Anybody make Kitchen improvements with Oak Cabinets?

bixa525October 30, 2009

Our house is only 5 years old and at the time we bought it we chose oak cabinets(regret it now). Anyway we recently added granite and SS appliances to the kitchen and it looks nice but I can't figure out what type of curtains or accessories to put in the kitchen to make it pop. For those that have oak cabinets would you mind sharing pics of your kitchen with me for inspiration? I will post a pic of mine when I get hubby to take one. I need decorating ideas. Thanks

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I don't know if many have used oak in new kitchens. people run from it... i love it, so does my sister. My kitchen won't be done til next yr, but I'll be going with the same cabs she used - or something very similar (I am thinking of a change in door style) - so I can only post a couple of pics of hers... she has no window treatments, just leaves them plain. her only kitchen window is shown to the right of the cab in first pic. what is seen thru the window is the ceiling fan on her patio - and the rock behind her house. The outside door (to the left of that cab) is all glass and the kitchen is open to the DR and LR - both have huge windows - also w/o treatments. and her kitchen has a skylight over the island.
She doesn't have a lot of decoration really - her granite is it - and she has a lot of it!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 10:36PM
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I know you're asking about easy-to-change things like paint and accessories, but I thought I'd post a few pictures of my parents' recent kitchen overhaul to give you some additional ideas. Like yours, their cabinets were about 5 years old - in good shape and a decent door style, but they were a standard builder-grade honey oak. They didn't want to sink a ton of money into a brand new kitchen since they will be selling in the house in a year or two (in fact, they just bought their retirement home just down the road from us), so they swapped out the counters for granite, put in SS appliances, installed a new tile backsplash, and bought new cabinet hardware. The biggest transformation came from the application of a gel stain to the cabinets, which my mom did all on her own. :o) It took her about 3 weeks (she did the bathroom cabinets, too) and they are really happy with the results.

Maybe you'd be happier with your cabinets if they were a darker color? I think an espresso color would be especially nice. If you don't care about (or want) the grain to show, what about painting your cabinets? If I had my mom's kitchen, I would have painted the cabinets white.

Good luck! From Mom's kitchen From Mom's kitchen From Mom's kitchen From Mom's kitchen

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 10:56PM
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Please share what stain your mother used on her cabinets and the brand. They look really nice. Was the gel stain process difficult to do?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 11:25PM
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I will find out the specifics and post tomorrow, but I do know that my mom didn't consider the staining process particularly difficult, just seemingly unending. ;o)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 11:47PM
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worldmom - your mom's cabs look very nice with that stain!

btw, my sister built about 3 yrs ago. i think they've been in it now about 2 yrs or so. the kitchen (whole house) is painted Navajo white.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 11:52PM
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I gel stained mine as well. For about $50 and a bunch of hours I went from this (that's not me, that's the prior owner in 1998)

to this

It is a very doable project. You just need time, $50 in supplies, and patience. No skill.

Here's more than you need to know:

My cabinets were frameless, good condition and good layout. But the finish had gone orange and ugly, with the oak graining too busy for me. Cabinet were 18 years old, very poorly finished oak veneered slab doors. Plain with no crevices. They didn't even take the doors off to finish them!!! No stain or finish was even put on the hinge side edges. Bad workmanship.

I looked into changing out cabinets, but that was way too much money, since my layout was OK. Painting didn't seem right because the doors were plain slabs. I considered new doors but that still meant a lot of money. For a few years I tried to figure a way to add molding toward a mission look, but the rounded door edges made that impossible. Then trolling in a kitchen emporium showroom this last year I noticed dark wood slab doors, kind of like mine, but darker. That was the answer.

First I tried Minwax Polyshades. Dicey product. Hard to brush on neatly, then gummy, then seemed to leave a sticky tacky residue. I did a thread on the Woodworking Forum "Evil Polyshades to the Rescue" which elicited a lot of conflicting "expert" opinions and arguments that one must strip to bare wood. (Thread may still be around as that Forum moves slowly.) Long ago when I was young and stupid I properly stripped acres of woodwork in an old Victorian. Never again! Jennifer-in-Clyde (in the same boat) and I stumbled around on that woodworking thread to get to this method.

