Laundry is a never-ending chore in our house, but I recently built something that makes it SO much easier and more efficient: a laundry basket dresser! It holds nine laundry baskets that slide in and out of the dresser so you can easily put clothes in and take them out. Plus, I put a really nice wood top on this dresser so that I can use the top of it as a laundry folding and sorting station.
Now when it’s time to do laundry, I can just dump all the dirty clothes on top of the dresser and then sort them into baskets for darks, colors, whites, etc. Once a load is finished in the dryer I can put the clean clothes back on top of the dresser, fold them, and sort them into the “clean clothes” baskets to be taken back upstairs and put away. This laundry basket dresser makes doing laundry so much simpler, and it helps keep our laundry area so much tidier. Today I’m going to show you how to make one yourself, including a cut list so that you can get your lumber pre-cut at the hardware store!
Building this laundry basket dresser has been on my to-do list for a long time, but I never seemed to get around to it. Then when Minwax® reached out and asked if I would like to partner with them on a project, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. And now that I have this thing in our basement laundry area, I can’t believe I ever did laundry without it!
My laundry baskets are 2 bushel Sterilite Ultra laundry baskets, and this tutorial will show you how to make a 3×3 dresser that fits these baskets exactly. But if your laundry baskets are a different size or you want a different configuration for your dresser, just adjust the measurements in this tutorial to fit your preferred baskets and configuration!
Simple DIY Laundry Basket Dresser
- 4 hours (time spent doing stuff)
- 4 hours (time spent waiting around)
- 8 hours (total project time)
- cordless drill
- drill bits
- measuring tape
- quick grip clamps
- pipe clamps (make your own with 3/4” diameter pipe and pipe clamp ends)
- roller frame, roller covers, and roller tray
- flat paint brush
- stir sticks
- soft cloth rags
- #120 grit sandpaper
- #220 grit sandpaper
- Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
- Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain
- Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish
- wood glue
- 3″ screws
- 2″ screws
- 1-5/8” screws
- 1″ screws
- Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion paint in Down Pipe No. 26
- Two 5’ x 2’4” pieces of 3/4” plywood for the top and bottom of the box
- One 5’ x 1’8” piece of 3/4” plywood for the back (this should be a “leftover” from cutting the top or bottom piece out of an 8’ sheet of plywood)
- Four 3’6” x 2’4” pieces of 3/4” plywood for the verticals
- Eighteen 2’4” 2x2s (you can get these cut out of three 12’ 2x2s and one 8’ 2×2)
- Two 4’4” 2x4s
- Two 1’5” 2x4s (you can get all the 2×4 cuts out of one 12’ 2×4)
- One 5’2” x 2’6” piece of 3/4” AB plywood for the finished top piece
NOTE: I bought three 8’ sheets of 3/4” particle board and got all of my plywood cuts from those (except the AB piece for the finished top), with a few scraps leftover. You can use particle board or plywood, whichever you’d prefer; it’s all going to be painted and covered up at the end anyway!
The first step is to make sure you have all your lumber cut to the right length. Most places like Home Depot or Lowes will cut the pieces down for you when you buy them, so make sure you take the cut list with you when you go shopping!
Building the end pieces:
Drill three holes all the way through one 2×2 cleat, one hole near each end of the cleat and one hole in the center. The exact spacing of the holes doesn’t matter, just make sure that you get three holes and that you drill the holes with a drill bit that is just ever so slightly larger than the threads on your 2” screws. Repeat for five additional 2x2s so that you have six cleats with holes in them.
TIP: When you’re attaching two pieces of wood together and you want the screw to pull the two pieces of wood super tight as you drive it, you want to pre-drill a hole in one piece of wood that is ever so slightly larger than your screws. This way the screw easily fits through the first piece of wood and the threads of the screw don’t “grab” anything until they hit the second piece of wood. As you drive the screw it easily spins through the first piece, then grabs the second piece of wood and pulls it tight to the first piece.
Measure and mark the piece of plywood where your cleats will attach. Put a thin line of wood glue on the back of one of the cleats with holes in it, then clamp it into place on the piece of plywood you are using for one of your end pieces. Drive 2” screws through the pre-drilled holes to attach the cleat to the plywood, then wipe away any extra glue that squeezed out of the joint.
Repeat this process to attach two more cleats to the end piece, then repeat the whole process again to create the second end piece.
