DIY – Affordable Kitchen Makeovers (Cabinet refinishing)

  • DIY – Affordable Kitchen Makeovers (Cabinet refinishing)



    A brand new kitchen may not be in everyone's budget, not to worry Affordable Kitchen Makeovers are within most homeowners reach.


    This week I am going to focus on the cabinets. I will cover the other portions of the job (countertops, sink/faucet installation, etc.) in future articles. If there is a topic you would like to see covered sooner rather than later, drop me an email at and let me know.

    Here is a sample of an affordable kitchen makeover I have done for a customer:


    With a solid set of wood cabinets to start off with, we were able to save thousands of dollars by not buying new cabinets.


    Refinishing these cabinets is a DIYer skill level of 7 mostly due to the labor involved, by keeping the focus on detail, it is a workable project. For a list of recommended tools and supplies, click here  to visit my links page.


    These cabinets were all very dark stained and have not been refinished in years (prior to us doing so). So my first focus was placed on the prep work.


    Preparing the cabinets:


    1- Start off by removing all the doors and draws. Be sure to number each one with masking tape on the back. They will need to go back in the same places.


    2- Remove all hardware (hinges, knobs, etc). Save all hardware (we will refer back to it later).


    3- Using a good quality degreaser/cleaner, a sponge (with a scrubbing side) and some terry cloth rags. Thoroughly clean all surfaces (draw faces, door faces, cabinet faces, etc), basically if you can get at it, it needs to be scrubbed.





    In order to get the desired look and an even finish, you will need to do a lot of sanding.


    1- Using an orbital sander, sand all flat surfaces keeping in an even/circular motion. To keep a darker look, sand lightly, for a two tone look (like in the photo) sand the door faces till they are lighter in color.



    2- For the inlays f the doors and door edges, use a sanding sponge and slightly sand. To allow the inlay to standout with a darker color, only sand enough to take off a thin layer.



    3- When sanding edges near walls, don’t be afraid to keep it close to the wall for an even look. There will be some wall repair after, so a little extra damage is not the end of the world.



    4- Be mindful to wipe the surface with a dry rag to remove dust as you go. Dust can build up and cause scarring.


    Once you got the base coloring you're looking for, were ready for the next step.






    When picking a stain color, always go with a touch lighter than what you're looking for.

    MinWax is a great stain to work with. It is very user friendly and easy to apply.


    1- Before applying stain to any area, wipe it with a clean cloth to remove dust.


    2- Working small areas, apply the stain lightly with a brush and wipe after a few seconds with a staining rag. Wait at least 2 hours before applying a second coat (more in high humidity).


    3- Repeat till desired color is reached.


    4- Once desired color is reached, apply a MinWax clear coat (follow instructions on the can).


    5- Repeat clear coat 2 additional times (allowing recommended drying time between coats).


    Time to put it all back together:


    Take the old hardware with you when you go to pick out new hardware. Be sure the hinge styles, holes, etc are all the same on the new set.


    1- Put the hinges on the cabinets (leaving the screws slightly loose).


    2- Having someone hold the doors, one at a time, put the doors up starting with one screw on the top hinge and one on the bottom. Then install the rest of the screws and tighten them all (including the ones on the cabinets) as you go.


    3- Install the new knobs, handles, etc.


    4- Once everything is complete, give everything a final cleaning with a good quality wood cleaner (I like using Murphy’s Oil).

    Now it’s all done, it looks great and were ready for the next project.



    Don’t forget to follow “TDS DIYer” for weekly projects for everyday people.

    For a list of recommended products from this and past articles, click here or visit our links page at


    With over 30 years experience in the home improvement field, Artie Wallace (owner of Rockaways Handyman) can help you with most of your DIY questions. For more information about Artie Wallace or Rockaways Handyman, visit his website at, like him on Facebook at, or email your questions to


    Please post your comments below and let me know if you found this areicle helpful and/or inmormative.

    All comments are greatly appreciated.



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