Show me your painted/stained oak cabinets

ejbrymomJanuary 4, 2010

I have seen posts here and there of people that kept their existing oak cabinets and did great kitchen remodels around them by staining or painting them. I would love to see them.

All of this is helping me get ready for my own oak cabinet transformation to be completed by spring.

Thanks so much!

Any tips on hiding some of the graining that is common with oak? (putty recommendation perhaps)

Also if you can explain if simply the process you used to either paint/stain(gel) cabinets?

THank you thank you in advance!

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Long tedious process, but worth taking the time. We used Pore-o-pac, paintable wood grain filler. Several coats, sanded in between.

We painted ours with oil, so we used the oil based product to fill the grain. I've attached a link to the product, there is now a "thinner" available, but we used mineral spirits (I think) to thin it.

Before we did this, we cleaned them thoroughly with TSP, lightly sanded.

We aren't done with our kitchen yet (notice the unfinished crown moulding that we added &only 1/2 the new floor) but here's a before and "during"

Here is a link that might be useful: Pore-o-Pac

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:49AM
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    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 3:33PM
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gmp3 - GREAT update! What granite do you have? And what color did you paint your cabinets? I love how you removed your island and installed a penisula for seating instead!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 3:43PM
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I was so glad to see this forum as I too have been searching for the best process to either paint or stain my oak kitchen cabinets. I will start with my ulitily room cabinet, and if I like the look I will then proceed to the kitchen. My floors are light ceramic tile and my backsplash is tuscan 4" cream tiles. Don't know if white or cream cabinets would look good? The oak cabinets go well, but I want a new look in the room and definitely want to update the cabinets and island.

Should I paint the cabinets cream with all my other light colors. The floor and blacksplash are fairly new and will not be replaced.

Help, you guys are so good at tackling these projects and they look great. I am amazed at your skills!


    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:01PM
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I forgot the color we had them painted, but I think it was something like "linen" or "canvas" I brought the samples to the cabinet dept in Home Depot and matched them to cabinets I liked. I had someone spray them with BM satin Impervo, there were too many doors drawers for me to handle. I may get them glazed in the future, just waiting a bit to see how they wear. We actually moved the cabinets from the island to make the penninsula, and faced them with beadbord on the back side, and had the floors refinished. I HATED that island, and love the seating. The granite is Santa Cecelia Napoli.

I am very happy with the way it turned out and it was inexpensive, especially because I have so many cabinets, replacement would have been out of the question for us.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:23PM
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gmp3, can you give details of the paint color you used, the hardware you used and how you added the siding to the cabinets? Did you paint them yourself? They are so perfect! I love your updated kitchen. I also love the granite color and would love to know what it is.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:24PM
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Beeskeeperswife, I also love the changes you made to your kitchen with your cabinets now being the star of your kitchen. Do you have a close up of your counters and the details since it looks pretty with the white kitchen.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:26PM
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Lynn2006, we added beadboard to cover all the fake wood side panels and to build out the penninsula, and trimmed it with 3" trim on the base cabinets only. My husband built up the corner cabinet and hutch area to give a bit of height variance, and we added glass to 3 doors.

My hardware is oil rubbed bronze, purchased on eBay. I didn't replace the hinges and painted them with spray paint instead (they would have been $6 each and I needed about 80 of them).

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:20PM
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Wow. I am wanting to restain my oak cabinets a darker color, and was very interested in this post, and then read where gmp3 took out island and replaced with the peninsula. That is exactly what I want to do. I even made my husband come in here and look! Thanks for posting. Ya'lls cabinets look nice, too.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Gee, this comes up every few months.

Here is before and after with gel stain

Before: (prior owner there, not me)

And after

With apologies to those sick of seeing this reposted, here's is my excessively detailed how-to:


It is a very doable project. You just need time, $50 in supplies, and patience. No skill.

Here's more than you need to know:

My cabinets were frameless, good condition and good layout. But the finish had gone orange and ugly, with the oak graining too busy for me. Cabinet were 18 years old, very poorly finished oak veneered slab doors. Plain with no crevices. They didn't even take the doors off to finish them!!! No stain or finish was even put on the hinge side edges. Bad workmanship.

