• Amanda

Refinishing My Kitchen Cabinets


When I started my kitchen renovation, refinishing the cabinets was just one step among many. Roughly I planned to:

  1. Replace the range hood: Check

  2. Scrape the ceiling: Check

  3. Refinish the cabinets

  4. Countertops

  5. Backsplash

  6. Floors

  7. Shelving

Refinishing the cabinets seemed like a small step in a longer laundry list of projects that would certainly be more time consuming. I was so so wrong. While the project wasn't hard necessarily, it was tedious and time consuming and slow.


The actual how-to of the cabinet refinishing is pretty straight forward, so this post will mostly just walk you through the many many lessons I learned along the way.


STEP 1: Remove cabinet doors, hardware, and hinges - 1 Day

I thought for sure this would be an easy step. But unfortunately, because my cabinets were in such bad shape, all the hinges had been painted over and removing them was quite the process.


I found that a flathead screwdriver was my best friend. It was safer than a razor scraper and allowed me to pry off enough of the paint to loosen the screws on the hinges.


There was so much paint on the hinges that you could barely see them on many of the doors.

STEP 2: Sand - 2 days

I knew this was going to be a messy job because I'd be sanding inside, so I decided to rent a Festool orbital sander with an attached HEPA vacuum from a friend of mine who is a certified Festool dealer. And let me tell you, it made a WORLD of difference. Not having to vacuum up dust for days and not breathing in what is surely some dangerous old paint was so worth it.


Sanding is a dirty, exhausting job, but we got it done in a single weekend. It was a marathon but worth it!


Lessons Learned:

  • If you can, rent a sander with a vacuum system attached.

  • Scrape before you sand! There were so many layers of paint on these cabinets, that I found it easier to scrape some of those layers off with a razor scraper before sanding.

  • Be prepared to find more than paint baked into old cabinets. I was shocked to find that owners past had painted over everything from scotch tape to shelf liners. Sanding through something like a plastic shelf liner from the 70s just isn't going to work, so I had to be very diligent in scraping all that texture off before continuing. It was frustrating, but worth it now that those shelves are smooth and clean.

Scotch Tape was just one of the many things I found hiding under the many layers of paint.

When I could, I scraped as much paint as I could before sanding.

STEP 3: Paint the cabinet boxes - 1 week on and off

Because I was going to add framing to the cabinet doors, I decided to turn my focus to the cabinet boxes. I also wanted to get the boxes painted and dried as soon as possible, so I could start putting the contents of the cabinets back where they belonged. Having all of your kitchen supplies in your dining room is not fun.


This was pretty straight forward, but I am going to share with you the biggest lesson I learned during the entire project.


Sample paint is not paint!


Yes, that's right. Apparently, the paint you get in a sample can from any major paint supplier is not real paint. I had painted an entire cabinet box and it had already dried when I was told this.


Cue tears.


Apparently it has none of the binding ingredients that actual paint has in it and "will start peeling in a few months." Talk about WASTEFUL. I was so mad, y'all. Before I could finish painting the cabinet boxes, I had to RESAND an entire side of my kitchen.

After I discovered sample paint is not real paint...

But I did it, and I repainted. And we were off to the races.


STEP 4: Frame the cabinet doors - 6 weeks on and off

This step of the process is what took me forever. The reality is, it is many many steps on twelve doors (which really isn't even that many). Had my doors not had a beveled edge, it would have been a bit more straight forward. But alas, what about this project has been straight forward?


You can find the whole how-to on adding shaker-style trim to cabinet doors here.


STEP 5: Paint the cabinet doors - 3 weeks on and off

The only reason this took so long was really because of having to let each coat of paint dry before turning the doors over and painting on the other side. I probably could have knocked it out faster, but life.


STEP 6: Hang doors and install hardware - 2 weeks on and off

I thought this would be so easy. Think again. Hanging the doors was a lot harder than I anticipated mostly because nothing in my old house is level, which begs the question:


Do you hang it level? Or do you hang it to look level?


I chose to hang it to look level, which made the whole process a bit trickier. This is all pretty straight forward, but here are a few lessons learned.


Adding hardware:

  • Use a hardware template! Here is the one I bought. I cannot tell you how much easier this made my life.

  • The hole you drill should be wider than the screw that holds the hardware in place. This wasn't intuitive to me at first, but your screw should be able to wiggle around in the drilled hole a bit. Trust me it will make your life easier.

  • If you're adding trim, you may need a longer screw to make it all the way through the door and into the hardware. You can buy them at any hardware store.


Hinges:

  • I purchased hinges with a snap closure, as in they snap into place once the cabinet door is closed enough. This created a bit of trouble with spacing the doors correctly, because the hinges squish out a bit when you tighten them causing the doors to be too close together. The solution was the brainchild of the fiancé. Essentially, before tightening the hinges, we'd place a ruler or something slim between the twin doors and would tighten both sides at the same time. This forced some space to remain between the doors and allowed them to open and close freely. They're still not perfect, but they're close.

  • As annoying as the installation was, I'm glad we got the snap close hinges. It allowed us to not have to install any sort of clasp or closure on the doors, and they stay shut.


STEP 7: Cut, paint, and hang the crown moulding - 1 day

I put together a pretty extensive crown moulding tutorial on my IG stories, which I've linked here. Here's what I learned that I didn't know before.

  • Never cut the crown moulding flat against the base of the saw. Always cut it resting between the fence of the saw and the base of the saw as if the crown moulding is mounted between the two.

  • Always flip the crown moulding upside down before cutting. The ceiling side of the moulding should be facing down against the base of the saw and the wall side should be up against the fence.

  • The wall side of the crown moulding should be the length of your cabinet.


And without further ado... a little before and after action!










Don't mind the messy edge. The counters are being ripped out soon.







And here is a quick breakdown of everything I used and cost:

Grand Total: $573


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Artwork by Rhianna Marie Chan