Kitchen Cabinets - Easy Refinish and Remodel

Kitchen Cabinets - Easy Refinish and Remodel


It's been over a year now since we refinished our cabinets and we are still very happy with how everything turned out.  But i have to start by saying it wasn't easy.  Don't be fooled by anyone saying it was super easy and only took a couple hours.  For us at least, it was many hours over several days and lots of hard work.

So going back a year, here's what our kitchen looked like.
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Not bad.  The cabinets were in very good condition and made of solid oak.  The problem we had was that their finish was "Honey Oak" and we thought it was ugly.  It was a natural finish and wasn't our style.

After looking into the easiest way to refinish your kitchen cabinets we quickly discovered Rustoleum's Kitchen Transformations Kit.

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For around $80 (actually on sale at the time of this post for $64) you could buy this kit which includes everything you need to refinish your cabinets.  The kit comes with all the parts you need.  A cleaner that removes any polyurethane finish you have on the cabinets.  This was lots of scrubbing with a Brillo pad, but eventually the shiny finish turned to a dull matte finish.  The other 2 parts of the kit are the stain and sealer.  They had different colors of paint/stain and instructions on how to do everything.  We got lucky and when we bought the small kit it was on sale for $40, not $80.  We ended up getting the Espresso color, the same color as the TV stand we made a few years ago.
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There are 2 different size Rustoleum Kitchen Transformations kits, in hindsight we should have bought the big one.  But that one wasn't on sale, and we figured that if we ran out, we could always buy another small kit and it would be cheaper.  And since we have a big kitchen, with lots of cabinets, counter top, and were also planning on doing the baseboard, we did need the bigger kit.  Also we did 2 coats on everything, had we done 1 coat the small kit would have been enough.

The kit comes with a CD which shows you how to do everything.  It's pretty good, we watched it 3 or 4 times.  It's also on youtube, along with several other video's of people refinishing their cabinets.  Again, some of those video's show people saying "we did our kitchen in a weekend".  This was not our experience.  I suppose if you did a crappy job of everything and didn't remove the doors, doing it in a weekend is possible.  Plus the 2nd coat added drying time.  But it took us much longer.  It probably took us 2 weeks of working during a weekend and lots of time at night.  Maybe 60 man hours?
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Doors off and labeling everything.
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The first step was to draw a plan of all the cabinets and number them.  Then remove all the doors and hinges and number them according to the plan.  So for example i would write "2" on the cabinet door then write "2T" and "2B" on the hinges for top and bottom.
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The next step was to masking tape everything off.  I recommend getting the green painters tape because the cheap stuff allows the paint to bleed through.  

Taping included the outside of the cabinets and inside, since we only wanted to stain the trim, not the actual inside of the cabinets.  We also removed and numbered the baseboard.  We could have tried to stain it on the wall but it would have been tough.  It was easier and turned out better by removing it from the wall.  Then in the basement we setup as many tables as we could.  We had over 20 cabinet doors and a big pantry door and it took up a lot of space. 

Luckily our basement was still unfinished at the time, otherwise we would have had to been working in the garage too.
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The next step was the cleaner.  This was sort of like a paint thinner or solvent which was meant to remove the existing polyurethane finish.  Now you don't just brush it on, you have to actually scrub it in hard with a green Brillo pad.
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This was tiring, making sure you got in all the corners and edges.  But the good thing was that you didn't have to be neat about it.  Once all the finish was removed, we used a wet towel to wipe the solvent off.

Next came the stain.  It's actually somewhere between a stain and a paint that Rustoleum makes.  It's kind of like a real thin paint that shows the wood grain underneath.  Like i said, we used it before on our TV stand and really like the way it turned out.
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When it first goes on it looks crappy but after the 2nd coat dries it looks great.
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We used foam brushes instead of the cheap bristle brushes.  I've found that the 50 cent brushes you buy are terrible and the bristles fall off and get stuck onto whatever you are painting.  We just bought some cheap foam brushes and then threw them out when we were done.
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One step we skipped was to paint on wood grain.  I think this part of the kit is for people who have doors not made of real wood.  The darker paint/stain can be applied to make it look like a wood grain texture, but we thought it made the doors look too dark.
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So we went to the last step of polyurethane sealer.  Again this stuff went on thick, foamy and a milky color, but when it dried it looked fine.  The key was to put it on thin.  Too thick and it would dry white and look bad.
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Staining all the cabinet trim pieces.
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If you have lots of cabinet doors you need lots of room and table space either in your garage or in you basement.  You can also see that we used wood slats to lift the doors off the table while staining and applying polyurethane.
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After we did that to all the doors, baseboard, cabinets, counters, and pantry door we were ready to put it all back together.  Luckily we numbered everything because there's no way we would have just known where the 20 cabinets would have gone.
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We think it turned out great.  For $80 our kitchen looked 100% better.  It went from a dated oak finish to a much more modern kitchen.  It wasn't easy, definitely lots of work, but the Rustoleum Kitchen Transformations Kit did a great job.
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We also bought a new sink faucet to match the darker color.
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Here's some close-ups of the cabinets.
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We ended up buying new hardware from the Lowe's clearance section.  They turned out really good with the new darker finish.
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From different angles and different lighting it is either dark or shiny.
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You can really see how the thin paint allows the wood grain to show through.
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After a year of use we did notice that the cabinet under the sink had a bit of wear.  It's because we have baby safety latches and have to reach in from the top and push the latch down.  After the latches are removed we will probably touch up the stain there.
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Also we realized that we also had to refinish the baseboard in that room since it was also a natural oak color.
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It looked so good that we realized how crappy our laminate counter tops were.  And we ended up getting new counter tops.   Here's the old counter tops ripped out.
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We did see that Rustoleum did make a counter top refinishing kit but lots of the reviews said it wasn't good.  New counter tops installed.
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