Sep 14

Refinish – NOT Replace – Aging Kitchen Cabinets

Free Digital Photos Kitchen CabinetsImage courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net ID-100164449



If your kitchen cabinets are dingy, but not falling apart, you can give them a facelift for a small amount of money and do it yourself and refinish, not replace your aging kitchen cabinets.. If the cabinets are made of wood or metal, refinishing will be easy. If the material is anything else, be sure paint will adhere to it. You may choose a spot not easily seen and hand sand it for a few moments then put a dab of paint you wish to use and see if it sticks for a week and scrape it with your fingernail. If it remains after that, it may stick for awhile. But, it is best to find someone at the hardware store for a professional opinion to avoid disappointment down the road. In this DIY explanation, it is assumed the cabinets will be painted with a brush and not sprayed.

You will need:

Ziploc Baggies
Power Sander (or you may hand sand, but the power sander is quicker)
Sandpaper (for hand sanding or a power sander)
Paint Thinner
Drop Cloth


• If you are unsure as to the color you wish to paint, refinish only one door face and see how it sits with you. This will reduce or eliminate any unhappy results! Once you have chosen the color and brand of the paint, note what the manufacturer recommends for the paint thinner. Some thinners do not work well with certain paints.
• When deciding how much paint you need, measure the cabinets straight across and jot down the number. Then measure from top to bottom. Add together the two numbers. This will give you the square inches, feet or yards you will need to cover. Add a bit more for the sides of the cabinets, and double the whole amount if you wish to paint the inside of the cabinet doors as well. Now is the time to decide whether or not you will add two or more coats. However many you choose, be sure to double or triple the amount of paint you will need. The information on the container should include how many square feet the contents will cover. There is nothing wrong with getting an extra container and returning any unopened portions. Be sure to keep the receipt!
• Lighting can easily be added to the cabinets, if you find yours to be a little too dark. You can add ones that are under the cabinet type with wiring, or get a few of the type that are battery-operated. For the latter, just peel the backing and place them where you like or add Velcro to the backs of them. The wired ones take a bit more explanation and may be covered in another DIY article.
• If some of the cabinet doors are falling apart, you may wish to buy some unfinished ones and replace the old ones. Be sure to take the doors with you to the store to ensure you are matching them perfectly in size, width and shape. Then finish them as you are doing the old ones.
• When removing hardware, place it in Ziploc baggies. Tape it to the wall or put in a kitchen drawer, so it is easily retrievable when the cabinets are ready to be put back together. If the hardware is different on some of the doors, be sure to separate it from the others and place a note, so you can easily find its rightful home upon the reinstallation of the doors.
• Enamel paints have been commonly used for the past few decades, but now the water-based versions hold up just as well and are a lot easier to clean up. The primer paints are even water-based now, as well.
• During the use of the paint thinner and paints, be sure the area is well ventilated. Use a fan to circulate the air, if no open windows are nearby. You may wish to take the doors outside to reduce the fumes indoors. When painting the cabinet doors, place them on a level surface, such as a table, with a drop cloth beneath them. If you do choose to paint them outdoors, for best results, do so in the shade on a warm, dry day. Direct sun tends to heat the wood too much for painting.
• Brushes: there are many types. The foam brushes tend to leave no lines behind, but there are those who still hold true to the brushes with bristles. It is a matter of personal preference, but if you are a beginner at this, the foam brushes may serve you better. You may wish to have a few extra on hand, just in case the first one becomes too covered, or is dropped into the dirt.
• Drop Cloth: this can be an old sheet doubled a couple of times for thickness, or canvas or plastic. The canvas drop cloths are nice, as they do not slip like the plastic ones and are thick enough as is. They can be found in the painting section of a hardware store.
• Drawers: Follow the same directions as you would the cabinet doors.

Remove The Hardware

You may have wondered why ziploc bags are listed in the materials needed. In order to keep all the hardware together, it is recommended that the screws and hinges be placed in baggies or a container. If any need to be replaced, take them with you to the hardware store, in order to match them perfectly.

Using the screwdriver, remove the hardware. If the screws have a flat line across the top, a flathead screwdriver is used to remove them. If the screw has what looks like an x or tee, then a Phillips head screwdriver is needed. If it is a little square, then either an Allan wrench is used or torx screwdriver. If this is the first time you have ever taken apart cabinetry, worry not. There are handy screwdrivers that can be purchased for less than ten dollars or so and can accommodate nearly any shape of screw head. They are pretty handy to have around! Visit your hardware store, go to the tool section and ask a worker there.

Clean The Surfaces Then Sand

Using soap and water and a washcloth, clean off the surfaces. Take care not to soak the wood so it dries fairly quickly. Once they are dry, sand off the old paint. A power sander can be used on the flat part, or doing so by hand. For ornamental portions, such as indented (routed) or protruding areas, hand sand. Vacuum thoroughly afterward, as dusty surfaces will not hold the paint well. When you are ready to paint, wipe the surfaces with paint thinner with a clean, dry cloth that does not leave behind any lint. Let dry. This will allow the paint to adhere more fully.

Paint The Surfaces

Place a drop cloth under your paint can to catch any drips from your brush.

The first coat should be with a primer. This ensures the surface will be protected and future refinishes will be a little easier to prep.

Paint the framework first. Have enough paint on the brush to cover a small area, but not enough to allow it to drip. If it does, go over it again to make it smooth and remove the drips. Drips along the edges of the framework may impede the closing of the doors when you reinstall them. If you pay attention to how it sticks as you go, you will probably fall into a rhythm of how many times to dip the brush per square foot.

Doors: Lay flat. When painting, begin at the center of the cabinet door and work outward. Use smooth, broad strokes. It is best to paint in the same direction of the grain of the wood for an even finish. If the paint is uneven, go over it again, but as few times as possible, as each time you stroke it, bubbles can occur and the paint stiffens, as it begins to dry as soon as you start painting. Paint the edges last.

Allow to dry for several hours.

If you choose to add another coat, very lightly hand sand between coats. This allows the paint to have a rough surface and will stick better. The key word here is lightly sand. It does not take much.

Again, allow the framework and doors to fully dry. Do not place the doors on end.

If the doors are reinstalled too soon, they will stick to the framework and when opened, the paint may be pulled off the door or the framework. Ugh. Even if it feels dry after an hour, let it fully cure to the specifications of instructions on the container. Leaving a fan running in the room, especially is the air is a bit humid will help with the drying.

Once the painting is done, remove the drop cloth from everywhere but under the cabinet doors. This will reduce the accidental smears of paint on any other portion of the kitchen. When picking up the cloth, fold or roll it. Do not pick it up and shake it.

Reinstall The Doors

Once everything has had more than enough time to dry, dig out the baggies or container of hardware and screw it all back on. Then reattach the doors to the framework. Chances are, you can see all the holes of when they were originally installed.

Hold the doors flat and level (easier said than done!). You may wish to have another set of hands for this part. It is important to drive the screws straight, so the doors are firmly held in place.

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