How Do I Refinish Kitchen Cabinets?

Learn how to refinish your cabinets instead of buying new ones.

If you want to refinish your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, be sure they are in good shape and will last at least another 5 to 10 years before starting a task of this size.

You will want to make sure that the floors of all of the cabinets are dry and don't have any wood rot. Be particularly aware of the floors and sides of cabinets underneath sinks and near dishwashers. These are usually the first to show signs of wear. While the floors can be replaced, this is best left to professionals. If the floor or sides need replacing, have this done before refinishing the cabinets.

You should check the shelves as well, but these are easy to replace, so don't let this stop you from refinishing your cabinets.



If your cabinets are in good shape, then you'll want to cover the countertops with a drop cloth and mask areas that could be damaged from the procedure.

Take the handles off the cabinet doors and thoroughly clean the exterior of the cabinets with a household cleaner. Then rinse the cleaner off the cabinets with cool water. Kitchen cabinets can accumulate a lot of grease and grime throughout the years and you may need to repeat this procedure several times to get all of the grime off of the cabinets.

Take a piece of sandpaper or a sanding block and lightly sand your cabinet doors and sides to remove any irregularities and gloss. Even if the doors aren't glossy, a light sanding will make sure they are smooth and dull, helping the paint stay on them. After sanding, be sure and vacuum up the dust, or use a soft cotton cloth moistened with water to remove the dust. This is an important step. Leaving the dust on the doors will cause the paint or varnish to look unprofessional.

Remove the cabinet doors and the hardware. Apply one coat of paint or varnish with a brush or a roller. Spray equipment may be used but unless you have a lot of cabinetry to paint, it's not recommended. Do not reduce paint with water for brush or roller applications.

Paint the exterior of the doors first, from bottom to top. Allow doors to thoroughly dry. While waiting for the doors to dry you should paint the face frames and sides of the cabinets. Then you'll want to paint the interior of the doors. When thoroughly dry, apply another coat of varnish or paint to exterior surfaces. It is not necessary to apply another coat to the interior of the doors. Let cabinets dry for 24 hours before using.

Replacing the doors may be a little tricky. You will need a carpenter's level to make sure the doors hang properly. First you'll need to screw the handles back on the doors. Then hang the door with only one screw in each of the latches. Use the carpenter's level to level the door then add the other screws and tighten, maintaining the levelness of the door.

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