Building the interior vertical pieces:
This part is similar to building the end pieces, except that you need to attach cleats to both sides of the plywood instead of just one side.
Measure and mark the piece of plywood where your cleats will attach. Put a thin line of glue on the back of a cleat, and position it on the plywood. Clamp the cleat into place, and then drill three holes through both the cleat and the plywood, one hole near each end of the cleat, and one hole in the center. Then put a thin line of glue on the back of a second cleat and position it on the back of the plywood, in line with the first cleat.
Clamp both cleats to the piece of plywood, then drive 3” screws through the pre-drilled holes to attach both cleats to the plywood. Wipe away any excess glue that squeezed out of the joints.
Repeat the process to attach two more pairs of cleats to the interior vertical piece, then repeat the whole process again to make a second interior vertical piece.
Attaching the top and bottom plywood pieces:
To attach the top and bottom pieces, start with the two interior vertical pieces first. Put a thin line of wood glue on the top and bottom edges of both interior vertical pieces, then lay the pieces out and use pipe clamps to hold it all in place.
Pipe clamps are really great for clamping large pieces of furniture, plus they’re pretty inexpensive! The pipe clamp ends attach to any standard 3/4” pipe, so once you get the ends (which you can find at most hardware stores), you can get any length pipe, meaning you can clamp even really big stuff like a dining room table! I actually bought four 36” sections of pipe, and when I need a long clamp, like for this project, I just connect two pipe sections so that I have a 72” clamp instead of a 36” clamp.
Drill six holes through the top piece of plywood and into the top edge of the interior vertical piece using a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the diameter of your 1-5/8” screws.
TIP: When driving a screw into the end of a board, you always want to pre-drill a slightly smaller hole so that the screw doesn’t split the wood as you drive it.
Then drive 1-5/8” screws through each hole to attach the top to the interior vertical piece.
Repeat the process to attach both interior vertical pieces to the top and bottom pieces. Then remove the clamps and repeat the whole process (glue, clamps, pre-drilling holes, and driving screws) to attach the end pieces to the top and bottom pieces.
And voila! You have most of the laundry basket dresser built!
Attaching the back:
To give the laundry basket dresser some stability, and to help keep it square, you need to attach a back piece to the dresser. While the dresser is still laying down on the ground, lay the back piece on the dresser, lining up the top and two sides with the dresser below.
Make sure the dresser is square by measuring diagonally across the dresser from corner to corner. Then measure the other diagonal; if the measurements are the same, then the dresser is square. If the measurements aren’t the same, push a little on the corner of the larger measurement, then measure again.
Then pre-drill holes and drive 1-5/8” screws along the top, down the end pieces, and down the interior vertical pieces, spacing the screws about 6” to 8” apart.
Building the base frame:
If you’re planning to use the top of your dresser for folding and sorting laundry, you’ll want to build a base frame for the dresser to sit on so that you have a kick: a little space to put your toes under the dresser while you work.
Put a thin line of wood glue on the ends of the shorter 2x4s, then butt them against the longer 2x4s as shown above. Attach them all together using two 3” screws at each corner, remembering to pre-drill your holes first.
Since the plywood (or particle board in my case) isn’t pretty wood, I painted it to cover up the imperfections. I used a roller to prime the dresser, and a small brush to get in the corners and joints around the cleats.
Once the primer was dry I did the same thing using a blue/grey paint to add color.
Making the finished top piece:
Since I wanted to use the top of my laundry basket dresser for sorting and folding laundry, I knew it had to be a nicer piece of wood than plywood; I didn’t want the rough plywood snagging our clothes as I did laundry. So I bought a nice piece of AB plywood to use as the finished top piece.
TIP: Plywood comes in grades, A, B, C, and D. A and B are nicer pieces of plywood, meaning there are few, if any, knots or holes that have been repaired, and the entire board has been sanded smooth. C and D are more economical pieces of plywood, meaning you’ll see more patched knots and voids, and some defects may even be left as is.
I decided to stain it a nice grey color to go with the blue/grey of the base cabinet, so I went to Home Depot and had them mix up a beautiful Slate grey stain using Minwax®’s Water Based Wood Stain. I love their water based stain because it dries really fast, which means I can get all of the staining and finishing done in one day rather than having to stretch it out over a couple of days. And it cleans up with just soap and water, which is a huge bonus. Plus their water based stain is available in 40 custom mix colors, so you can do some really fun stuff with wood, like stain it bright pink!