I looked into changing out cabinets, but that was way too much money, since my layout was OK. Painting didn't seem right because the doors were plain slabs. I considered new doors but that still meant a lot of money. For a few years I tried to figure a way to add molding toward a mission look, but the rounded door edges made that impossible. Then trolling in a kitchen emporium showroom this last year I noticed dark wood slab doors, kind of like mine, but darker. That was the answer.

First I tried Minwax Polyshades. Dicey product. Hard to brush on neatly, then gummy, then seemed to leave a sticky tacky residue. I did a thread on the Woodworking Forum "Evil Polyshades to the Rescue" which elicited a lot of conflicting "expert" opinions and arguments that one must strip to bare wood. (Thread may still be around as that Forum moves slowly.) Long ago when I was young and stupid I properly stripped acres of woodwork in an old Victorian. Never again! Jennifer-in-Clyde (in the same boat) and I stumbled around on that woodworking thread to get to this method.

-electric screwdriver or screw drill bits
-mineral spirits to clean the years of gunk off the cabinet
-miracle cloths (optional)
-fine sandpaper
-box-o-disposable gloves from Walgreens or the like
-old socks or rags for wiping on coats
-disposable small plastic bowls or plates, and plastic spoons or forks for stirring/dipping (optional)
-General Finishes water base Espresso stain (pretty thick, but not quite a gel) NOTE: This one may not even be a needed step if the Java gets it dark enough.
-General Finishes Java gel stain (poly based)
-General Finishes clear top coat (poly based)
-old sheets or plastic sheeting or newspaper

Rockler woodworking stores are a good place to find the General Finish products. Or some larger hardware stores. Quart of each was more than enough for my 60 doors and drawer fronts and goes for $12-14 at Rockler. There are smaller sizes if your project is small.

You will need a place to work and leave wet doors to dry overnight - I set up 2 spaces: garage for sanding/cleaning and basement for staining/sealing. Use newspaper or plastic to protect the surface and floor. Figure out how you will prop doors to dry. Plan blocks of 20-30-minutes for sanding/cleaning bundles of, say, 6 doors at a time. Then just 10-minute sessions to wipe on coats. The coats will need to dry for about 24 hours, so figure that each section of the kitchen will be doorless for 4 or 5 days. Divide the job up into manageable chunks.

Take off doors and drawer fronts. Try using screw drill bits on an electric drill if you don't have an electric screwdriver. Remove all the hardware. *Mark alike things so you know what goes back where.* Clean the doors thoroughly. Not with TSP but with something pretty strong and scrub well. There's years of grease there.
Sand LIGHTLY, just a scuffing really. Just enough to break the finish and give it some tooth, no more than a minute a door. A miracle cloth is good for getting most of the dust off. Then wipe well with mineral spirits to clean and get the last of the gunk off.

In order, we're gonna put on:
-General Finishes Espresso water based stain (1 coat) - optional
-General Finishes Java gel stain (couple coats)
-General Finishes Clear urethane gel topcoat in satin (couple coats)

But first put on work clothes, tie up your hair and pop your phone into a baggie nearby (you know it will ring). Glove up.
***First do a trial on the back of a door and check if Java coats alone suffice. If the Java alone is to your liking, just skip the Espresso and return it.

Open and stir up the Espresso stain, then spoon some into a plastic bowl. Close the tin so it doesn't get contaminated. Slide a sock over your hand, grab a gob of Espresso and smear it on. Wipe off the excess. Let it dry well - overnight is good. It will lighten as it dries, but then darken again with any other coat or sealer. A second coat might result in a deeper tone at the end - though it seemed like the second coat was just dissolving the first. YMMV.

Repeat with Java gel. This is thicker and poly based (*not water cleanup!*= messier). Color is a rich dark reddish brown. Wait for the second coat to judge if the color is deep enough for you. I wanted a very deep dark color, like melted dark chocolate. So I went pretty heavy on these layers. I did not sand between coats.
Repeat with clear gel topcoat. This will give you the strength you need in a kitchen.

Do the same process with the cabinet sides, face and toe kick area. Might need to divide that up also, and stagger the work: doors/cabinets/doors/etc.

NOTE: The cloth or socks used for the gels are very flammable! Collect and store them in a bucket of water as you go and then dispose of them all properly.