-electric screwdriver or screw drill bits
-mineral spirits to clean the years of gunk off the cabinet
-miracle cloths (optional)
-fine sandpaper
-box-o-disposable gloves from Walgreens or the like
-old socks or rags for wiping on coats
-disposable small plastic bowls or plates, and plastic spoons or forks for stirring/dipping (optional)
-General Finishes water base Espresso stain (pretty thick, but not quite a gel) NOTE: This one may not even be a needed step if the Java gets it dark enough.
-General Finishes Java gel stain (poly based)
-General Finishes clear top coat (poly based)
-old sheets or plastic sheeting or newspaper

Rockler woodworking stores are a good place to find the General Finish products. Or some larger hardware stores. Quart of each was more than enough for my 60 doors and drawer fronts and goes for $12-14 at Rockler. There are smaller sizes if your project is small.

You will need a place to work and leave wet doors to dry overnight - I set up 2 spaces: garage for sanding/cleaning and basement for staining/sealing. Use newspaper or plastic to protect the surface and floor. Figure out how you will prop doors to dry. Plan blocks of 20-30-minutes for sanding/cleaning bundles of, say, 6 doors at a time. Then just 10-minute sessions to wipe on coats. The coats will need to dry for about 24 hours, so figure that each section of the kitchen will be doorless for 4 or 5 days. Divide the job up into manageable chunks.

Take off doors and drawer fronts. Try using screw drill bits on an electric drill if you don't have an electric screwdriver. Remove all the hardware. *Mark alike things so you know what goes back where.* Clean the doors thoroughly. Not with TSP but with something pretty strong and scrub well. There's years of grease there.
Sand LIGHTLY, just a scuffing really. Just enough to break the finish and give it some tooth, no more than a minute a door. A miracle cloth is good for getting most of the dust off. Then wipe well with mineral spirits to clean and get the last of the gunk off.

In order, we're gonna put on:
-General Finishes Espresso water based stain (1 coat) - optional
-General Finishes Java gel stain (couple coats)
-General Finishes Clear urethane gel topcoat in satin (couple coats)

But first put on work clothes, tie up your hair (men, you may skip this step, LOL) and pop your phone into a baggie nearby (you know it will ring). Glove up.
*First do a trial on the back of a door and check if Java coats alone suffice. If the Java alone is to your liking, just skip the Espresso and return it.*
Open and stir up the Espresso stain, then spoon some into a plastic bowl. Close the tin so it doesn't get contaminated. Slide a sock over your hand, grab a gob of Espresso and smear it on. Wipe off the excess. Let it dry well - overnight is good. It will lighten as it dries, but then darken again with any other coat or sealer. A second coat might result in a deeper tone at the end - though it seemed like the second coat was just dissolving the first. YMMV.

Repeat with Java gel. This is thicker and poly based (*not water cleanup!*= messier). Color is a rich dark reddish brown. Wait for the second coat to judge if the color is deep enough for you. I wanted a very deep dark color, like melted dark chocolate. So I went pretty heavy on these layers. *I did not sand between coats*.
Repeat with clear gel topcoat. This will give you the strength you need in a kitchen.

Do the same process with the cabinet sides, face and toe kick area. Might need to divide that up also, and stagger the work: doors/cabinets/doors/etc.

NOTE: The cloth or socks used for the gels are very flammable! Collect and store them in a bucket of water as you go and then dispose of them all properly.

I suggest you put the doors back up after one clear coat, then you can check everything over and darken an area with more Java if needed, followed by a clear coat. When it all looks right, go over it all again with another clear gel coat. Or two. (See my follow up notes below). Install your hardware.
The feel of the finish should be wonderful, really smooth and satiny. Color deep and rich - way nicer than that faded, beat 80's oak color.

Definitely experiment first with the back of a door or drawer front to be sure it is the look you want. Yes, this takes a couple days to coat, dry, recoat, dry, etc but you may discover that the Java alone does the trick and this will save you a LOT of work. Front-end patience is worth it.

This is a pretty easy project to do. Hard to screw it up. The worst is the prep - relative to that, smearing on the coats is cake. I had over 60 pieces (big kitchen) AND island sides and book shelves, etc and I admit I lost steam partway through. Had to push myself through the last of it. But it was worth it. Folks think I got all new cabinets - it looks that good.

Now the finish will not be as durable as factory finish - go at it with a Brillo pad and you WILL abrade it. But it has held up pretty well. And after a year of pretty heavy use, I had just a few nicks, easily repaired.
(6/08 Add: I'm now (18 months later) seeing some wear near the pulls on the most used cabinets. Will add color with Java if it bugs me.)
(9/09 Add: Never did bother to touch up those couple spots. Bugging me a bit more, and I will get to it soon. It is the drinking glass cabinet and the snack cabinet, LOL. And the garbage pull-out. The rest still looks perfect. Lesson: Use an extra coat or 2 of gel on the way frequently used cabinets.)

