Re-staining Old and Worn Cabinetery for a New-look Kitchen

By Rob Sabo
RefacingCabinet.com Columnist

Beautiful cabinets arguably make the boldest statement about the look of your kitchen--and kitchen cabinets that are abused, scuffed, dirty, or don't have a crisply stained or painted finish make an equally strong statement. Refacing kitchen cabinets is a straightforward do-it-yourself kitchen remodeling task that doesn't require kitchen cabinet contractors--or big budgets.

Kitchen Cabinet Staining Supplies

One of the best things about a re-stain job is that supplies are minimal. What you need:

  • Stain--consult the professionals at your local home improvement store
  • Stripper
  • Sandpaper (fine-grit)
  • Putty knives or similar scrapers
  • Stain rags
  • Lacquer or similar finish

6 Steps to Re-staining Existing Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Know your materials. Before re-staining your kitchen cabinetry, you have to remove the old stain and the binders that help it adhere to the wood. Stain differs from paint in that it doesn't cover the wood surface, it bonds to it and allows the natural beauty of the wood grain to seep through. Most stains are comprised of a pigment for color, a binding agent--oils, urethanes--to make the pigment bond to the wood, and a carrier, such as toluene, to help the stain flow smoothly.
  2. Disassembly required. Before beginning, clear out a space in your garage and lay down some old sheets or layers of newspapers. Next, break down your kitchen cabinets as much as possible, removing handles, doors, and drawers. Soak your hardware in hot water with a detergent to clean. If your cabinets are wood veneer and not solid wood, opt for cleaning instead of applying a stripping agent.
  3. Back to basics. Purchase a reliable stain stripper such as Jasco. Bring your doors and drawers to your well-ventilated garage workstation to prevent fumes from invading your home. Many strippers are acid-based, so wear gloves. Apply a thick coat, let it dry, and apply another coat. Scrape off while wet. Do the same for cabinet bodies, keeping windows open and children away from fumes.
  4. Smooth it out. Lightly sand all areas with progressively finer-grit sandpaper for best results. When sanding inside components, use a shop-vac to prevent dust from spreading. Sanding helps the new stain stand out.
  5. Staining. Apply stain in the direction of the grain and use thin coats. You can always stain again for a darker look. Before beginning in earnest, test-stain an unobtrusive section of your cabinetry to make sure you've got the right tint.
  6. Lacquer. Many options are available for this final touch, but lacquer provides an excellent seal and look.

Staining your existing kitchen cabinets acn bring a new look to old, worn cabinetry for minimal cost and labor.

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