Gel Staining Bathroom/Kitchen Cabinets

chemgrl84June 18, 2012

Hey everyone!

I have found some amazing tips from this website, there is just one thing that I need clarification on. I have oak cabinets throughout my condo. I hate them! There is something about oak that I dont like at all. Needless to say, after reading some of these posts, I went ahead and bought General Finished Java Gel Stain. It seems easy enough to apply, but for some reason I have a feeling it will be difficult for me.

From what I have read, some people say its important to fully take off the original finish off the cabinet and you need to get a de-glosser and all that jazz. Other posts say that all you need to scruff the cabinets and not to worry about fully taking off the finish.

Help me please!!!

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It works best if you do more than scuff. I sanded until there was no gloss left on the wood. From most I've seen, and granted the pictures are small and not close up, but Java seems to cover the grain a lot more than the lighter stains. If you want a solid, semi-paint like coverage, then scuffing may be enough. I wanted my grain to show through, just darker than it was.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 10:10PM
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Everyone's wood will be different. My best advice to you-take the inside of one door that isn't used often-like from the cupboard above the fridge or the like. On the inside of the door, section it off. Do one section only scuffing it, 1 section using a stripper and then sanding, 1 section using a deglosser---you get the idea. Just make note of which area you did what to. Then apply the stain. All of them will be slightly different, but you will know which produced the result you were after without wasting your time with a process that wastes your time doing all of the cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 11:32PM
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I followed celticmoon's instructions (didn't do the first step where she used a water based color for the first coat).

I only washed with TSP, rinsed and lightly sanded the cabinets to give the stain something to grab onto. Actually, I did that in reverse, the washing & rinsing helped get the sanded remnants off.

Don't wipe off the gel stain. Just apply it like paint, let it dry. It might take up to a week between coats to really dry. You never know. But if it is tacky at all, don't do the next coat.

I just did the base to my dining room table. can't wait to see it in the new house, reunited with its top and chairs. (We brought the base with us to the temp housing so I could get this project done).

(Celticmoon's instructions are in the New to Kitchens thread.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 9:10AM
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some people say its important to fully take off the original finish off the cabinet and you need to get a de-glosser and all that jazz. Other posts say that all you need to scruff the cabinets and not to worry about fully taking off the finish.

It's important to have the cabinets CLEAN ... all wax build-up, food stains, toothpaste, hand grunge, and grease removed.

By the time you have scrubbed with soapy water and a scrub sponge for the water soluble stuff, then with steel wool and mineral spirits for the greasy stuff, you will have removed most of the original finish and scuffed it up adequately.

I wiped the Gel stain on because I just wanted to darken the color and have the grain show ... walnut cabinets :)

If you are doing oak, wipe on several coats until you have the depth of color you want.

Use the inside of a door as a test surface

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 12:03PM
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I am in the process of gel staining my entire kitchen. All builders oak cabinets, 17 years old. I also did the guest bathroom last year.

I used celticmoon's instructions as a start and then adapted it to work better for me. My cabinets are raised panel oak and hers were flat, so there are some differences there. I experimented with spare doors to get the right color for what I wanted.

My cabinets were very clean to begin with (the previous owner's doing, not mine!), but here's what I'm doing. Oh, and I'm doing back and front of each door/drawer.

--Clean with household cleaner. Let dry.
--Scuff sand with sandpaper or green scrubbie.
--Wipe off dust.
--Vacuum dust.
--Mineral spirits.

--Now, I'm doing this over a long period of time, so I did all the sanding/cleaning in the garage and brought them down to the basement to do the staining. Less dust there.

--When I'm ready to start the staining, I do a coat of the liquid sandpaper. Can't hurt, and may help the bond more. The brand I use says to do it within an hour of starting, so it's not something to do and then wait overnight.

--I do the backs first.
--One coat of java, Gel Finishes brand, brushed on with foam brush. (I tried celticmoon's wipeon with a sock method, but it just didn't work well with me.)
--I wait about 2 minutes, then gently wipe off with paper towel or lint-free painters rag. I'm really careful to go with the grain and make sure it doesn't get gunky in the corners of the raised panel area, on the front side. I use a little foam brush or watercolor brush if it looks like it needs a bit touching up.
--At this point, it doesn't look great. Muddy, to me, and not attractive at all. Have faith (and that's why doing a sample door will help you keep motivated!)

--I wait a full overnight to dry. It really does need to dry well, so don't skimp on time.
--I put on another coat of java, let sit 2 minutes and then gently wipe off. It's looking better...

--I wait another full overnight to dry.
--I put a coat of cherry on top, let sit 2 minutes, wipe off. I like the cherry over the dark--gives it depth and doesn't make it look like you painted the cabinets brown/black.

--After another full overnight, I use the gel finishes satin wipe-on and give 3 or more coats.

And then you have to do the front of each door...

By doing a sample door, you will see what colors and technique works the best for you. You might only need 2 coats to get the look you want, or even 1 coat. Plus a topcoat.