I added smashing hardware, raised my pass-through, resurfaced the Corian (also simple but messy and tedious) and replaced the DW and sink. It looks gorgeous to me and I really enjoy the space - how it sits all quiet, clean and serene, then gets all crazy with the food and folks du jour. I couldn't be happier, especially that I didn't have to work another year just to pay for the update!!

Good luck with your project!! And let me know if you try it and how it turns out.

-Kris (aka Celticmoon)

Here is a link that might be useful: Celtic's oak kitchen update albums

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 1:13AM
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If my kitchen had natural light, I would go with dark oak cabinets in a second. I love dark wood and both my family room and dining room have dark oak furniture.

Celticmoon, those are great directions for staining cabinets. My computer desk came in a lot lighter than the rest of my furniture and I just accepted it at the time. I wondered about staining it darker, but never thought I really could do that. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 1:34AM
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Celticmoon's instructions are awesome (as are her results!), but since I asked my mom to write up some info, I feel like I've got to post hers, too. ;o) Here they are:

Verathane Gel Stain - color is Cabernet (Home Depot)
Minwax Polycrylic water based protective finish - There are several finishes
available - I used the clear semi-gloss
TSP or similar product
100 grit sandpaper
Palm sander
Sponge brushes - several sizes
1 natural bristle brush
1 synthetic bristle brush
1 small artist's brush
Small paint pad and extra pads

1. set up work station in garage or outside
2. remove all hardware, hinges, doors, and drawers
3. wash with TSP - allow to dry
4. lightly sand all surfaces - edges and grooves also
5. vacuum to remove sawdust, then wipe with damp absorbent cloth and allow
to air dry completely
6. stir gel stain
7. begin with a drawer - dab on the stain in about 8 places with sponge
8. quickly spread gel over entire surface with natural bristle brush
working in one direction
9. remove any excess gel with synthetic brush - as you do this brush lines
will become less noticeable but will not completely disappear
10. allow to dry overnight
11. finish with 3 coats of polycrylic finish

Helpful hints
Wear a mask
Assembly line speeds up the process - remove everything, wash everything,
sand everything and so on
For large areas such as pantry cabinets use the paint pads instead of the
Use artist's brush to touch up missed spots
Don't rush think of it as eating an elephant one bite at a time
Do insides of drawers for a finished look
Label doors and drawers for easy reassembly
If cabinet doors have design, grooves, edges, the stain will collect in
those places. If you don't like this effect, you can minimize it by
brushing out from those areas and toward the center - use a light touch -
think "feathering"
Don't worry if you don't like something - sand off the stain and start over
Gel stain $15-$17 per quart
Minwax finish I think it was $17 per quart
I used three quarts of stain and 1 1/2 quarts of the finish for 25 cupboards
and 20 drawers (kitchen and 2 baths)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 12:01AM
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Let's face it. Kitchen design trends are just that. Trends. In the 80's red oak cabinets in honey stain were all the rage. Oak is a timeless wood. It's just as beautiful as it was then. Your gel stain ideas worked perfectly. Actually, I think the dark cranberry and espresso colors really add a whole new dimension to the wood. The grain contrast becomes more subtle which makes them far more interesting. Whether it's the economy, or our society being more conscious of our footprint, it's nice to see how we can work with what we have already in a way that's brilliant rather than settling.

We're building a kitchen from scratch right now. I noticed Diamond at Lowe's has a gorgeous deep chocolate stain on oak. Very handsome.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 12:17AM
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Celticmoon--Thanks!!! I sent you an email but it must not have worked. I found an old thread where you told someone to email you for the I tried, guess it got dumped in your junk box, (or your email has changed!) So this is just great that I found these directions!

I want to do this on my bathroom vanities, so thanks for the directions!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 7:52PM
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I am bumping this thread in hopes someone can answer a question regarding the stain tecniques mentioned.

Since I have 20-year old builders grade oak cabs with the venerr boxes, is staining still a possibility?

Can I stain the veneer?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 10:37AM
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justagirl, I would also like a response to this since I have not priced new cabinets yet so I may just use products to get rid of worn areas to save for cabinets unless I try to stain my veneered builder grade cabinets darker with that cherry color I want and some hardware as knobs and handles.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 5:41PM
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My cabinets in the (way too much information) post above have veneer on the doors. They have an edge all the way around and the face and back are an oak veneer. Slab doors are almost always veneer, unless they have cross pieces on the backs of the doors to hold the vertical strips together. Or they are cut from a really wide board from a really fat tree. Makes sense when you think about it.

So yes, you can gel stain veneer. So long as the veneer is wood and not a plastic sheet with a wood picture.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 9:30PM
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