Staining Custom Cabinets - Who and How??

cairnqueenDecember 20, 2010

I am having a custom cabinet maker build cabinets for my kitchen. He will build and install them but he does not do the staining. I understand it is typical to have a painter do this task.

I want to make sure that the job is done right since the cabinets are not inexpensive. I know to ask for referrals and opportunities to see examples of the person's work, but is there any general advice on questions to ask to find the right person? Is staining more specialized than painting? Are there questions I should ask about how they stain? Should I be specifying a certain number of finish coats? Do I need to specify oil based vs water based stain? Are there preferred brands of stain? I've been looking at Sherwin-Williams colors.

Any thoughts or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Many thanks!

Susan in Dallas

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B4 anything is done...

What kind of wood, and GRADE is it?!

Denser Maples and Cherrys will stain differently than Oaks, etc. If the wood is more exotic, they present their own challenges.

* Dye-stains are often used on dense stuff, but need a practiced person. This kinda stuff is in the "Specialty" category.
* Forget water-based stains. They'll often raise the grain too much, and their tint-strength is weaker.
* Oil-based stain BRANDS make no difference. ZAR however, is a nice thick highly pigemented regular stain....NOT a gel-stain however. It's a good choice for keeping an even tone on more "blotch-prone" woods.
* Waterlox may be a darn good choice for the Cabs! It's a very good Tung-Oil based finish.
* Polyurethanes are tough, but look kinda "plasticy". Waterlox is more easily repaired/touched-up.

Post this on the Woodworking forum here too. Good staining experts there...

Below link is from Waterlox. VERY good/detailed pdf info. on kitchen use, as is their whole site.


Here is a link that might be useful: Waterlox kitchen-use pdf...

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 12:51AM
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Susan -
It's far easier to stain before cabinets are assembled and installed. Can you find a cabinetmaker that is also a cabinetstainer?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 5:54PM
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Most high end cabinet makers finish the cabinets themselves. At least that is what I always thought. If they are expensive to build and install, it would be a shame to let some apartment painter ruin them. It's true that not all painters are also stainers. Certainly, finishing cabinets is more of a specialized thing that painters do. One coat stain, and two topcoats minimum is what you want. Three topcoats would be better. I prefer poly, but many will use lacquer. The finish should be sprayed on. Once you start getting bids, you will be able to get a feel for whether or not the painter is comfortable with this type of project...some just aren't. I would ask the cabinet maker for some referrals first.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 8:22PM
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I have found a small town cabinet maker who will come 100 miles to Dallas. His cabinets are gorgeous. Unfortunately he doesn't stain. I'm trying to decide whether it's worth using him or going with a local cabinet maker who finishes himself.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 9:54PM
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Stain is a color you apply to the wood to color it, usually followed by a clear finish coat.
A bad finish can turn the best made cabinets ugly.
The best way to determine if a finisher is good at his job is; 1. Have him make several 4" X 24" samples, using the same wood. I usually charge $50 plus the cost of the wood for this. 2. Have him explain how he finishes the inside of the drawers. 3. The drawers and doors should be removed, finished, then replaced. 4. Have him show you two examples of finished kitchen cabinets he has done. 5. Get everything in writing, down to the last detail including the number of finish coats after the sanding sealer, if any. 6. Understand what can and cannot be done and what a great finish, on your type of wood, looks like.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 11:53PM
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