Repairing Split Wood Furniture: Fixing a Dresser

Split wood dresser top from the side

Although you might not realize it, wood can expand and contract as seasons change. As summer approaches, and as the air becomes more humid, wood furniture can swell as the moisture in the air is absorbed. During the winter months when there isn’t as much moisture in the air, wood furniture can shrink as it dries.

Because wood often doesn’t dry uniformly, the wood can shrink more in some areas than others, which can cause cracks and splits to form in wood furniture.

The question is, how do you repair split wood furniture?

This post addresses this very question. In this tutorial, we’ll walk through repairing split wood furniture step by step. You’ll see how a wood dresser with a split top was fixed up. 

Tools and supplies

Before we get into how to fix a split wood dresser, acquire all the tools and materials that will be needed to get the job done. See the full list below:

Wood glue: To join the two pieces of wood that have split apart, wood glue is necessary.

Vice or clamp: A vice or clamp will be needed to clamp the broken wood pieces together for an extended period once the wood glue has been applied.

Drill: For repairing just one damaged section of a piece of furniture, that section may need to be removed. In this case, a drill was needed to remove screws from a dresser top to detach this part of the furniture.

Paint or wood markers (optional): Depending on the furniture, you may want to paint the furniture or use wood markers on the areas where the wood has split to disguise the crack.

Related: Best Nails for Furniture

Step 1: Remove the dresser top

As you can see in the image below, there was a long crack running nearly halfway down the dresser’s top.

The dresser top was secured to the frame with screws, and to fix the dresser top without breaking the frame, it was necessary to remove the dresser top.

To remove the dresser top, I used a drill to unscrew all the screws holding it to the frame.

Unscrewing dresser top

Related: 5 Ways to Cover Damaged Dresser Top

Step 2: Apply wood glue to the split

To repair split wood furniture, you need to join the two cracked pieces together. Wood glue is the best way to do so. Once dried, wood glue has an extremely secure bond that will stand the test of time.

For this project, I used Tightbond 3 (available here on Amazon). However, there are numerous other reputable wood glue brands out there that are equally effective.

Wood glue

I stood up the dresser top so that the split part was pointed upward. From here, wood glue was applied along the crack.

Initially, the glue was squeezed into the very top of the crack. This way, gravity naturally allows the wood glue to get pulled down to the very bottom of the crack. To make sure the wood glue reached all parts of the crack, I used a paper towel to push the glue along the crack to the very bottom.

Additionally, I also used a piece of dental floss inside the crack to push the glue to the very beginning of the split. The beginning of the split is a very narrow area of the crack and the dental floss was perfect for accessing this very tough-to-reach spot.

glued dresser top

The wood glue must cover the inside of the crack completely, so be sure to be as throughout as possible.

Step 3: Clamp the wood together

Once the wood glue is applied, the two split pieces must be firmly joined together by a clamp or a vice.

In this case, a clamp was used at the very end of the dresser top to join the two broken pieces together. As you continue to apply clamping pressure, you should see a bit of the wood glue get squeezed out from the crack. Stop clamping down once the two pieces of split wood are firmly joined together.

Wipe off any excess wood glue that may have bubbled out.

Step 4: Let the wood glue dry

Once the wood has been clamped together, it will need a few hours to dry.

Return to the dresser top after a few hours and remove the clamp.

Step 5: Repaint or apply wood marker

Joining the two pieces of split wood fixes the split wood issue. However, the crack line may still be extremely noticeable.

To disguise the crack you can either paint the furniture or apply a wood marker to the area where the wood has cracked.

Painting furniture can be a laborious process, however, it is probably the most sure-fire way to disguise the crack. Once the furniture is painted, the furniture will look as if it had never been cracked in the first place (as long as the cracked area has been properly mended and sanded). 

If you aren’t interested in painting the furniture, consider thoroughly sanding the area where the furniture has cracked, and use a wood marker to color the crack. Use a wood marker that exactly matches the color of the wood furniture to effectively disguise the crack.

Alternative solutions

You may be met with a ton of resistance when attempting to join the two cracked parts of a piece of furniture together. After all, after years of expanding and shrinking due to seasonal changes, wood can become warped. This can make it extremely difficult to restore the original shape of the section of furniture.

If completely joining the two pieces of wood together isn’t an option, consider applying wood filler to the crack. Wood filler won’t join the two pieces of wood together, however, it will fill in the crack with a durable wood dust and glue mixture. Once painted over, you won’t even be able to tell that there was a crack in the first place.

Additionally, keep in mind that if the crack appears on a particular section of your furniture such as the dresser top, you can also consider just replacing that section of the furniture entirely.

If you have found that trying to replace the dresser top is too much of a hassle, there are certainly ways to cover a damaged dresser top tastefully.  

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