Can you refinish your own kitchen cabinets, or must it always be a job for cabinet painting professionals ?
We won’t lie. Refinishing cabinets is not for the faint-hearted. It needs work and a certain amount of skill. And in all honesty, it is not a job for the beginner.
However, if you are confident about your DIY skills, and have perhaps attempted something similar in the past, then read on…
We estimate this project will take between four to eight weekends.
Still up for it? Read on!
Refurbishing cabinets is a messy business. Start by placing clothes over the work area and anything else you don’t want to destroy! Also, protect yourself by having the right eye protection and gloves for the job.
Next, you need to clean all the things. This means the kitchen cabinets, but also the composing hardware (handles, hinges etc.)
Start by removing the cabinet doors. We recommend giving them a really good soaping, preferably out of doors if possible.
Tip – before you remove anything, label it – so you know where to put it back afterward! Next, give the insides a good soaking, removing any shelves that will come out. You will polish them before replacing in your unit.
Now for some hard work! Before you strip anything you need to ensure you are working in a well-ventilated space. It would be best to do this project outdoors, but if not, then open all the windows and doors.
Which Stripping Agent Do I Need?
90% of the trick to stripping units is working out what material it is coated with, and then removing it correctly. Here’s how to identify the finish on your cabinets and then how to remove it.
Wax – If you think your unit is coated in wax, then find out by rubbing a drop of turps onto it. If the finish comes off, then it is wax.
Shellac – To detect shellac, use a small amount of denatured alcohol. If it comes off swiftly, your finish is shellac.
Water Base – All water-based solutions will come off with some drops of Xylene.
Varnish – For varnish or polyurethane finishes, you can use varnish remover to strip at the worst of it, but you’ll still need some good old fashioned elbow grease to see the rest of it off.
Lacquer – We recommend lacquer thinner to remove lacquer finishes.
Vinyl – If your unit is coated in vinyl or Formica, then you have hit a snag. These cabinet types do not lend themselves to being painted and will need the treatment of a dedicated professional.
Latex: Latex-based paint should come away with the application of denatured alcohol rub.
Oil-based: An oil-based paint needs a good sanding and will not come off with alcohol. You should be prepared to sand and prime before repainting with a latex-based paint.
Penetrating Oil – For these types of finish, you can’t strip away the color. The thing to do is to coat, paint or wax it as it stands – as long as the wood is dry.
Sand – Now sand the unit, after firstly using a wood filler to smooth out any blemishes in the unit.
Prime – Prime your wood with a primer before applying the top layer.
Paint – Be prepared to give more than one coat of paint if required. And allow drying before fitting back together.
Now your cabinet should be ready to go back on, looking fabulous and completely repurposed!