Gel stained my cabinet door. I liked it, but...

abufishApril 24, 2011

Finally, after 4 coats of gel stain, I'm happy about the result. (Just used one door to test). (See picture, before & after)

Just bought a home with Oak cabinets, plan to change tiled counter top to granite, so whether to replace the cabinets (kitchen and bath) is a decision I need to make ASAP.

I still plan to gel stain all my bathroom cabinets to save some money, given the result is good. But I start to shifting to buying new kitchen cabinets instead. Initially I thought the cabinets was in good shape, but looking more at it, the box of the cabinets are actually particle boards, so the sides only have a thin veneer. The shelves are particle boards, too, one shelf under the sink is water damaged, needs to change, and the style is still not as contemporary as the ones I like (shaker style).

Once new counter top is on, there's no way we can change cabinets later, and I'm really not sure if particle board boxes can last for the next 10 years when I'm living there. Nowadays it seems plywood boxes are more standard but I guess for old, face framed cabinets, the box can be weaker because the frame helps to stabilize.

It is so hard to decide :(. What would you do? Throw another 5000 for new cabinets? Or just spend a few days gel stain everything? How long can these particle board boxes last? And if I really decide to buy new cabinets, can old cabinets be recycled as storage in garages?

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With very cheap but custom 1\2 inch frameless particle board I am at 25 years and counting. Boxes don't fail that often. What is the drawer construction? These are more likely to fail. Many folks, myself included, have had stapled drawers fail. I have had long shelves sag but it isn't hard to replace a shelf. Is your layout working and what practical compromises are you making keeping the cabinets? If I wasn't pretty happy with them I would replace them before adding granite counters. You don't sound that happy. The door looks great.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:35PM
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Caryscott, thank you for your input, something I never thought about. I'll look into the drawer joint tomorrow. I'm happy with the layout. If we are having new cabinets, I'd like to have a corner cabinet instead of the unusable area I have right now; I'd like to have some deep drawers, a smaller island... But all of these I can live with.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 12:16AM
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I'd live with the kitchen for a bit before doing anything. It will reveal what needs doing over time as you get to know it better...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 1:02AM
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OMG (I am really excited to see this lol) I am doing my bathroom right now with GF and I was searching for how many coats people were using! lol I have on two and it doesn't look done lol Not even close. Glad, to see you used four, just knowing that helps.

What color gel stain did you use?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:29PM
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I would change the cabinets. It sounds like you want to make a few changes and it's might be penny wise and pound foolish not to change all the cabinets before doing the counter.

Did you know that the average life span of a kitchen is 7 years?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 7:23AM
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jerzeegirl, who said kitchens last 7 years? A cabinet salesman? Maybe the lifespan of a kitchen's *style* is 7 years (though I thought someone said these things run on 10 year cycles) but if you're building a kitchen that will only *last* 7 years, I'd say you have issues with your materials or how you're using them. My parents built a house in 1975. They replaced the carpet with linoleum at some point and in 1994 and upgraded autumn gold countertops and appliances to white. This year they did a full kitchen renovation, not because anything was broken, but because mom wanted nicer cabinets, a more open layout, and slightly updated appliances. It's beautiful, but I miss the old kitchen. I know other GWers have had their kitchens 20 years or more. Kitchens should definitely last longer than 7 years!

abufish - dianolo's advice about living with the kitchen a bit longer is good. I'm currently living with 13 year old particle board cabinets and they're holding up fine. If I was planning to invest in high-end countertops, I suppose I'd re-evaluate the condition of the cabinets, maybe even get an opinion from a pro, but they might hold up better than you think.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:33AM
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Can you tell us more about the process you used to prep the cabinet door for the gel stain? I need to darken the wood frame of a big window to match my new kitchen. How much sanding did you do? What else?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 11:33AM
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The gel stain looks gorgeous!

I think that living with it for awhile sounds like a good plan. I painted my cabinets that were put in in 1986. I don't think that they were all that premium, and they still seem to be in structurally good shape. For me, it was the difference between having a kitchen reno or not, since new cabinets would have eaten most or all of my budget. So, if it's no big deal in your budget to get new cabinets, then that isn't probably as much of a factor for you.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Using the gel stain is definitely the economical and green way to go. I've had particle board cabinets for almost 40 years and put granite on them four years ago. They are holding up just fine.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 1:00PM
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It looks great. Can you tell us what Brand and color of gel stain you used?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 1:09PM
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hi happyladi..

I'm not abufish, but I just gelstained my china cabinet and dining room chairs...He may have used the same product.

I used General Finishes gel stain in Java...I couldn't find it at Home Depot or I googled it and found it at a nearby paint/hardware store.

It came recommended by Celtic Moon who gelstained her kitchen..Hope that helps..

abufish...Your cabinet door came out nice!


Here is a link that might be useful: celtic moon thread scroll down to see her pics

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 1:42PM
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If the drawers are solid and the configuration works for you I would stain the existing cabinets. Caryscott is right boxes don't fail that often unless they get wet and even plywood will fail then. Also, depending on your kitchens size and what brand your considering $5000 may not cover it. The door you stained looked great, good job!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 3:05PM
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I am impressed! Thanks for posting those pics. This is what we are considering doing with our bathroom vanities since our kitchen remodel came about a bit unexpectedly and started out much like yours. From "lets just put some granite on our old oak cabinets and stain or paint the cabinets" to "lets just replace the cabinets for $5,000" to the realization that "those cabinets costs A LOT MORE THAN $5,000 when its all said and done!" to "to heck with it, lets just do it all now". LOL

For the results you've got with your staining, I think going continuing with the staining is a viable option if you are ok with your current layout (we weren't). The door looks great and I love the pull.

If your kitchen is smaller and you are prepared to DIY it and forgo the extra bells and whistles, I suppose its possible you could do new cabinets for $5,000. You may want to get an actual quote for your kitchen to see if this is even a realistic option in that price range.

Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 4:13PM
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"Did you know that the average life span of a kitchen is 7 years? "

the life span of the PO's outdated non-functioning kitchen I hope!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 8:32PM
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Thanks for all your replies!

(If you are interested in how I stained it, you can skip to the ***** marks)

I decided to change the cabinets after looking more carefully. The drawers are 10mm particle boards put together by staples. They have central under-mount slide and do not slide smoothly at all. They are not as good as what I had in my rental condo (original cabinets from 85), and inside some drawers the particle boards are peeling.

To be green and eco-friendly, I'll paint them white and let the workers install them in the garage, makes a perfect workshop or organizer. The island may need to go, though. My contractor told me if the cabinets are attached to the walls by screws (vs. nails), it will be salvageable, very luckily, they are. :)

Thank you for all your advice.

Okay. So here's how I stained it.

Basically I just followed Celticmoon's post and procedures. (Thank you Celticmoon and everyone sharing your experience). They are in the following links:

What I might did different is that I spent a bit more time sanding the shining coat off, about 2 min per door with fine sand block.

Initially I used cheese cloth to put on the gel, then wipe off with old socks. But that created some problem: if your door has a deep, think groove like mine, with cheese cloth there will be too much gel trapped in it, makes it hard to wipe off. And I was wiping too late, and too hard in the first coats, as well. After three coats it still looks nowhere near dark brown. Not mention for the second coat I only waited 20 min after the first one, it was not dry yet.

I used a foam brush for the fourth coat and didn't apply to the groove at all (it is dark enough), wiped off immediately before the paint dissolves previous coats. This time it gets pretty dark.

Hope these helps!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:45AM
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