Cabinet Refinishing Tips for Professional Results

by Karl Crowder

Are "shabby chic", distressed or antiqued cabinets your thing? Do you want to give your dated cabinets a makeover? Or maybe you just need to unify a bunch of mismatched kitchen cabinets for a more consistent look?

Whatever your reason for undertaking cabinet refurbishment, you can accomplish your goal faster and easier if you use the following guidelines: they'll help you better prepare for and streamline your project.

Begin with the End in Mind

Shelter magazines and home improvement centers will give you lots of ideas for cabinet refinishing. Get a feel for what is popular in kitchen and bathroom looks, and have a clear picture in mind or in hand before diving in further.

Line all your ducks up: running out of something in the middle of your project not only wastes time. It can impact the quality of the finished results.

Set Up a Temporary Kitchen

Refinishing kitchen cabinets can be a large project that will take time and effort. So try to set up a temporary kitchen to minimize interference both with your life and the refinishing process.

Clean, Clean and Clean Some More

This is *crucial* if you want long-lasting results and we cannot emphasize this enough!

Not only dirt and grease, but also all soap and chemical residues you use for cleaning your kitchen or bathroom cabinets must be completely gone, or your refinishing efforts may peel, flake, or end up blotchy.

Don't Rush to Sand Off the Varnish

Many of today's stain blocking primers work so well, they cover and adhere to virtually anything. So you might not need to sand off the existing finish before painting.

And if you ever have trouble getting primer to stick well to a cabinet surface, just give it a light sanding with a sanding sponge. This will roughen up the surface and allow primer to bond.

Buy Disposable Supplies

Who likes cleanup? So consider buying all of your sponges and paint trays at a dollar store. When you are finished using them, just toss in the garbage.

Buying cheaper brushes or rollers, on the other hand, may or may not be a good deal. If bristles are left behind in the varnish or paint, the extra work and aggravation of trying to remove the defect just isn't worth the savings. Most experts agree that more expensive brushes do a better job.

Cheap rollers can also fall apart or leave lint behind in the finish, so don't chintz here either.

Use a Paper Plate to Catch Drips

Drips always make their way down the outside of the can. Just because you're using a drop cloth, doesn't mean you can't end up with a mess.

So set the paint can on a paper plate or a disposable pie pan to catch the drips, and you won't have to worry you've left a paint ring on the drop cloth for someone to step in.

Use Gloss Paint

Use two coats of glossy paint on your kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Glossy finish resists moisture, dirt and spills better than flat paint, and is much easier to clean.

If you use a flat or eggshell finish you'll have to apply varnish or a clear coat over the paint for more durability anyway. So it's just more cost effective to use gloss or semi-gloss paint from the start.

Be patient

Cabinet refinishing is a big job that takes time to do right. Don't rush any of the steps!

Think safety first: wear appropriate eye protection and a mask when sanding. Ensure adequate ventilation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karl Crowder is the lead writer for and has refinished many kitchens over the years. Check out his website for more great refinishing articles and tips.

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