Resurfacing IKEA Furniture?
June 5, 2013 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I've got a black IKEA Expedit bookcase that I've used as a surface the last two years or so, and it shows. For various reasons, I can't really move it from where it is right now (it's part of some custom built in furniture). How can I repaint or restain this thing to look a little better?

Pictures here and here. Basically, this bookcase functions as a big table in my small studio apartment, and the dings and dents have come from normal use. I'd like to make this surface look better, without stripping and restaining the entire piece and probably without moving it - it's part of some larger furniture, and realistically, I don't have somewhere in this space I could take it to. I've tried those paint retouching pens (they strip away again pretty quickly) and shoe polish (which didn't really set into the furniture). Any other tips?
posted by Apropos of Something to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can repaint it. I've done this with kitchen cabinets. First get a good latex primer. Kilz or Zinsser are both nice. Don't get Laquer!

Then get a high gloss paint in whatever color you're going to paint this thing. Using a foam roller 4" or 6", apply the paint.

You'll be appaled at how quickly this will get done. Latex paint dries quickly and washes up with soap and water.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:51 PM on June 5, 2013

Can you put something on top of it to hide the dings and dents? A scarf, a placemat, some kind of textile something? Melamine/particleboard is really tough to work with as far as getting anything to adhere to the surface.
posted by ambrosia at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2013

ambrosia: That's definitely my last resort option (and, in retrospect, what I should have done in the first place). I want to make sure I've exhausted all my other options.

But, for sake of argument, let's say I found like a really thin shelf liner or cutting board to put on top of it. Is there some sort of putty or adhesive that would hold it in place and keep it from wiggling around?

Ruthless: Is there some way I could do the repainting without stripping the whole thing?
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2013

The last time I looked into this (shortly before I simply replaced the furniture in question), I had ended up looking at specialist melamine-surface paints like "Cabinet Rescue".
posted by aramaic at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2013

Ruthless: Is there some way I could do the repainting without stripping the whole thing?

Yup, that's what the primer is for!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2013

The trouble with the Expedit is that it's basically made out of paper. I don't think it would be possible to refinish it directly.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2013

To elaborate, twice I've primed and painted kitchen cabinets with a melamine/veneer on them.

1. Wash with TSP.

2. Lightly sand to get any uneveness off the surface and to prepare the surface to accept the primer.

3. Wipe with tack cloth.

4. Roll on primer. One coat of high quality primier should be fine.

5. Roll on paint.

6. Get a beer and watch the paint dry.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Expedit is made from a really thin veneer over a hollow core filled with cardboard (here is a picture that gives you an idea of what's inside). There is really no refinishing option. Your best bet, and sounds like the easiest option anyway, is to repaint as Ruthless Bunny suggests. The piece will not stand up to a lot of moisture, so avoid doing this on a humid day and use thin coats so that the paint will dry fast.
posted by payoto at 1:01 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd repaint it as Ruthless Bunny suggests and then head down to your local glass shop and get them to custom cut a piece of glass to the dimensions necessary. They will likely also have little adhesive feet you can apply to the glass to get it to stay put on the surface. The thin veneer will probably not hold up to repeated sandings, so you want to stop the damage once you have it looking decent.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check ikeahackers for some more info.

Would maybe wallpapering it with Mod Podge work? If you use it as a table, how about putting a glass top over it?
posted by travelwithcats at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2013

I wouldn't resurface it, I would sand it flat and put a new surface over it. The thinnest durable option would be plastic laminate.
posted by fief at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Fief's suggestion of a new surface is the route I'd go. As ambrosia said when suggesting a tablecloth, it's difficult to stick anything to melamine. However, your melamine is all dinged up, so that makes it easier. Your first step for attaching a laminate layer might be to take a blade to it and scuff/gouge the heck out of the bookcase; the glue will stick better to the non-plasticised bookcase surfaces.
posted by aimedwander at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2013

I've had success covering cheapo furniture with fabrics using this starch paste method. I've never tried it on a horizontal working surface so durability and smoothness may be issues, but it's cheap to try and undo-able if it doesn't work out well.
posted by doift at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2013

These guys might be worth a look. I found them through ikeahackers a while back, but haven't bought anything from them yet.
posted by lzlo at 6:34 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd sand it down, apply a fabric with fabric glue, and put a glass top on it. There are little rubber circle thingies that keep the glass from sliding. Or just doctor it up a bit and put on smoked glass--that might hide enough.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:15 PM on June 5, 2013

Thanks for all the painting suggestions! I'm gonna try lzlo's company, which looks super neat, and if that doesn't pan out, the paint it is.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:29 PM on June 5, 2013

It doesn't really help with dents or anything more than simple damage to the finish, but I've had a number of black-brown Expedit and Lack pieces that I've satisfactorily touched up with a Sharpie.
posted by LionIndex at 9:17 AM on June 6, 2013

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