Easy, Do-It -Yourself Ways to Salvage/Update Existing Cabinets. Here is a basic guide to re-finish bathroom and kitchen cabinets. The first step is to find colors that work with your current design scheme. Some great resources for inspiration are design magazines, image searches on the net and even some big name retail stores. They spend a lot of money on color design to get you in the buying mood!
The next step is to remove the hardware and thoroughly clean the cabinets. It is recommended to use a rag and mineral spirits or tri-sodium phosphate to get any stubborn grease or oil off of the wood surface. This is very important because grease and oil will prevent the finish from adhering to the cabinet. Next you will want to lightly sand the surfaces with a fine grit sand paper (200-400 grit) or Scotch-Brite pad. It is a good idea at this point to use a tack cloth or rag with mineral spirits to wipe off the dust created in the sanding process. If you notice any dents or scrapes you will want to fill these if you are re-finishing with paint.
Now it’s time to apply primer. Look for one that says “stain blocking”. Apply an even coat to all surfaces.
There are many opinions on applying paint to the cabinet. I prefer using a spray finish. The trick with spraying paint is to use thin coats multiple times. Paint drips are almost impossible to fix so be patient. It is good practice to lightly sand between coats of paint. Using 400 grit sand paper works well.
After the color is achieved, using “0000” steel wool, lightly abrade, then apply a furniture grade clear coat for a protective finish in the luster of your choice. (Gloss, semi-gloss, or satin.) Please make sure your finish coat is compatible with the type of paint used.
To stain your cabinet I recommend a gel stain. Gel stains are great for re-finishing wood because they do not penetrate. There will almost always be some remnants of the previous finish embedded in the wood, and a penetrating stain will show this. A gel stain will not. You will want to clean and sand the cabinet as mentioned in the paint process. Then follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Complete it with a furniture grade clear coat for a protective finish in the sheen that most suites you taste.
Lastly add new cabinet hardware that is consistent with the finish in the rest of the room.
Refinishing existing cabinets in your home is a rewarding, cost effective way to upgrade you kitchen or bath.