Stripping and Re-Staining Older Cabinets
LESLIE: Bob in Illinois is on the line and working on a kitchen makeover. What can we do for you?
BOB: Oh, we’ve got kitchen cabinets – they’re probably close to 30 years old – and we’re wanting to remodel our kitchen and I’m wanting to strip them down. And I was just wondering what was the best way – what to use to do it with.
TOM: Well, the good news is that 30-year-old cabinets are usually very, very well-built. You can’t really strip down a 10-year-old cabinet, because they pretty much fall apart. But you can definitely strip older plywood cabinets.
Now, what do you want to do after you strip it? Do you want to paint it or do you want to go with like a clear coating?
BOB: I’d like to go with a clear coating on it. Maybe put a pecan finish on it or something.
LESLIE: And what’s on there now? Are they just stained or are they painted?
BOB: No, they’re just stained.
TOM: It’s hard to change the color of a stained cabinet. I’m just telling you just be prepared for that. But what you might want to do is use a good-quality stripper. Like Rock Miracle, for example, is a good one.
LESLIE: Yeah. Another thing that’s good to do is head over to your local mom-and-pop paint shop, because sometimes there are newer products that are out there.
I was just getting some wallpaper paste but in that section, there were some really nice paint strippers. They apply a little differently, they go on more easily, they work more quickly. So I always just pop into the shop to sort of see what they’ve got in there that they’ve worked with.
But Tom and I have both used Rock Miracle and I like that because it goes on more like a paste, so you can really see where it is, you can see it start to work. And I guess it depends on how much stain is on there, how dirty they are.
I would start by giving them a good cleaning. Then make sure they’re dried very well, then put the stripper on them. Follow the directions. And you’re going to want to use a wire brush and a paint scraper. And that’s going to get that finish off of there.
Now, it’s important to work on them on a flat surface, so take all the doors and drawer fronts off. Label them as you take them down, with a piece of tape on the back side of the cabinet door and one on the cabinet box itself so that you know exactly where things go. Leave the hinges on the box sides so that you can have the doors flat. These are things that are just tricks of the trade that will help you be more successful.
And if your doors are full overlay – are they or are they not?
BOB: Are they what now?
LESLIE: When your cabinet door closes, do you see any of the cabinet box around it, like a frame? Or does the door cover it?
BOB: Yeah, it does; it flushes up against the frame of the cabinet.
LESLIE: So, that’s a blessing and a curse. Because then you can ignore the box or you can also work on the box while it’s in place, to strip that down, as well. And in that case, the Rock Miracle is really good because it’s really thick, so it’ll stay on in a vertical position, as well. So, those are some good things.
And you may have to apply it more than once, depending on how well-adhered your stain currently is. I mean you’ve really got to see. And then keep in mind that depending on the species of wood, the type of color that you might get from the stain that you’ve selected to go on there might be a little different. So you might want to work on a back side or a smaller area, just so you can see how it will react and what color you’ll actually end up with.
BOB: Thank you, then.