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How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re interested in updating your kitchen but don’t want to deal with the disruption and mess of a cabinet tear-out, you can refinish kitchen cabinets to very good effect. Take the time to study your current cabinets so you are fully prepared for the work and cost.

Consider Hardware

Your current cabinets may be dark and dated. Perhaps you’re considering painting them white or cream to brighten up your space. Make sure you also consider updating the hardware.

Black and dark bronze hardware can look dowdy on freshly painted cabinets. If you’re going for a bright white finish, dark knobs and hinges can actually look quite dull. You can spray paint existing hardware, but be aware that it may be hard to get an even finish. You will probably have to deal with flaking paint over time. If you can afford it, plan to replace your hardware to suit your new design goals.

Start With a Good Scrub

Kitchens are inherently humid. If your home is older, there’s a good chance that your cabinets are also covered in a layer of grease and dust. Pull the doors out to a spot where you can make a mess and clean them with very fine steel wool and a degreasing soap. Steel wool will start the process of roughing up the surface for the new finish.

When you’ve finished the cleaning process, wipe the cabinets down with a wet cloth. Change out the water frequently to fully rinse them so they’re ready for sanding. Let them dry overnight.

SAFETY NOTE: If your cabinets currently have a coat of paint on them and your house is more than 50 years old, get a lead paint test kit and check the surface. If it’s positive, you will need to get a professional to look at your project. While it’s unlikely that this is the case, you don’t want to expose your household to the dust generated from lead paint.

Sand the Surface

Once you’re sure the surface is safe, get out your dust mask and sanding tools. You can use a fine grain sandpaper; your goal is not to take all the glossy finish off. Instead, you’re trying to create a slightly roughened surface that will allow your chosen paint to cling. Wipe down the newly sanded surface with a rag and mineral spirits. Your cabinet surface should look cloudy or dusty once it dries.

Prime and Paint Your Cabinets

Your kitchen cabinet refinishing will yield better results if you apply a coat of quality primer first. Look for products formulated for kitchens and baths. These products will tolerate humidity.

Use a fine foam roller to apply the primer to the doors and framing members. Taking the doors off and laying them flat will allow you to get a smoother finish. Let primer cure as directed on the can before using a new foam roller for your top coat. Let everything cure fully and install your new hardware before rehanging your cabinet doors.

The choice to refinish kitchen cabinets is a cost-effective way to update a dated room. Making sure that the wood is clean and that the old finish is roughened is the best way to make sure your new topcoat clings well.

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