You should know a couple things about me and DIY projects:
1 – We have a love hate relationship
2 – They take twice as long as I think they will
3 – My ideas and my motivation don’t always line up
4 – I don’t have enough patience
5 – I want the quickest way to the end result
All this being said, I have re-finished a dresser, a desk, our kitchen island, and the cabinets in our half bath before tackling this project.
I realize this isn’t the most glamorous way to introduce a blog on how I re-finished my kitchen cabinets but I want you to know the TRUTH! I’m not a professional, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on home projects, and I need to get it done as quickly as possible. So now when you read that I didn’t sand my cabinets first and I added the last coats of polyurethane to my cabinet doors after I had already hung them back in their place, it will make sense.
All of the projects I have tackled in our home I’ve finished when Joe was at work. It’s turned into a joke between us at this point. He should be afraid to go to work, right??
I’m impulsive and he’s a thinker, so working together on home projects can easily turn into heated fellowship. BUT, he loves the projects when they’re finished and he’s never come home to something he hasn’t liked, so it’s really better on both of us if I handle it while he’s gone!
So here are all the deets on my kitchen cabinet overhaul:
Before pictures (well they’re “mostly” before because I started unscrewing cabinet doors before I realized I wanted to take some “before” pictures)
Also, no judgements on my messy kitchen countertops. If you remember, I decided to take on this project after we had just returned home from a camping trip that I hadn’t even unpacked from (I told you: impulsive)
The cabinets in the entire house are oak and to top it off, one of the previous owners “freshened” up the hue with some sort of orange glaze, so they were SUPER orange. We have wood floors in the house and the color of the oak against them made our living/kitchen area feel so dark. I knew I needed to go light with the cabinets.
I like the distressed/imperfect look of this finish because it’s forgiving. I wanted to be able to sand out any dents and scratches without having to re-paint and I’ll be able to do that with this finish. I also knew I didn’t want these kitchen cabinets to be heavily distressed. My kitchen island has heavy distressing and I thought it would be “too much” if I did the same to the rest of the kitchen.
So here we go!
The first step was to clean the cabinets. I used a washcloth, hot water, and TSP to wipe down all the cabinets. Pay attention to the spots right above your stove and microwave or high grease areas. These areas need to be cleaned really well.
I labeled all of the cabinet doors and hinges as I took them off and placed them into small labeled re-sealable plastic bags.
All hinges are not interchangeable on your cabinet doors. They have unique bends in them that fit their specific doors.
Don’t skip this step because I promise it will make your life a little easier when you go to attach your doors back to the cabinet boxes when they’re labeled.
Here is the paint and stain I used:
This is the first time that I’ve used Behr chalk paint. I used a different chalk paint on my kitchen island but that company went out of business so I had to improvise. I would probably use this paint again but it did give me more brush strokes than I am used to compared to the other chalk paint I’ve used in the past.
I bought the paint at Home Depot and had them tint it for me. I needed 4 quarts of “Farmhouse White” and 2 quarts of “Swiss Brown” for my project.
I prefer to use chalk paint for my projects because I want to do as little prep work as possible and chalk paint doesn’t require sanding before painting. It just needs the surface to be clean. It also dries super quick…speeding up the painting process a little bit. Which you know I’m all about.
I painted a coat of brown first just in case I did a little distressing later in the process (which I did end up doing, but didn’t know at the time).
I wanted dark brown to show through the white and not the light color of the oak. One coat of brown was enough.
I followed it up with two coats of white paint. The first coat of white I applied using a brush and the second coat I applied using a roller. Picture of one coat of white paint:
I wanted a smooth look for the last coat of white and the small roller did that better than the brush. Note: Even when you use a roller for the last coat of paint you’ll need to use a brush to get into the grooves of the cabinets and corners of the doors.
The next step was applying the stain. I happened to have the stain (pictured above) on hand so I gave it a shot. I used an old washcloth to rub the stain on to the top of the white paint and then wiped off the excess with a separate clean towel.I had the idea that it would look more like a glaze but that didn’t work. When I applied the stain and then rubbed it off with the towel it actually made my white cabinets look tan.
This wasn’t going to work.
So I got the sand paper…
This is what happened. It looked so pretty! It actually turned out better than I had originally envisioned. Then began the tedious task of staining, wiping off, then sanding.
This part of the process probably took the longest. I used 120-150 grit sandpaper for most of the sanding since the coat of stain was so thin. I did use 80-90 grit for some of the larger areas but I finished it up with the higher grit for a smoother finish.
Here’s what’s cool about this sanding. You get to control the color and look of your cabinets. There were a few times I had to sand more to get the color of the cabinets lighter. The color and look of your cabinets will change depending on the amount of sanding you do. It’s your choice!
After sanding, everything needs to be wiped down with a damp cloth. I used a dry paintbrush to get in the corners of the cabinets. You want to get as much off as you can because anything left will get stuck in your clear coat and that’s not pretty.
I applied two coats of poly to everything and three coats to drawers and doors. The great thing about poly is that it dries quickly and I can always go back and add more if it starts to wear or any areas need attention later.
So there ya go! I completed this project in two and a half days for about $230. My mom and my friend Emily ended up helping me with the project which is the only reason it was finished before Joe came home from work. There is no way I could have finished this project in that amount of time without help. I work best under pressure and Joe coming home in a couple days was just the deadline I needed to follow through with the project.
Here are all the fun end result pictures. I also included a picture of my favorite spot of the whole kitchen. I think this “crackle” resulted because of a spot I didn’t clean super well but I actually love the way it looks so I’m not mad about it.
I bounced back and forth between painting the cabinet boxes and the cabinet doors so the whole kitchen was on the same step at the same time.
I placed doors on top of paper plates to elevate them off the floor to make painting the sides of the doors easier.
To keep from having to wash brushes and replace rollers after every use, knowing I would be using them with the same color later, I placed them into a ziplock bag and placed them in the fridge. It keeps the paint wet on your tools and works great!
I’m sure I’ll tackle more projects in the future. While I struggle to find the motivation to match my ideas, I do love to see the finished project. I appreciate the project a little more knowing the time and effort that went into completing it. I’m excited to see which room I’ll tackle next but currently I have two bathrooms and a laundry room that have oak cabinets that will have to go!!
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