How to Refinish Old Kitchen Cabinets

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By refinishing your old cabinets, you can make an entire room look as though it had been transformed–and believe it or not, it’s a DIY project that can be completed in an astoundingly short amount of time. You don’t need to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to put in new cabinets, and you don’t need any experience either. You can give your old cabinets a much-needed makeover with the help of these step-by-step instructions.
Remove All Hardware
Using a screwdriver, carefully remove all hardware such as hinges, pulls, handles, or knobs from your cabinets. If you plan on reusing the same hardware once you’ve refinished your cabinets, give it a good cleaning by washing each piece in soapy water. Rinse and dry everything completely and place the hardware into sealable baggies or a container for safe keeping. If you don’t plan on reusing them, you still might want to set pieces aside if you plan on looking for an exact match to replace them.
Thoroughly Clean the Cabinets
After years of use, cabinets can accumulate quite a bit of dirt and grime–and you may not even realize how dirty they actually are until you wash them. Use a wood cleaner of your choice and a soft, damp rag to give the cabinets a good washing. If the cabinets that you’re refinishing are located in the kitchen, use a powerful degreaser to work away at any grease build-up.
Strip Old Finish
Once the cabinets are completely clean and dry, you can begin to remove any old finish. The easiest way to do this is by using a chemical stripper. Which stripper you use is largely dependent on what type of finish you’re trying to remove–for lacquer finishes you should use lacquer thinner, for latex paint or shellac try denatured alcohol, and for wax finishes you should use turpentine. If you’re in doubt as to what type of stripper to use, consult with a sales professional at your local home improvement store. Let them know what kind of finish you need to remove and they can surely recommend the best product for the job. Typically when you’re working on vertical surfaces such as cabinets, it’s best to select a stripping product that isn’t too runny. A paste-like consistency is ideal and will be much less messy than a thinner, liquid product. Apply stripper to your old cabinets according to the manufacturer’s instructions to remove any old finish, and then use a scraper or some sandpaper to remove any spots of finish that are still left on the surface.
Paint or Stain
If you decide to paint your cabinets, wipe them down with a slightly damp cloth beforehand to remove any residue from the stripping process or dust that’s leftover from sanding. While you allow the cabinets to dry, you can prepare your work area by placing painters tape along the edges where the cabinets meet the wall and a layer of plastic on the floor. Before painting the cabinets, apply a coat of primer first. Primer will make the paint stick better and cover evenly–an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. Once the primer is dry, you can begin painting your cabinets with the color of paint you selected.
If you’d prefer to stain your cabinets instead of paint them, start the same way you would if you were painting and clean them with a damp cloth so that the entire surface is clean. After a short drying period, look for any areas that might need some touching up, areas that are clearly worn and patchy are the ones you should target. You can touch up those areas with a colored pencil or pen designed for wood–they come in an assortment of colors and can be found at a home improvement or hardware store. When all touch-ups are complete, you can begin staining. Apply the stain to smaller areas or more detailed areas first, and then move on to the larger surfaces. If desired, apply a second coat of stain and then let it dry completely before putting things back in order.
Replace Hardware
The last step in refinishing your old cabinets is to replace the hardware and put all doors and drawers back where they belong. If you’re using the same hardware you had before, simply put each piece back on using a screwdriver. If you’ve purchased new hardware, you may need to use an electric drill to make some new holes if the old ones don’t match up. If you’re worried about splitting the wood with the drill, select a drill bit that’s smaller than the screw size in order to make new holes to match the hardware.
If the cabinets in your property are in need of some TLC, refinishing them is a great way to bring them back to life. The fresh, new look of your cabinets will boost the value of the space that surrounds them, and you’ll be proud of a job well-done.
Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes for AreaRugs.com

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