Inexpensive Kitchen Upgrades
By: Danny Lipford
Refinishing Cabinets Gives a New Look
If you have wood cabinets now, the least expensive way to update them is painting them. To really make them look good, you need to use top-grade primer and paint, be very methodical in your technique, and use a little trick to make brush strokes disappear.
- First, scrub the all doors, draws, and cabinet face frame and faces with detergent and a damp rag to remove years of grime
- Then wipe them with down with alcohol and a clean rag to remove any grease.
- Next, use a random orbit sander (or a sanding block if you have lots of energy) and 220-grit sandpaper to uniformly ready the existing finish for the new one.
- A tack rag purchased at a home center is the key to getting the surfaces you’ve been sanding completely free of dust and ready to paint.
- Next use a primer that’s compatible in formulation and color to your top coat of paint to coat all surfaces. Try for a thin, uniform coat.
- Sanding between coats is the key to a smooth finish, so very lightly sand the prime coat after it’s dry and use the tack rag again.
- Stir an additive into your paint to improve its flow. There are separate types for solvent and water-based paints, but either will essentially eliminate brush marks from your painting. For the paint itself, use an enamel that will dry hard and scrubbable.
- Apply the first top coat using a professional paint brush (nylon bristle for water-base paints and china bristle or natural bristle for solvent-based paints) and long even strokes. Again, a thin even coat is the goal.
- Once it is dry, sand the first top coat and go over everything with the tack cloth
- Finally you can apply the final top coat for a smooth, even, durable finish.
But what if you still want the wood look, just not the worn finish and outdated style you have now? You can get it with a little more work. In this case, you want to remove the doors and drawer fronts from your cabinets and replace them in the style and stained finish of your choice. Local cabinet shops can produce these for you, but there are also a number of national manufacturers that specialize in this that can be found on the Internet.
Once your doors and drawer fronts arrive, you will need to stain the exterior of your cabinets (the face frame and any other exposed areas) to match. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, and here again, there is a trick that will help.
Staining Cabinets to Match New Doors and Drawer Fronts
- First use a random orbit sander or sanding block and 150-grit sandpaper to gently take off most of the existing finish. As you get below the clear lacquer coating, be careful not to take much wood.
- Now switch to 220 grit sandpaper and get the wood to look as uniform in color as possible without rounding over the edges of the wood or creating depressions in the surface. Don’t be concerned if all the stain isn’t completely removed.
- Next, take the interior wood stain that your paint dealer has helped you match to the new doors and drawer fronts and mix it with a satin polyurethane varnish finish in a separate container. Using this formulation will allow you to stain over the existing wood. If the color isn’t quite dark enough after the first coat, you can mix in the stain a bit more heavily for the second coat. If the color is about right after the first coat, then just add a second and third coat of the polyurethane without any stain in it.
- To get the smooth finish you expect on cabinets, make sure and sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper in between coats and use a tack rag to get every bit of dust from the surface before picking up a paint brush again.