restaining cabinets darker without stripping

HappyladiFebruary 9, 2008

I want to stain some honey oak cabinets darker and I don't want to strip them. I was all excited about the Minwax Polyshades but the reviews on them are bad. I don't mind some sanding but don't want to have to strip them.

Is there anything else that would work? Has anyone had any luck with the Polyshades?

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I have the same question for natural maple cabs that I may want to just "wash" with a slightly darker stain without doing to whole stripping sanding process. They have just a slight satin type finish on them now.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 10:36PM
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Check into gel stain. It can go over your existing cabinets without sanding, is not runny, and is easy to use. I went over my own cabinets with them and was very pleased with the outcome, thrilled actually. You will need to use a poly on them to seal but well worth the effort.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 12:28AM
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Never ending, what brand did you use? I have heard they are hard to use because they dry so fast...can you share how you did it?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 12:52AM
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And how about some pics :-)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 8:25AM
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celticmoon is the resident expert on staining old oak cabs with darker stain without stripping. she used general finishes gel stain.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 8:30AM
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she may drop in herself again but just in case....on this thread, someone called for her help. scroll way down to see what she did for her cabinets.

Here is a link that might be useful: celticmoon's cabinets are in here

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 8:35AM
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I used Minwax, I did not find it dried too fast. Basically you are using a painting technique so it has approximately as much time as when you paint. I consulted a professional painter before I tackled this project. The main info I came away with was to think of gel stain as a glaze, translucent and workable. It can be rolled on, brushed on, wiped on, wiped off, it layers darker with each coat. Regular mineral spirits thin the product slightly and give it a longer working time.

Although my cabinets were painted, I did no prep work and I definitely would have if I needed to.( As a long time DIY'er I never would want to re-do something over due to poor prep work...too lazy I guess :))

Regular stain will be too thin and runny, and will not have enough color pigment to darken. Do you have a color your aiming for? The thread jessie21 listed shows my pic's. Here they are finished.

They were taken immediately after re-hanging the doors, it is still a work in progress.

Here they are before. Originally they were walnut, painted off-white, re-painted red, now a cherry mahogany color.

Close up

Anytime you an re-use your existing materials to get the look you want is so satisfying. I would be more than happy to answer any specifics.

Basically I cleaned my cabinets and doors.

Took down my doors and took off all hardware.

I did a layering process on mine but I would recommend doing a bit of pracice on some old boards just to get a feel of whether you want to wipe on, brush on, etc. I also had the counter help at the store dip the stir'ers in the gel stain so I could take the different shades home and look at them there, yours should be pretty easy to decide on since you are not working with color as I was.

As you are working if you do not like what you are seeing simply wipe the gel off with mineral spirits and start over, it is that "easy".

I think that as with paint it would be much better to do two coats to acheive the color you are looking for than one thick one. ( of course one coat may do it ) I found that drying time was about 24 hours til ALL the tackiness was gone.

When doors and cabinets were dry and I was happy with color depth I brushed on poly, let dry overnight, put on hardware, and re-hung doors.

From start to finish- 3 days.

WAY worth it!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 11:57AM
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    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 1:36AM
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I am interested in restaining my Kitchen cabinet a darker colors, so you are saying that I can use a gel stain that is darker than the color I have--and that is the only thing I need to do. I also, want to stain my bathroom cabinets that are painted white--so can I just use a gel stain of my choice of color. Please let me know. Thank you

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 5:55PM
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Hi Guys

this might be useful for our cabinets and the cabinets at your new house Jane. In case you want to stain them.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 10:58PM
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I have tried restaining cabinets with gel stain. I tried first with the back of a door, but it didn't come out very well. I have oak cabinets, and bought brown mahagony since I wanted it just a little more reddish, which didn't work at all.
Oak has a very lively pattern, and the pigments filled in the pattern so it looked even more lively. I think it only works on more even woods, like maple etc., or you have to stain them so dark so they almost look like painted.
I will skip that, and just clean the cabinets and put on a layer of the satin topcoat instead.
I just have to tell myself I like yellowish oak...
Anyway, I'm changing the countertop and all appliances and the handles, so I'll see what it looks like when that is done. If I don't like it I will paint the cabinets white instead.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 6:49PM
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I have the ugly honey oak cabinets from the early 90's and I HATE the color...they are solid oak, and I am going to try this...I only want them slightly darker so I am hoping this will work. Thanks for the posts and I will let you know how it works>

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 1:24PM
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I also have that ugly 1990's golden oak woodwork syndrome - I am going to try a primer then the gel stain can anyone offer me any advice? Thanks :-)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 3:46PM
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