LESLIE: Ruth in Pennsylvania is on the line with some questions about stain on oak kitchen cabinets. How can we help you?
RUTH: I have oak cabinets in my kitchen. And they were beautiful when they were put in but that was in 1977.
TOM: Well, OK.
RUTH: They’re getting pretty shabby looking.
TOM: I bet.
RUTH: What do I do with them?
LESLIE: Well, in keeping along with an actual wood, depending on what – and you said it’s a light stain currently?
RUTH: Yes, it is.
LESLIE: Do you want to stay in the light family of oak kitchen cabinets or do you want to go darker?
RUTH: I think I would like to stay in the light if I could. Or would you think it would be better to do the darker?
LESLIE: No, it just depends on how you like it. You know, the darker could be a little bit easier to achieve with a few less prep steps. But if you want to stay in the light family, I mean you’re definitely going to have to start with a good cleaning. And then I would start by sanding them down. Not a tremendous amount but enough to get the sheen off from that top layer of the stain or whatever that finish is and get you to some raw wood and to a uniform layer of it, actually. And then you can go ahead and apply the new stain.
And it’s really best to do all of this while everything is down. You want to take the cabinet doors down. And you want to make sure you label which door came from which cabinet. As much as they are supposed to be set in the same exact locations, something could be slightly off. So you want to make sure that as you take each one down, you put a little piece of tape on one and say, “One-one,” or whatever your method’s going to be. This way putting them back is much easier than it could be.
RUTH: But you definitely have to take them down to work on them? Is that right?
LESLIE: I think it helps because if you’ve got them up, gravity is going to work against you. And while some stains are more thick than others, you could end up with drips or uneven areas. So it does help to take each cabinet door off and the drawer fronts off, as well. And that will help you just to achieve a more professional finish, I think.
RUTH: OK. That sounds good. And then what would you do – what kind of finish would you put on them then?
LESLIE: Well, it really depends. So if you want to stick with just the natural look, you’re not going to put any tinted color in, you want to use some sort of urethane. And the oil-based ones work better. And you want to make sure that you get one that – some of them will say “non-yellowing,” because for some reason in the kitchen, with the high moisture content in the air, the finish will tend to yellow. And then you can get one that has a satin finish or a glossy finish, whatever you’d like it to be.
RUTH: Yes. I believe mine was satin.
LESLIE: Yeah. Satin is actually quite lovely. But you can also – there are some stains that have a finish built into them. So if you’re looking to put some sort of a tint into it, you can pick one for your oak kitchen cabinets that already has the finish built in.
Now, those are going to be sort of a one-coat wonder. You put those on; you don’t wipe them away. You kind of have to really be careful with how you apply them so you get a uniform application. But those are really great. Those, I think, are called “gel stains” and those work very well.
RUTH: OK. Thanks a lot for your input.