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Low Mess, $40ish Cabinet Restaining

February 11, 2011

Ev’s first house–his bachelor pad, if you will–had standard, builders grade oak cabinets straight from the 80’s. So when it came time to sell, we wanted to give them an upgrade–especially since they clashed pretty badly with the cherry laminate flooring we had installed a few months before.

It wasn’t a fancy house by any means and since we live in a college town (and because of its size, price point, and location,) it would most likely be bought by some college kids looking for a place to party sleep while attending school. Therefore, we simply wanted a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to refresh the cabinets–mostly for the purpose of generating interest and to get people inside so that they would, like, buy it and let us move on to our  current adventure.




I don’t recall exactly where I learned about Liquid Sandpaper, but it probably had something to do with HGTV. And I figured these cheap cabinets would be a good place to experiment–’cause there’s always paint if it didn’t work!  (Oh man, I really didn’t want to have to paint them!  Just wanted to be done with it already.)

Well, it did work and I’ve been a believer ever since. Though, if we had it to do over, would I still opt for staining them the exact same cherry tone as the floor? (Ev left the stain color up to me–he’s diplomatic like that.)  No. I would stain them a dark mahogany with red undertones–but it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that it works! (As long as you are willing to go either darker or more red).

(Sorry that again I don’t have “before” photos…I searched for one but it was not meant to be.   Just imagine very dull oak-grain cabinets that looked faded, tired, and worn.  Plus, I’m not even sure they were much more than very thin veneer or even laminate on the sides.)





So if your in that place between not liking your cabinets, and not able (or willing) to shell out the cash for new ones just yet, this a quick, low mess, and inexpensive way to transform your cabinets into something that will make you happier–whether it’s a temporary fix or somehting more long term.  And even though I’m more partial to painted cabinets for the long term, I’d do this again in a heartbeat with the right cabinets/right situation/ or if painting was out of the question for whatever reason.  

Wanna try it? 

You’ll need:

    Liquid Sandpaper (can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. Cost: about $16 and found near the stain isle in a plastic bottle. We ended up only using about 1/4 of the bottle and there were more cabinets than what’s pictured above.)
    gel stain (because it won’t run and it penetrates better than liquid stain. I recommend General Finishes brand mostly because of the darker color selection, but it’s about $20/can–so Minwax works fine, too)
    gloves!
    rags and a good brush (use a good one so the bristles won’t shed! You can use whichever application you prefer, but sometimes you need a brush to really get the stain into corners.)

Before you begin:

    -If possible, test it in an inconspicious area (for instance, pull out an appliance and try it there) just to be sure you don’t have, say, an inpenetrable top-coat or some other issue going on that would prevent it from working. Plus it’s just a good idea to make sure you’ll be happy with the staining.

    -Remove the doors from the cabs, as well as all hardware from the cabs and doors. The door faces are going to be the most important part so it’s better if you do those one at a time on a horizontal work surface. (Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be completely hassle-free!!)

    -It’s best to work in sections so that you keep the timing consistent and won’t feel the need to rush before the top coat closes back up.

    -It goes without saying, but you’ll want to protect your floors from any spills so lay down some plastic. And if your cabinets touch the ceiling, use painters tape to protect the ceiling.

Once that’s out of the way, be sure to read the directions on the Liquid Sandpaper, but it goes something like this:

    1) Shake the bottle really well.

    2) Wipe it on the cabinets using a rage and let it soak in for at least 15 minutes–though you might want to wait a little longer than that depending on the thickness of the clear coat.

    3) Apply your stain.

    4) Let dry for several hours. (And yes, there will be some fumes so keep the windows open and/or make arrangements to stay elsewhere for a few hours once you have finished.)

And that’s it–that’s all you need to do if the top coat on your cabinets is still in relatively good shape. (It works by opening up the top coat to allow for the stain to penetrate…and once a couple hours go by, it closes back up and encases the new stain underneath it.)

**Now, if the top coat on your cabs is thin or you just want extra protection, you can get wipe-on polyurethane and apply it with a rag once you’ve let them dry for a couple days. We love wipe-on polyurethane because it’s easy to apply and looks great (you use a rag and literally just rub it on–no application marks, just a smooth finish.)

-And don’t forget new hardware when you’re finished–whether you spray paint the existing stuff, or spring for new ones. (I’ve found overstock.com has a great selection of inexpensive quality hardware, that’s where we got our ORB knobs and cup-pulls for our current kitchen.)

Questions? Ask away.

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