finishing old cabinets

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Forum topic by packetsmacker posted 10-18-2011 03:25 AM 1471 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View packetsmacker's profile


31 posts in 2649 days

10-18-2011 03:25 AM

our kitchen cabinets are in bad shape. The bottom ones around the stove, sink, and dishwasher look like the finish is waring off. these are the original cabinets and we have a nice granite counter top so replacing them is not really a option. plus with the housing market the way it is there is now way we will get our money back on this in the next 5y.

whats the best way to refinish the lower cabinets? How much work do i have a head of me? Should i just suck it up and pay a company to come in?

11 replies so far

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3304 days

#1 posted 10-18-2011 04:27 AM

Unless you’ve done it before, you’re probably better off hiring a pro. Your cabinets will need a serious cleaning and probably some amount of restaining before a new finish goes on.

You may also find yourself replacing some hinges, hardware, etc, and repairing drawers. It can turn into a real chore.

This is where some folks decide to change the color of their cabinets. It can be done, but it’s usually even more difficult.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5148 posts in 4196 days

#2 posted 10-19-2011 05:17 PM

Are they painted or stained? More info would help.


View packetsmacker's profile


31 posts in 2649 days

#3 posted 10-23-2011 02:10 AM

they are stained. I think there oak. any other info you all need to help me out :) let me know.

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3073 days

#4 posted 10-24-2011 04:49 AM

My very 1st woodworking project 38 years ago was a refinishing job. It was done with no experience or knowledge base like LJ. I basically poured on some “Zip-Strip” and did a lot of sanding. Now I can build my own and install them myself.

You’ve done the 1st step right… you posed your question on LJ site. Now you need to be patient and hope you get noticed. There is a ton of experience on this site, but sometimes things don’t get noticed. I’ll give you my 2 cents, but if somebody contradicts me in the near future, don’t fret. That’s the beauty of LJ. What works for me may not for somebody else. You need to try out different methods until you’re comfortable with one.

If you have no woodworking experience at all, it’s OK. We can still help. But this is how I would handle you’re situation using my experience. I would take out my old Stanley #80 scraper I bought at a yard sale for $20 and I would scrape of the old finish. When using this tool, I can scrape a finished dinning room table top to a very smooth bare wood finish in less then an hour. If you get one of these scrapers, there is lots of free info on how to sharpen them, some methods didn’t work for me, but I keep mine very sharp.

If you use a chemical stripper, be aware they leave a chemical residue in the wood because for them to work, the chemical needs to penetrate the wood bellow the old finish in order to lift it out of the wood. You can still accomplish a decent finish, but you will need to do lots of sanding.

I hope this helps more then confuse you… I’m willing to answer further questions.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2926 days

#5 posted 10-24-2011 02:08 PM

Look into a product called Soy Gel, it’s a non toxic stripper. Great for use indoors. Cleans up with water.

Sand to 220 without skipping grits. I would start at 100.

Stain and topcoat.

Personally, I would look to painting rather than staining again. Quicker, easier, covers a multitude of problems.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View AndyDuframe's profile


48 posts in 3826 days

#6 posted 10-26-2011 04:23 AM

Yeah…the big issue here (as someone already mentioned) is whether you want your new finish to be stain or paint. Obviously, getting a nice new stain means taking the existing cabinets down to original, bare wood, and I’m not even sure that’s possible with some of the stuff that people slap on kitchen cabinets over the years. But painting is another story entirely. I was able to refinish an entire kitchen of cabinets (that were originally painted black) just by sanding everything down as smooth as possible. Didn’t have to worry about removing all the old paint—just had to make sure it was smooth. Then after a thorough cleaning and dusting (and I mean thorough!), I applied a basic primer followed by several coats of Benjamin Moore Impervo—which is designed to reduce brush marks. I thought it was a little thick right out of the can, so I watered it down some and applied several coats. On the larger flat surfaces of the doors, I used a small foam roller, which left a nice, almost “spray-quality” look to the cabinets.


View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#7 posted 10-26-2011 04:52 AM

I agree with most of what Andy stated except after cleaning I would put a coat of dewaxed shellac on and then apply either paint or perhaps use some gel stain.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5233 posts in 2729 days

#8 posted 10-27-2011 02:36 PM

I want to echo the dewaxed shellac approach should you choose to paint. Shellac will stick to things that other finishes won’t, so if you have some contamination that might cause a problem, the shellac will solve it.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View PutnamEco's profile


155 posts in 3522 days

#9 posted 10-27-2011 04:31 PM

I would watch out for veneered cabinets if your going to be using any chemical strippers or doing any heavy duty sanding. I would assume quality cabinets with granite tops but you never know these days. Speaking of veneer, you may also want to look into refacing them, if you really want to change the look. It can be a bit time consuming, but it is do able, and you might find you even enjoy doing it.

Matching the finish also may prove interesting, unless your going to refinish all the cabinets.

Without knowing the size and what your planing for the finish, it could take two or more solid days to refinish a set of cabinets at a considerable savings over what a pro would charge.

-- “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

View DS's profile


3044 posts in 2656 days

#10 posted 10-27-2011 06:11 PM

Something to consider is the cost and effort to refinish old doors vs. the cost to buy and finish new doors.

Around here, (Phoenix area), a nice square raised panel door (unfinished) costs around $9 to $10 per square foot. This might cost a little more than refinishing, but can update your kitchen with a new look for not much more dough and a lot less effort.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View packetsmacker's profile


31 posts in 2649 days

#11 posted 10-31-2011 04:03 PM

wow this has really given me a lot of options. thanks for the great response.

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