Staining kitchen and bath cabinets - gel or real stain?

karynNovember 15, 2012

On the surface it looks like gel stains are more "paint like" than actual stain - though I've never worked with it to tell for sure. We'd like to try doing a little staining of hideous cabinets as face lifts - and then escalate to doing more if it works well.

With both you need to clean the surface and sand previously finished cabinets.

Actual stain might take a little or a LOT more sanding?

Both seem to need top coats which would optimally be sprayed on for best result. (no brush strokes)

So what's the difference then - the few (amateur user) gel project samples I've seen looked like badly painted cabinets - uneven color with brush strokes all over. It would be nice if the finished look more wood-like than painted on.

And what about Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations? This looks even MORE like thinly veiled marketing of expensive PAINT. Or is it just their branded gel?

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regular stain penetrates into the pores of the wood, whereas the gel stain sits on the top. Yes gel stain can be like a paint if you apply it as such.

When I apply gel stain I just put a small amount on a rag,and buff it on.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Thanks - so if you sand unevenly even slightly will the amount that soaks in (or not soaks in) cause uneven staining? Seems like it would, so then the difference in prep work would be just roughing up the surface for gel and sanding down to bare wood for stain perhaps?

These are the cabinets we're thinking about doing - same ones in all bathrooms too - so we would start on one of those first to test it out.

Yes that bathroom is hideous \- we are just buying this house and will fix it up.
    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 7:24PM
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If you are using regular stain, then you have to strip down to the bare wood.

Gel stain you should be able to clean the surface, and remove the topcoat,lightly sand surface, then apply the stain.

I believe that the entire cabinet should be stripped down regardless of the stain, in that way the stain will bond well with the surface.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:35PM
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Thanks again sloyd - very helpful info!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:28AM
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