I suggest you put the doors back up after one clear coat, then you can check everything over and darken an area with more Java if needed, followed by a clear coat. When it all looks right, go over it all again with another clear gel coat. Or two. (See my follow up notes below). Install your hardware.
The feel of the finish should be wonderful, really smooth and satiny. Color deep and rich - way nicer than that faded, beat 80's oak color.

Definitely experiment first with the back of a door or drawer front to be sure it is the look you want. Yes, this takes a couple days to coat, dry, recoat, dry, etc but you may discover that the Java alone does the trick and this will save you a LOT of work. Front-end patience is worth it.

This is a pretty easy project to do. Hard to screw it up. The worst is the prep - relative to that, smearing on the coats is cake. I had over 60 pieces (big kitchen) AND island sides and book shelves, etc and I admit I lost steam partway through. Had to push myself through the last of it. But it was worth it. Folks think I got all new cabinets - it looks that good.

Now the finish will not be as durable as factory finish - go at it with a Brillo pad and you WILL abrade it. But it has held up pretty well. And after a year of pretty heavy use, I had just a few nicks, easily repaired.
(6/08 Add: I'm now (18 months later) seeing some wear near the pulls on the most used cabinets. Will add color with Java if it bugs me.)
(9/09 Add: Never did bother to touch up those couple spots. Bugging me a bit more, and I will get to it soon. It is the drinking glass cabinet and the snack cabinet, LOL. And the garbage pull-out. The rest still looks perfect. Lesson: Use an extra coat or 2 of gel on the way frequently used cabinets.)
(12/09 Add: I did finally touch up the spots that were worn. Used just Java to get the color right, then a bunch of top coats. Looks perfect again.)

I added smashing hardware, raised my pass-through, resurfaced the Corian (also simple but messy and tedious) and replaced the DW and sink. It looks gorgeous to me and I really enjoy the space - how it sits all quiet, clean and serene, then gets all crazy with the food and folks du jour. I couldn't be happier, especially that I didn't have to work another year just to pay for the update!!

Link to cabinets in progress:

Link to almost finished cabinet pix:

It's been about 3 years and I am still very happy with the outcome.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 9:39PM
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Celticmoon - your kitchen is fabulous! You went from really crummy to custom chic! Your expresso color and brushed nickle hardware are perfect for those slab front cabinets and the rest of your decor. I love these amazing low-budget redos more than some of the $75K kitchens!

I may do a bathroom cabinet with the gel stain. The vanity has cheapy fake wood sides - does the gel work there too?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 10:26PM
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gmp3, thanks for letting me know that you had fake sides also to your cabinets and how you covered it and then also added trim. I am still in the middle of deciding what to do about my fake worn out oak cabinets that look nice from far away but up close one can see how worn out they are and that underneath in some areas the particle board is now showing since the plastic shiny brown stuff came off. For fake cabinets mine do not look that bad but they are 20 years old and I have to make a decision on what to do about them since I am trying to make my kitchen beautiful for me, for when visitors come by, and for potential resale value in case I sell one day. Thanks for letting me know that the knobs are oil rubbed bronze bought on EBay.

Celticmoon, I always love seeing your kitchen transformation.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:17PM
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Our kitchen cabibets are in the process of being painted. We decided to hire a professional to do the job as I could have never done it myself. The doors will be put in next week and then the walls will be painted, new wood floors will also be installed. Last but not least a backsplash and hardware will be put up. I am exciting to see the final project

P.S. We painted ours Dover White from SW. I love the color!!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 8:51AM
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lynn2006, I have Bianco Antico granite. I love it. Here are some pictures of it. Santa brought me a really nice camera for Christmas, but I haven't installed software to upload photos to computer. So these are my inferior camera pictures...

This one is a little blurry--it's from the day of installation--I think I was shaking from excitement!!!

And I saw some talk about the ends of the cabinets. Before we went ahead and bought veneer to enable us to paint the ends of the cabinets (they are some sort of plastic coated stuff), I sprayed them with a clear primer that allows you to paint over plastic. It was the Lowe's brand (Valspar?) of the same product that Krylon puts out--you know the stuff to paint your plastic furniture with. This was easy, apologies to the ozone of course. I was able to paint them without any trouble at all.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 9:11AM
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