How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Well, the kitchen is the most used room in the house and I guess you could say that the kitchen cabinet is probably the most used thing in that room. But with time and repeated cleanings, well, they can end up looking pretty shabby.

So if your cabinets look something like this and well, it's not time to replace or reface them yet, then you might want to consider refurbishing them with a combination coating and stain. It's easy to use and inexpensive.

While it's possible to refinish cabinets with the doors in place, I don't recommend it. I've always gotten better results by detaching the doors from the cabinets, taking out all the shelves, removing the knobs or handles — then taking off the hinges.

Most of the time when I do a cabinet facelift like this, I find myself updating the hardware anyway. Kitchen cabinets invariably accumulate cooking oil on their surfaces, especially those near the stove. Mineral spirits found in any hardware store or home center, does a good job of cleaning off that residue.

I like to dampen a soft cloth with a solvent and go over the surface two or three times, turning the cloth as I go. You'll usually be able to see the grime you've picked up. Now I can do a bit of light sanding with fine 220-grit paper.

By folding a quarter sheet of sandpaper into thirds like this, I can use every bit of it. On flat surfaces, I press down evenly with my fingers and use long, straight strokes, always moving in the direction of the grain to avoid unsightly scratches.

To sand moldings and trim, I use individual fingers so the sandpaper will conform to the curved profiles. On a project like this, the purpose of the sanding is to give the existing finish, a bit of tooth just to roughen it a bit so the new finish will be able to grip or bond better.

Finally, I remove all surface dust with a clean rag or tack cloth. These cabinets have some really serious wear spots where not only the finish, but also the color is gone. A touch up pen like this can help restore some of this missing color.

These come in a variety of wood tones and are used just like a felt marker. I let the color dry for a few seconds, then wipe off the excess and blend in the edges.

Now it's time for a quick trip to the home center to pick up the finishing material I want to use for this project. This is a combination stain and polyurethane. It's very common for the pigments in a material like this, to settle to the bottom of the can. So I always stir thoroughly and sort of pull the pigments up from the bottom as I go.

When properly mixed, the stirring stick should come out clean. Now you want to avoid shaking finishes like this because it introduces air bubbles into the liquid that can end up as pinholes on the surface when the coating dries.

I load my brush with finish and begin by coating the details in the panel. Then I move on to the flat surfaces. One thing I always try to keep in mind is that I'm applying both color and top coat. The key is to put down a smooth, even film and not to overbrush.

If I want a more intense color, I'm much better off applying a second coat after this one dries, than trying to pile on too much material at one time.

Now when it comes to applying a top coat whether it's varnish, shellac or polyurethane like this, I always try to use a good quality brush with plenty of fine bristles that are securely attached into the ferrule because nothing is more annoying, especially with a combination stain and top coat than having to pick out bristles that have conspicuously displayed themselves in a newly laid down finish.

I almost always finish off with long, straight parallel strokes in one direction, a technique painters call, striking off. Finally, after letting the finish dry thoroughly, I reinstall the doors with new hinges — and put on new knobs.
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Before and after, and all for only a few dollars.

Watch Ron's easy to follow instructions on how to refinish a cabinet

If the kitchen is the most-used room in the house, then you can probably say that the kitchen cabinet is the most-used thing in that room. With time and repeated cleanings, they can end up looking pretty shabby.