oak cabinets: paint, restain or reface? opinions please!

shortycakeJanuary 29, 2008

Our house was built in '77, and our kitchen has oak cabinets. They look a lot like this veneer raised door style, with the arches on top and bottom, plus extra molding around the design.


We want to give the cabinets a facelift and would just replace hardware, but all the cabinet doors have handles right in the middle of the cabinet door PLUS a decorative plate behind the handle. We don't like the handles in the middle and removing the plate leaves an outline.

Do we paint, restain or reface? This is our first home, and we plan to live in the house for at least 5-7 years, but probably not forever. Our dilemma is: painting is easiest/cheapest, but the cabinets seem to be decent quality wood (not the flimsy stuff) - would it decrease the value to paint? or would it be worth the effort to strip and restain it? Or is it worth the cost to reface the cabinets (with wood that is at least comparable quality)?

Any thoughts? Thanks!

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All I can do is relay my experience. Before I purchased my current home, I hired a company to perform a whole house inspection. The inspector labeled the kitchen cabinets "substandard" because the homeowner's paint job was not comparable to that of a cabinet factory. I went ahead and purchased the house because there were more pluses than minuses so, bottomline, painting the kitchen cabinets did not cost the homeowners a sale but it did decrease the value of the cabinets.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 5:54PM
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We just purchased a 1988 ranch home with very dark oak cabinets. Fortunately for us, they're custom made and well made at that but....they are butt ugly, imo. Our cabinet doors also have the hardware near the middle of the door, makes them even uglier.

But they fit the space perfectly and we didn't want to spend more money than we had to. So, we decided to paint them and it's going well. We're using McCloskey's Kitchen Cabinet Finish and it's a fantastic product. The finish is perfect if you use the proper tools. We're taking our time and cleaning, filling the holes from the hardware, priming, and painting.

We're also going to try and retrofit the cabinet hinges by using a new concealed Salice hinge made exclusively for Rockler for 3/8" overlay doors - I've been searching for a hinge like that forever since it seems every old house we buy has those darn obvious hinges (which I hate). They're pricey ($21.49 pair) but a heck of a lot cheaper than new cabinets or doors.

In other words....I vote for paint and the challenge of working with what you have and making it beautiful.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 6:58PM
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i think you should paint/restain/ or reface! any is a good option. if you restain, i would only go darker because there are products out there where you will not have to strip the old finish. just a quick rough up of the surface with sandpaper. then it's almost as easy as painting. celticmoon did this with her oak cabinets and it looks fantastic.

painting is also an option if you are careful. I don't believe painting would decrease the value of your house. if it looks great, that's what counts. also a dark choice, girlwithasprin is a great example, but i know it can be done with lighter colors too.

my ugly cabinets are extremely well made wood mode that i can't justify throwing out. I hired a cabinet maker to make a new section for me (to replace a desk area that we never used), picked a stain, and he has built the new section and also refaced the old cabs i'm keeping to match. thought i could do this myself but thru much experimenting, decided to leave it to a pro and i'm so glad i did. i think they look great. not cheap, but not as expensive as new cabs.

at the beginning of this endeavor, i hoped to paint...easy and cheap... but just couldn't do it because my door style was so awful, it would not have looked good. they were euro flat with the little oak strip along the bottom for handles.

good luck and let us know what you decide to do.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:31PM
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shortycake: I was in a similar situation as you are: my house had almost the same cabinets. We knew we'd be selling w/10 years. The kitchen needed updating (appliances were 13years old).
We decided to leave the cabinets alone, but dazzled potential buyers with the brand new stainless steel appliances (French door fridge, powerful range/hood, dishwasher, huge sink/new faucets), new lighting, backsplash, and granite slabs. The kitchen looked completely different, which made me dislike the oak cabinets a bit less.

Our buyers LOVE the kitchen. We're glad we didn't touch the cabinets, either staining them or painting them.

joanie_b: can you please post your progress with painting your cabinets? I thought I would do what celticmoon did, but sometimes I get twinges of wanting creamy white/butter cabinets. thanks.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:43PM
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Here is my before and after. We replaced the fridge cabinet, new counters and new appliances. Of course painted the cabinets and added new hardware.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 9:08PM
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Search for the couple threads here where people used BM Bittersweet Chocolate over their oak cabinets. It was an amazing transformation. I am not a fan of painting cabintes stark white - but really was wowed by the pictures of those who used the BM Bittersweet Chocolate

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 12:23AM
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I think that painting is an good option. it can be done with lighter colors.

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchen cabinets world

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 8:38AM
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