If you’ve ever moved, you know how stressful of an undertaking it can be, even with plenty of help. If you are able to afford to hire someone to move your things for you, they will have the know-how and expertise to move your furniture and disassemble it properly as well as knowing how to put it back together again once it’s in the desired location. However, there are situations where you may not have the benefit of professional movers to disassemble your furniture.
Perhaps, you are simply moving something from one room to another, and you find that it is too heavy to move on your own, that it won’t fit through the door, or that no one is available to help you move an item that needs more than one person to maneuver. One piece of furniture that may fall into this category is the dresser. If this sounds familiar, and you need a guide to know how to properly take apart a dresser, read on.
Table of Contents
Before you dive headfirst into disassembling your dresser, it is important to become familiar with the tools you will need readily at hand to help you. Many of us have been in situations where we started a project, only to find that we didn’t have some necessary tool and had to leave things in disarray while we ran to the store.
Avoid that particular annoyance, take inventory of your supplies and make sure that you have the following:
- A Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver – It is important to have both types of screwdrivers because there will be different-sized screws with differently shaped notches in your dresser that one screwdriver head or the other will be able to remove more efficiently. For example, the flathead screwdriver will likely be used on the bigger bolts, while the Phillips head will be used to remove the smaller nails or screws.
- A hammer – A hammer is multipurpose, and the back of it can be used to help gently pull up stubborn nails without causing damage to the nail or exerting too much force.
- A pair of pliers – Pliers will be used to help grip and pull out the bigger pegs that a hammer cannot grip due to the shape or size.
- A cloth or a dishrag – These are used on the pegs in conjunction with the pliers to help cushion them during removal.
- A plastic storage bag or bags – This is arguably the most important item on this list. You want a safe place to keep each of the bolts, nails, and pegs as you remove them because if any of them get lost, then putting your dresser back together again will be impossible. If you need to separate them even further to help avoid confusion, feel free to use more than one bag. Just be sure to label each one correctly.
- A permanent marker – Use it to put a label on the plastic bag that indicates both the piece of furniture (dresser, in this case) and what the bag contains.
How To Disassemble
Now that you have all the tools at hand and ready to use, we can finally get to the main event: taking apart the dresser.
By being methodical and following these steps, you can help ensure that disassembly will be as painless as possible with no damage to the dresser or any of its parts.
- First, remove any clothing from inside the dresser or on top of it, as well as any loose items such as picture frames or knickknacks. Removing items on top of the dresser is pretty self-explanatory as they will fall off and get lost or damaged. However, it is also important to remove items from inside the drawers because they can put pressure against the frame of the drawers during moving and cause damage.
It is especially important to remove clothing if any of the following applies to you: You are moving a long distance, your dresser is not in great shape, or if the dresser is very large or is heavy, to begin with.
- Once you have completely emptied your dresser, the next step is to remove the drawers. Pull the drawer straight out as far as it will go, then lift up the drawer. On *most dressers, lifting the drawer will separate the drawer from the dresser. Place the drawer to the side.
The most important thing to remember with this step is to remove the top drawer first and then make your way down, saving the bottom drawer for last. You should never start with the bottom drawer first, as it will make the dresser top-heavy, and it can fall over, causing injuries or damaging the dresser itself.
*Note: Some dressers also come with stabilizer screws in the drawer that you will have to unscrew with a Phillips head screwdriver in order to remove the drawer. The process for removing drawers from these dressers starts off the same as otherwise. First, pull the drawer all the way out, locate the eight stabilizer screws, and remove them. Use the catch tabs to completely release the drawer and pull it straight out of the dresser.
- Once you have removed all the drawers and set them to the side, carefully lay the dresser face down on the floor and remove the back panel. The back panel is typically held in place, with nails on all sides. Using the back of a hammer, gently pry the nails off,
starting on one corner and working your way around the frame until they are all removed.
Make sure to put the nails into the plastic bag with the other screws and bolts that go to the dresser to avoid stepping on them or losing them.
- After you’ve removed the back panel, it’s time to focus on the top of the dresser. The top of the dresser is usually held in place with four locking nuts-one in each corner. To remove the top, turn them counterclockwise with a pair of pliers. Remove the nuts from the top panel and place them in the plastic bag for safekeeping.
- Next comes the removal of the side panels of the dresser from the frame. This frame or crossbars are what keep the left, and right-side panels connected and help hold the dresser in place. The side panels are held onto the crossbars with the same locking nuts that attached the top of the dresser to the frame, and you already have what you need nearby since you used the same tools in the previous step.
