How to refinish wood cabinets

Answered by Jeffrey ~ January 14, 2012 ~ No Comments

I would like to change the color of my wood cabinets. How can I remove the existing dark color from the frames and raised panel doors and replace it with a lighter shaded stain?

James ~ Mobile, AL

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi James. Cabinet refinishing can be very labor intensive due to the process involved, but if you aren't in a hurry and plan to save money by doing the job yourself, it's definitely an option for giving your cabinets a new look. The procedure is much the same as refinishing wood doors or trim during a renovation, but all the nooks and crannies present on wood cabinets can make the project a little more difficult. Raised panel doors aren't going help as the cuts normally have several edges where it can be tough to remove all the old stain.

There are chemicals such as methylene chloride available from home improvement and paint stores that can be used to remove the old stain and urethane, but don't use them unless you have great ventilation in the room as they can be very toxic. The chemical is allowed to soak into the stained wood and then is removed with a putty knife and stripping pad until you're down to natural wood. When the surface of your wood cabinets is completely dry, a very fine sand paper or block can be used to complete the job.

If you don't have good ventilation or are concerned about using chemicals, the old stain can be sanded off with a palm sander and sanding block. However, be prepared for a major project -- especially if you have a lot of cabinets.

As you mention, the other option is to buy new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. The faces of your existing cabinet boxes can be refaced with new wood veneer that may be available at a local cabinet shop and can also be purchased at numerous online retailers who specialize in cabinet refacing.

Cabinet refacing is rapidly gaining popularity as an economical option for giving kitchens a quick makeover. If you're uncomfortable installing the veneer, there should be some refacing contractors in a city as large as Mobile. Ask for some estimates, but be sure to check their references as not all cabinet contractors are proficient in refacing.

Crown molding should be able to be purchased at the same place where you buy your new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. It can be stained to match the new veneer at the same time as the doors and drawer fronts.

You'll need to make your own decision as to whether refacing or refinishing is the best option for your situation, but when all the labor hours are added up, refacing is often the most economical choice.

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