Ugly Dark Kitchen Cabinets: Refinishing Options
LESLIE: Brian in Tennessee, how can we help you in your money pit?
BRIAN: Well, what I was wanting to know is – my house is about 30 years old. The kitchen cabinets and all the woodwork in the house are that kind of dark looking wood. Not real expensive or anything but it’s just got a real ugly finish to it.
BRIAN: We want to know the best way to – whether we strip them, paint them, whatever we need to do. I can’t afford, really, to reface the cabinets; put new cabinet doors on. And there’s nothing physically wrong with them. I just want to make them look decent.
LESLIE: Well, is the – so the finish is just really dark. Is it solid wood?
BRIAN: Yes, they are solid wood. It’s a real dark finish.
LESLIE: OK. What do you want them to look like? You’ve got two options. You’re right; you can strip them or you can paint them but they both give you very, very different looks. If you want to see the wood grain, if you want to see the look of wood, you can strip it down. There’s a great product called Rock Miracle, which I like because it’s kind of pastier in its application so you can see where it’s going on. It’s not very runny and it changes how it looks as it starts to affect the wood so you can actually see it doing it’s job. And it works quickly, which I like. And it’s going to take you a bit of time to work through all these cabinets.
Are the doors fully overlaid? You don’t see any of the framework on the cabinet behind it?
BRIAN: Yeah, you do see the framework behind it as well.
LESLIE: Alright. So what you’re going to want to do is pull off all those doors. Make sure you label them so you know exactly what doors go to where. So leave the hinges either on the door or on the cabinet so you don’t have to worry about realigning any of those euro hinges or any sort of hinge that might give you a problem. And then, as you pull each door off, put a piece of tape on the backside; label it A and then A in the cabinet where everything is coming from so you know exactly what to do. And then, at least you can take all of those doors outside; lay them flat; decide if you want to – you know, regardless of painting or stripping, clean them well. Get them wet with water and make sure you get off all the grease. Use an orange cleaner. Whatever you want but get that grease and that wear and tear from the kitchen of all those years off of the cabinets because it’s going to work a lot more quickly.
Then if you want to strip them, use Rock Miracle – which I love. Put it on there. Use a wire brush. Get in there. Really get things out. And you might have to do it a couple of times to get it down to raw wood. And then you can either go ahead and put on a new stain or polyurethane; depending on how the wood looks. That’ll help decide. You can go with colored stains. You can go with solid stains. There’s a lot of choices. So if you want to go with something that’s in a blue tone or even a white washing, you can do all of that.
If you choose to paint, make sure you clean the cabinets then prime them well; usually with an oil-based primer only because of the moisture and the grease and the stickiness that happens in a kitchen. And then you can go ahead and put a latex paint on top of that primer. And really, the option is yours, depending on how you want that look to be. And then you can go ahead and change the hardware; change the pulls and the knobs. Really modernize it or make it traditional; make it classic. Whatever you like.
BRIAN: Well what kind of – what kind of paint would you want to use on them? I mean something that would hold up real well? What would you suggest?
LESLIE: Well, I definitely say an oil-based primer because that’s going to adhere very, very, very well. And then you can go ahead and use a latex paint on top of it. And generally, Behr makes one that’s made specifically for the kitchen. It’s got a nice sheen to it. You want to go with something that’s glossy. You want to make sure that it’s non-yellowing; especially for the kitchen area because of all the moisture and the grease that’s in there. But once you’ve got it primed, you can put any paint on top as long as it’s latex and it’s made for moist environments. Because the kitchen generates a lot of moisture from cooking and washing the dishes and even just breathing. So make sure you do everything to stand up to those conditions.
BRIAN: OK. Well, that sounds good. That helps a lot. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome, Brian. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. What’s your home improvement question? Call us now.