Turn the nuts in a counterclockwise direction, starting with the bolts near the bottom of the dresser. Moving your way to the top and using the hand that is not turning the nuts, hold the panel in place until all the nuts are loosened. Once you’ve loosened them all, remove the panel. Repeat the same process with the right-side panel.
- If there are any nuts, bolts, or nails left in any of the panels, make sure to remove them at this point and put them in the bag with the rest. If you are planning on moving the dresser from one house to another, especially if it’s a good distance away, tightly wrap the panels together with plastic wrap. This can help protect them from a number of misfortunes, including scratches, denting, dirt, and rain.
Side Note: Vanity Mirror
If you have a dresser that comes with a mirror attached, it most likely goes without saying that this should be removed before you attempt to disassemble the rest of the dresser. Make sure you have someone helping you with this to help avoid injuries or a broken mirror.
A mirror will likely be attached to the dresser with either screws or with glue. If it is attached with screws, read the following steps. If it is attached with glue, read below in the section about when it is best to NOT disassemble furniture.
- If the dresser is a tall one, pull it away from the wall, so you have easier access to the mirror. If the dresser is shorter, gently lay it down on the floor with cardboard, blankets, or some type of padding under the mirror.
- Tape up the mirror so that in case it gets broken, glass shards will not get everywhere.
- Using a screwdriver or a drill, gently remove brackets that attach the mirror to the rest of the dresser.
- Separate the mirror from the rest of the dresser and make sure it’s properly cushioned to avoid damage. Carry on with taking apart the rest of the dresser.
Other Furniture That Can Be Taken Apart
Since the most likely scenario for why you would take apart a dresser is because it needs to be moved and may not fit through a doorway or around corners, you may be wondering what other furniture should also be taken apart and how exactly to go about it. Let’s get into it.
According to Moving.Tips, in addition to dressers, the following pieces of furniture should also be taken apart:
- Mounted wall units such as cabinets or shelves
Since we are already on the topic of how to disassemble clothing storage, let’s turn our focus to wardrobes and learn how to take them apart, as well.
When You SHOULDN’T Take a Dresser Apart
Now that we’ve gone into detail about how to take a dresser and a wardrobe apart, you may be wondering if there is ever a time when you should just leave them as is during a move. The simple answer is yes, or proceed with caution, and do a lot of research beforehand in any of the following situations:
- The piece of furniture is an antique – Professional movers will not disassemble an antique dresser, and you should be hesitant about disassembling one as well. There are no instructions for the piece’s proper care, and they are made differently than modern furniture. Movers do not want to be held liable for any damage that occurs to an older item.
So, in short, if it absolutely needs to be taken apart, do so yourself but make sure you look into the proper care and transportation first.
- The piece of furniture is glued together – In this case, trying to take a dresser apart may actually cause damage as the glue may rip the finishing or even whole pieces of the wood. You might still be able to separate the pieces if you have a way to melt the glue, such as with a hairdryer. In all honesty, though, it is probably not worth it, and your best bet is to move the furniture whole rather than try to break it down and reassemble.
In cases where taking apart a dresser is impractical or may cause more damage than leaving it together, you can wrap it up with a blanket and some plastic wrap to keep it protected. Start by lifting up the dresser and placing it on a blanket. You want to have a blanket that is big enough that there is a minimum of 6 inches between the dresser and the end of the blanket.
Next, lift up the blanket and fold the back end over the back of the dresser. Fold in the sides the way that you would if you were wrapping a present. Once the back, sides, and top are covered firmly in the blanket, grab a roll of plastic wrap. Starting at one corner, wrap the plastic all the way around the dresser from top to bottom, making sure that the drawers are completely closed and firmly in place.
If you’re planning on moving your dresser, whether from room to room or even across the country, it can be very beneficial to take it apart first. Make sure that you have the proper tools such as a hammer, screwdrivers, a cloth, pliers, and a labeled plastic bag to put all the screws and bolts in so they don’t get lost in transit. If the dresser comes with a mirror, it is very important to remove the mirror first. If it is attached to the dresser with screws, it should be relatively easy to remove.
There are some cases where you should consider not taking a dresser apart. This includes if the dresser is an antique or if the pieces have been glued together. Taking apart an antique is trickier because it was not created with disassembly in mind. Even professional movers don’t tend to try and take them apart and instead wrap them whole. If you aren’t able to disassemble a dresser, make sure you wrap it in a blanket and tightly wrap it up in plastic wrap.