand belt sander and palm sander were accessible in the Shoebox. Without these tools I would never have finished the project; I used them to get as much paint off as possible. We hand sanded the last bit for a smooth finish, and I hate hand sanding. Another 3-4 hours of my life gone up in sawdust. God made power tools for a reason.
Painting is painting, and there is no way around it. We chose to go with a grey since the bed had come to us as a brown and I wasn’t going to paint it the same color after all that hard work. I was able to get two coats of paint on in about two hours by returning to the beginning piece when the last was done. We weren’t thrilled with the color; it seems that paint cards and real life never really match. Thankfully, we are not picky—we just wanted the project done.
All in all, I am never again buying a toddler bed and then trying to customize it. It would have been easier to build one from scratch from a sheet of plywood. No stripping paint, not as much sanding, no painting if you get nice plywood. Someday I’d like to try to build something like this. But until then, we’re glad we saved a little bit of cash by investing a lot of elbow grease.
Toddler bed-$20 | Sandpaper-$5 | Stripping supplies-$25 | Paint-$18 = Total: $68 | Time: 8hrs.
Evelyn’s back. The verdict? All that work may have been worth it if we had gotten the exact result we desired. If we had wanted a grey, we would have just painted straight over the existing top coat of paint. But you know, we are easy to please. At least the bed is functional, and the fresh coat of paint helped to personalize the piece to us and Red. Not that Red cares. He’s so excited to have a big boy bed he wouldn’t care if it was covered in Lima bean wallpaper. And Caveman and I? We’re just glad to the project is over.
Talk to us. Have you had a DIY disaster that you can share? Do you think we should have just bought a bed new?