Refinishing Cabinets – The Perfect Kitchen ‘Face Lift’

How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets DIY Style

Kitchen cabinets form the centerpiece of the home, providing years of service in homes around the world. Unfortunately, time does take its toll and they begin to exhibit the challenges of life, but kitchen cabinets do not need to be retired simply because they look tired and worn out form wear and tear. They can be refinished to produce a beautiful outcome that restores appeal and adds value to the home. It’s time to learn how to refinish your kitchen cabinets DIY style.

What Is Refinishing?

Refinishing of kitchen cabinets means giving old cupboards a makeover. Instead of throwing them out, DIY enthusiasts can put their skills to good use. Although a challenging job, refinishing kitchen cabinets is possible.

With adequate equipment, experience and research, a kitchen cabinet DIY makeover can restore cabinets to looking as if they have just been installed right from the factory. Even though this job is not quick or easy, it is rewarding. These five steps help to ensure that the process goes as easily as possible.

Step 1: Cabinet Removal

Every good DIY job in the kitchen starts with good planning and comprehensive preparation. Start by getting all the right tools and equipment in place prior to removing the cabinets. This is the “easy” part, which must be followed by thorough cabinet cleaning.

Cabinet removal alone requires a certain level of skill, accompanied by the right tools. Carefully remove the cabinets to prevent further damage to the walls or the cabinets. This job is best achieved with the help of another person, as the cabinets can be heavy and awkward to manage alone.

Be sure to use the right protective gear when removing kitchen cabinets. Because a lot of dust and grime have collected over the years, wearing gloves, protective eye gear and a face mask are recommended for full protection. Also, ensure that all the right tools are prepared for the removal process.

Step 2: Label the Kitchen Cabinets

Labeling of the cabinets and doors should be done as each piece is separated from the frame. This activity will ensure that the doors are replaced in the same locations and positions that they were originally. Also, take care of the labeling of hinges and holes, so you can match these up when reassembling.

Effective preparation will save lots of time and effort, and it prevents much frustration after refinishing has been completed. Take the time to label each cabinet, drawer and hinge correctly from the start and you will save yourself from making unnecessary mistakes down the line. Use a marker or tape to identify all cabinet parts clearly.

Your local hardware store will be able to advise on which pen markers and tape works the best when undertaking this type of job. You can also consider taking photos of all the separate pieces and aligning these on a large surface in the sequence in which they were removed. Just remember to maintain this pattern when refinishing each piece and replace it in the original position.

Step 3: Cleaning

Once the removal and labeling has been completed, it is time to thoroughly clean each part of the entire cabinet. A good scrub down will remove grime buildup, enabling preparation before the next step to be undertaken. Simply use soapy water with a similar home-cleaning product that is used to wash dishes.

Fill a large basin with water, add the cleaning liquid and use a sturdy sponge to scrub the cabinets clean. Depending on the level of grime build up over time, this process can be quick or take some time. After the cleanup process, allow the cabinets to dry completely.

Step 4: Strip and Sand

Now is the time to figure out which stripping technique is best. Try to determine what existing finish has been applied to the wood.

Test the wood by applying a little turpentine to a small surface area on the inside of a cabinet door or on the bottom of a drawer. If you see that the solution dissolves, then the cabinet has a wax finish. If this is not the case, then the finish may be water-based.

Alternative finishes include paint, varnish, deep penetrating oil, lacquer and others. Consult your local hardware store to try and determine the correct stripping agent to be used before damaging the cabinets. Once the right stripping agent has been identified, apply as per factory instructions to remove the surface layer.

Once this has dried, you can start the sanding process in preparation for the next step. Use sandpaper with a 150 to 200 grit to lightly sand each cabinet, with the idea of achieving a matte finish. Because all cabinets and applications differ, it really is best to get expert advice on which products are best suited for the refinishing process.

Step 5: Priming and Painting

Remember to elevate your cabinets when doing the priming and painting phase. Good preparation and extra effort will ensure that you do not miss areas, such as corners and edges. Do not be tempted to skip the priming phase, as you will regret this decision when blotches begin to appear on the cabinets. All your hard work will have been wasted if you miss this step.

Choose a primer that is designed to block stains. Remember that you are refinishing old wood cabinets to achieve a makeover. Stains may not be entirely visible to the naked eye but can bleed through the paint in the future if a proper priming job is not done. Make sure the primer dries properly before starting the paint job.

Test the paint color before starting the painting process. Again, consult with someone who has experience with this, so you know you are using the right type of paint. Also, make sure that the cupboards are elevated when painting so that you do not miss spots. Select the right paintbrushes and rollers to avoid smear marks.

Do a good job, allow the doors to dry properly and apply a second or third coat of paint if necessary. Only attempt reassembly when the doors are properly dry and be careful about preserving labeling to make your work easier.

Looks as Good as New!

Refinishing should produce kitchen cabinets that look new. Although a challenging project, it is highly satisfying when you see the results of excellent preparation and good DIY work.

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