Tips for Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets

Sunday, April 25, 2010

If you’re in the market for some new kitchen cabinets you might want to consider this. New kitchen cabinets are very expensive. If the ones you have are in good shape but need the finish refreshed, you know it’s much more economical to just refinish your old cabinets. Here are some tips that will make your kitchen cabinet refinishing a huge success.

 Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets 1. You need to first check your cabinets thoroughly to see how much damage there is to the cabinets. If there is only minor damage, such as dark stains around the door handles you may just have to clean these areas before refinishing. Use a synthetic steel wool pad because it won’t hurt your fingers or get caught on the wood grain.

2. To make the job easier. Take the doors off your cabinets and remove the handles and hardware. The job will be much easier if you can lay the doors flat to work on them.

3. If your cabinets are painted it is best to remove the paint completely first. You could try sanding them but this is a lot of work and could remove some wood. Using a chemical stripper is also a fair amount of work but can be more controllable and easier on the wood.
If your cabinets are stained or varnished, clean the surface well to begin with. If this produces an even look and you don’t want to change the color you can then put on several new coats of varnish. If you want to change the color of the stain you will have to remove the varnish and stain completely with a chemical stripper. Then you will be able to re-stain and varnish.
If you want to paint cabinets that are presently stained you don’t have to remove the stain completely but the surface needs to be clean and smooth and the varnish needs to be etched a bit so that the paint will bond well with the wood. You will also need to use a primer that will bond well to smooth surfaces and for use over oil paint.

 Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets 4. To clean you cabinets well, dip a synthetic steel wool pad in some paint thinner, mineral spirits, or turpentine, and scrub the dark stains around the handles to clean them. Then lightly scrub the whole surface. This will clean and dull the surface so the new finish will stick.
If you find the job you need to do is more than just a few stained areas, you should consider using a chemical refinisher. This is a strong solvent cleaner that dissolves and removes part of the old varnish. You may want to ask one of the experts at your local paint store which good quality refinisher to use.
When you’re using the chemical refinisher, work in small areas, and scrub the finish with a synthetic steel wool pad. The chemical refinisher will remove the finish and even out the color of the wood and stain. Make sure you continually rinse the pad in more refinisher when it gets clogged with dirty finish.
You want the cabinet’s surface to be smooth and evenly colored after you’ve scrubbed the whole surface. If you find it isn’t, just do it again wiping the entire cabinet in long, overlapping strokes with clean refinisher and a clean steel wool pad. You will find most of the stain color will remain, and the wood will be very smooth.

 Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets 5. Once you’ve cleaned the surface and removed the dark stains, you can then refinish the cabinets by applying an oil-based, clear finish such as a urethane. Though water born urethanes are the way of the future you won’t be able to use them here unless you have removed the old finish completely. They will not bond to the old oil finish. Look for clear finishes that are low-odor and you will need to choose either a glossy or satin finish. You will want to apply several coats for a thick quality finish.

NOTE: It’s extremely important that you wear protective clothing and make sure that your work area is well-ventilated when you’re refinishing your cabinets. And don’t forget to follow all safety precautions on the refinishing product labels.

By following these tips, you will have beautiful new kitchen cabinets to enjoy for many years. You will also have the satisfaction of a job well done.

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  1. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  2. WP Themes says:

    Genial brief and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you seeking your information.

  3. Ken says:

    I have been looking for this type of information for some time now. I typically receive conflicting instruction which leaves me confused. Can you tell me if the minwax oil modified polyurathane will adhere to the old finish which was a combination of varnish and shelac?
    Oil base urathanes are getting difficult to find.
    I read an article describing the procedure very close to yours. That article used the same cleaning procedure and recommended using a Oxilic acid to clean dark spots and then restain that area if necessary, but failed to enlighten me on what type of seal coat to use. Can you make a suggestion?

  4. Dave the How To guy says:

    Yes oil based finishes are no longer available where I live and so they are getting hard to find.

    I will say I actually have used the oil modified urethane. I used it over an old varnish finish and it worked perfectly fine. I will say that I did sand the surface lightly first. I also wiped it with paint thinner both to clean it and to get rid of anything on the surface as well.
    The product adhered well and I had no problems.

    I think it should do the same for you.

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