I know, this is a long process. I'm not doing it as a temporary re-do; we plan on this being our kitchen for 9-10 years til we retire. So, we want it to last.

The cabinet frames are done in pretty much the same way, but it goes a lot faster because there aren't any nooks and crannies.

I'm not filling in any holes; that would be another few steps you would do before staining, if you're planning on changing the placement of hardware.

I just couldn't justify in my mind spending 8-10K on cabinets and installation for our kitchen when in general the cabinets are fine. We added a lazy susan and swapped a 12-inch for an 18-inch; we bought off-the-rack oak cabinets from Lowe's for this. And we're buying some other accessories, to really add to the "new" kitchen look. We splurged on granite for the countertops and it really looks far....without the doors up yet.

If you google gel stain kitchen cabinets, you'll find a lot of others who have blogged about their experiences. It's a good way to get ideas and motivation. Also, youtube has some videos on it that might help as well.

If you have the time and patience, this is a worthwhile project. It will be a while before I finish and post pictures....but good luck!!!



    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 12:37PM
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I tried putting it on with a cloth and that didn't work for me either. The best way for me was to put it on with a brush and then dip the brush in thinner and work it until it was smooth.

Another thing I found is that the gel stain by itself isn't tough enough to stand up to daily use. I tried gel finish too and it wasn't very tough either. I finally used satin spar urethane and it has held up very well. I did it two years ago and still don't have any problems, at least after I went back over it with the spar urethane.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 1:23PM
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I'll reiterate the importance of doing the INSIDE of the doors first. Then if you get the front perfect and there is an accidental drip, it is on the INSIDE of the door, not the outside where everyone sees.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 4:22PM
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I used gel stain on 4 bathroom vanities at my last house. By the time I got to the last two I decided to spray paint the cabinet with brown spray paint then - gel stain. It was much easier this way and fewer coats to get the dark no grain variation color I wanted. I did lightly sand and clean with TSp before the spray paint. Very important to let each coat dry before the next coat. I did use the sock method to apply made it very easy.

I also gel stained a pine coffee table. Love the table now.

In my current home I have a white cabinet that is going to be replaced in the fall. I painted it with a sponge roller a dark brown and everyone thinks it is stained wood. (If I had known paint would give me the same look I would have done this in the last house)

I will tell you that i started to do the kitchen cabinets in my last house with gel stain. The kitchen has LOTS more light and after 2 doors I realized it was a huge mistake and cleaned it off quickly with mineral spirits.

It looked great in small low light bathrooms but not in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 4:48PM
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So what I'm hearing is gel stain is effectively paint.

I'm using a custom stain to do a door I made for my MBR.
I am going to experiment.

The only staining I've ever done was my front door, and I didn't know to wipe it off. 6 years later, I'm sanding off that muddy brown stuff to reveal a gorgeous mahogany door.

Sorry. Was thinking out loud ad just hijacked.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:06PM
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rtwilliams, I never would have thought to put gel stain over paint. It gives it so much depth. I'm going to remember that for a future project.

I did the bathroom and then tried the kitchen and it looked awful, but mainly because the kitchen had so much sunlight that the cabinets had a lot more of orange. The bathroom was still just golden oak so it covered with just a little red to it, and I liked it. The kitchen turned a garish orange/red. So I decided to strip and refinish, a decision I may regret for many years or until my memory fades.

CEFreeman, gel stain is hard to explain. It's a lot like jelly, and you can spread it on thin and see the bread through it, or put it on thick and all you see is the jelly.
This is my bathroom cabinet with a walnut gel over 1980's golden oak, put on fairly thin so the grain shows. I still need to get new hinges.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:32PM
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CEFreeman - It is kinda like paint. In my experience with General finishes gel stain. If you want to have the grain show it is a good alternative to stripping and refinishing a project. (lazy mans way - my way) Use a satin paint with a sponge roller if you want your project to have no grain. I have used the gel stain on bare wood and love it because it has a finish built in. I agree with (bahacca) - experiment on hidden area first.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:43PM
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Just to clarify the spray paint/gel stain method - I buy the cheap brown spray paint from walmart - the .97 cent stuff and lightly spray paint the project. Not a thick full coverage coat of the brown paint. I tape everything off in the room or you will be cleaning brown spray paint off with mineral spirits. I also have tried rolling brown paint on first but it just did not seem to stick as good as the spray paint does.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:54PM
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Marti8a and rtwilliams- beautiful cabinets. Questions for all who have used the gel stains. How bad was the odor? How long did it take to disappear? Is it similar to the more traditional stains?
Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:02PM
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chrisash - I don't recall the odor strong or lingering. It has been a couple years since I have used it. It has a finish built in but it is not very durable - scratches off easy if you don't put a clearcoat over it. I used to touch up scratches with a little on a cloth. If it was in a heavily used room I would put on a finish clearcoat.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 8:40PM
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chrisash - the odor is minimal.

I've had acrylic indoor paint that smelled worse.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 9:28PM
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I don't recall any specific odor either, but then I paint a lot so maybe I'm used to it.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 9:57PM
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