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  • Writer's pictureTyler Johnson

What to Know About Cabinet Refinishing

White cabinets after cabinet refinishing project

Bathroom or kitchen cabinet refinishing is a great way to update the appearance of your cabinets without spending thousands of dollars on new ones.

However, refinishing cabinets in bathrooms or kitchens requires careful preparation, sanding, and priming before you even start painting or staining. By following these steps carefully, anyone can refinish their kitchen or bathroom cabinetry at home.

Be Safe and Prepare Yourself

You’ll need essential tools and supplies, including drills, screwdrivers, hammers, drop cloths or tarps, sandpaper, primer, the best cabinet paint or stain, and brushes or rollers.

You also need to protect your health and safety when cabinet refinishing. Wear a mask and gloves throughout the process, and ensure you have plenty of ventilation in your workspace.

In addition, you must clean up after yourself as much as possible throughout the process. It is tempting to leave behind scraps of wood or leftover glue, but a job like this is messy, and debris builds up. It’s better to keep them in containers or bags until they’re ready for disposal.

Step One: Prepare the Space

Preparing the kitchen for cabinet refinishing

You must remove everything from the room that doesn’t need to be there while refinishing cabinets. Clean off the countertop and remove items stored in the cupboards where you’re working.

Remove the stove, microwave, dishwasher, and other appliances that might be in the way before you start. Removing unwanted obstacles helps later when you need to maneuver around tight spaces to sand, stain, or fill in holes.

Additionally, lay down drop cloths or tarps near the cabinets you plan to refinish. Covering the floors helps keep them clean and protects them from paint, stain, and dust.

Step Two: Label Cabinet Doors

While all the doors look the same, some vary in shape and size, and some only fit in certain places in your bathroom or kitchen. It may not seem like an important step, but labeling the cabinet doors will save you time throughout the cabinet refinishing process.

Apply tape on the cabinet face and the back of the door, and mark them with a matching number. As you work on the cabinets, move the tape around as you need, taking care not to mix up the labels from one door to another.

Step Three: Remove Doors, Shelves, and Hardware

Unscrewing cabinet doors

Remove the doors and drawers. With the help of a screwdriver, unscrew any hinges holding the doors in place, then remove them. Every style of cabinet hardware is different, so take care when removing it.

Next, remove the shelves. If screws or nails hold the shelves to the cabinets, don’t worry about this step. You may do more damage by attempting to disassemble the cabinets.

It’s important to take care; otherwise, your cabinet refinishing project may become a cabinet replacement.

Step Four: Sand Surfaces and Fill in Holes

Sanding cabinet doors

Now it’s time to sand down all the surfaces and prepare them for painting. It’s best to use an electric sander with fine-grade sandpaper for this process, as it will save your hand and arms from getting sore. You can also use 150-grit sandpaper.

When you finish sanding, use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust produced by the sanding process, and wipe the cabinets and doors with a damp cloth.

Make sure you wipe away any lint or dust before you even think about painting! These will get between the paint or stain and cause it to peel more quickly.

Apply putty with a putty knife over any holes and push down firmly to fill them in. Use a different part of the putty knife to remove the excess putty from around the edges so they look clean and even. Sand out any remaining imperfections, ensuring there are no marks left behind.

Step Five: Apply Stain or Primer and Paint

Refinishing cabinets in white

Staining or painting your cabinets is essential to the cabinet refinishing process. You'll want to know how to paint your cabinets or stain them before starting.

Staining cabinets gives them a more natural appearance and brings out the natural fibers and patterns of the wood. Painting them matches any color scheme you want and gives them a more polished, finished look.

Thankfully, staining your cabinets is relatively easy.

First, apply a sealer on the cabinets to help the stain achieve a nice, even finish. Next, choose the type of stain you want, then apply a coat to the cabinets using a foam brush or a rag.

Apply a second coat of stain if it’s not dark enough. It’s best to start with a lighter stain because applying a second coat of stain is easier than starting the entire process over.

If you are painting, start by applying a primer to the cabinets.

Use even strokes with a brush or roller to apply the primer, then let it dry. Once it dries, apply enamel-based paint to the cabinets and doors with a brush or roller, and let it dry.

Primer and paint each usually take an hour or two to dry, depending on the temperature in your house. After the first coat of paint dries, repaint it and let that coat dry. Finished cabinets usually require two coats of paint.

Step Six: Reattach Cabinet Hardware and Doors

Reattaching cabinet doors

Now it’s time for the final step in your cabinet refinishing project!

First, install the cabinet door hinges and hardware. If you’re using new hardware, follow the instructions and install them properly. If you’re using the old hardware, replace any stripped screws or worn pieces before you hang the doors.

After all the hardware is on, reattach the doors in the exact locations you took them off using the numbered labels. Then move any kitchen appliances or stored items back to where they belong.

Finally, clean up the mess, and enjoy the new look of your cabinets!

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets in Baltimore, Maryland

Gray refinished cabinets

Refinishing your cabinets is not a quick, easy process, but it’s worth the time and effort. Refinished cabinets can make any kitchen or bathroom look new and boost the value of your home. It’s a great weekend project that turns old, dilapidated cabinets into shining new focal points for your kitchen or bathroom.

Aurora Painting specializes in cabinet refinishing throughout the Baltimore, Maryland, area. We are familiar with all stained wood finishes and want to make your house feel more like home.

Fill out our contact form today to ask about refinishing the kitchen cabinets in your home!

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