In order to get the best finish on your top piece, you need to prep the wood with a pre-stain conditioner, stain it, and then add a clear protective finish.
Start by sanding the plywood to a smooth finish. Use a medium sandpaper (#120 grit) to start, sanding in the direction of the grain. Then sand again using a fine sandpaper (#220 grit). Remove the dust from the surface of the plywood using a baby wipe.
Next, apply Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Read the directions on the can for specific instructions, but I like to use a soft cloth and rub in the direction of the wood grain.
TIP: Wood absorbs stain at different rates, which can result in blotchy color. The wood conditioner helps prevent this by conditioning the surface of the wood so that it stains more evenly.
Let the wood conditioner soak into the wood for 1 to 5 minutes, then wipe away any excess with a clean, soft cloth.
Allow the plywood to dry for about half an hour, then lightly sand it using #220 grit sandpaper. The wood conditioner can raise up the grain of the wood, so you want to sand that back down before you apply stain.
Again, read the directions on the can for detailed instructions, but I also like to apply wood stain using a soft cloth, rubbing in the direction of the wood grain. Apply a liberal amount of stain to your plywood and let it sit for a minute or two, then wipe away any excess stain using a clean, soft cloth.
If you find any weird variations in color, you can rewet the lighter area with a little more stain and rub the stain into the surface, blending the uneven colors.
Let the stain dry for at least two hours. If you want a darker color, you can reapply a second coat of stain after two hours. There’s no need to sand between coats of stain; you’ll just sand away the color if you do!
Once you’re happy with your color, it’s time to apply a clear protective finish!
Again, the instructions on the can will give you all the details you need to know, but I like to apply Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish using a synthetic bristle brush. Stir the finish often to keep it from settling while you work, and apply thin coats in the direction of the wood grain.
Once you have applied a thin coat of finish to your plywood, “tip off” the plywood by running the brush lightly over the entire length of the piece at a 45 degree angle. This will help straighten out any brush marks and remove any excess finish.
Let the finish dry for at least two hours, then lightly sand the plywood with #220 grit sandpaper, wipe away the dust with a baby wipe, and apply another thin coat of finish. I like to do three coats of finish, letting each coat dry at least two hours before sanding. Once your third coat is dry, you’re done!
Putting it all together:
Using wood glue and 1” screws, attach the finished top piece to the plywood top of the dresser, driving the screws from inside the dresser into the finished top piece.
I covered the top edge of my cleats with a small piece of plastic shelf liner to help prevent the laundry basket from scraping flecks of paint into our laundry as it slides in and out. I cut a shelf liner to size and attached it using spray adhesive. I let the adhesive dry for about an hour, and then the laundry basket dresser was ready to go!
I printed out labels for the laundry baskets and laminated them, then I attached them to the laundry baskets using zip ties. And now my laundry basket dresser is ready for use; I can’t wait to do laundry nowadays!
The piece is so functional, but also really beautiful! I love how the stain on the top piece complements the color of the base, but I can still see the gorgeous wood grain through it. And I love how smooth the top is; it’s perfect for sorting dirty clothes waiting to be washed, and folding clean clothes right out of the dryer!
See how Minwax® can help you enrich the wood and create beautiful and meaningful pieces in your home at Minwax.com/madewithlove.
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Disclosure: I received compensation from Minwax® for my participation in this campaign and my honest discussion of their products. But the water based three piece stain system from Minwax® (and all of their products, really) is seriously amazing and all opinions in this post are 100% my own. I would never write a post about something I didn’t think was useful or interesting for you guys, and Practically Functional will only publish sponsored posts for companies or products I love and believe in! 🙂
What were the measurements that you went by when installing the the two center walls?
Jessi Wohlwend says
The open space between the two walls (and between each wall and the sides) was 1 foot and 7 inches.
How much did this cost to make in the end?
Jessi Wohlwend says
It was about $50 in lumber, and I already had the baskets, but they would be about $5-$8 each if you had to buy them new.
What am I missing- in the diagram of your sides and vertical pieces, it shows a total measurement of 3’6″… But when I’m adding up the 2×2’s and the distance between them, I keep get a total of 3′ 7 1/2″. What am I overlooking?
Jessi Wohlwend says
Hmm, the only thing I can think of is that even though it’s called a 2×2, the dimensions are actually 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″. Does that make the math add up properly?