Refinishing kitchen cabinets or any other cabinet or piece of furniture is slow going. The end result always depends on the quality of the preparation work so this is one area where you should not skimp. So far I have 10 drawer fronts and 13 cabinet fronts to the completion of staining. That leaves me 10 cabinet fronts that have not been sanded yet and the cabinets themselves that have started to be sanded. I am rather pleased with the results even though it has been a lot of work. I'm hoping to have the rest of the cabinet fronts and cabinets stripped today. From there the timing becomes simply staining and finish coat time while allowing plenty of time for the stain to dry before applying the finish and allowing that to dry between coats. I hope to also have the handles spray painted today. We are replacing the hinges because some of the old ones are not really re-usable.
Composite cabinet doors are those made from particle board then covered with a thin veneer. Both aggressive cleaning with harsh chemical cleaners or neglect such as allowing water to remain on the door's bevelled edges can cause the doors to look unsightly. The problem is this tends to affect only door fronts in heavily used areas while the rest of the door fronts may look almost new. That means if you buy a new to you house you stand a good chance of running into this problem. Refinishing is likely the cheapest option for getting a renewed look but it is time consuming.
Resist the urge to try fixing just those damaged doors as it will be next to impossible to match the existing door fronts. Quite often these doors are heavy and still quite usable so your options become whether to stain (good option for wood finished) or paint (only real option for already painted doors). If staining do consider that you may have to use the same handles or find similar to hide any flaws from the old handles. Hinges likely should be replaced. On average, do not underestimate the amount of time this project will take. Allow for at least two weeks, start to finish.
Tips for Refinishing Composite Cabinet Doors
Note: Safety first! This project requires safety goggles and a dust mask along with proper ventilation.
- empty cabinets
- remove doors from cabinets
- remove all hardware
- wash well with TSP and allow to dry
- decide on whether painting or sanding down to wood veneer - either way you still have to do some sanding
- use a spray bomb for the finish coats if stained or the paint coats - be sure to apply in thin coats with doors laying flat
- keep the spray bomb in motion and not too close to the surface to avoid excess pooling or uneven surfaces
- Use a fine steel wool between coats and to smooth any raised edges in the raised particle board
- Allow ample time for stain drying, drying between paint coats or finish coats
Prepped for Staining
The garage has been taken over with door and drawer fronts sitting on bins. This is where I do the staining and finishing coats for a couple of reasons. The door fronts take up a lot of space because I am doing them flat. I was going to do them outside but weather can be fickle and I need at least a 24 hour dry time for the stain followed by another 24 hours for the finish coats, likely four. Recall that I am finishing both front and back of each door so that adds another day. Time wise just in this adds up to three days. The main reason for doing the staining and finish coats in the garage aside of being able to leave them undisturbed is to keep the odours out of the house as much as possible. Using a spray bomb in the garage won't be a problem either so I will get the nice finish I want without having to worry about over spray. As you can see, only a fraction of the door fronts are ready for staining.
I am a fan of Flecto Varathane products and use them almost exclusively for any refinishing projects. The stain performs nicely without drying too fast for good blending and the urethane gives a nice, very durable and scrubable finish. I'm using traditional cherry (# 245). What I don't like is these products are not exactly environmentally friendly although the water based ones are better than the oil based.
Staining the door fronts is really quite easy. I use a pure bristle brush to apply a generous coat of stain then let it sit 5 minutes before wiping off the excess. This ensures the stain penetrates through-out the remaining veneer for an even application. This also eliminates having to apply a second coat. Once the excess stain is removed I allow the door fronts to sit undisturbed for 12 hours then turn over and repeat the process on the back (inside of door). It is imperative that the stain be fully dried before applying the spray finish coats.
I'm using Flecto Varathane Professional Clean Finish in semi-gloss. This finish is touch dry in minutes which helps to eliminate any dust or insects settling into the finish resulting in a nice smooth finish. Anything that does settle between coats is easily removed with a light sanding using fine steel wool.
A Peek Look
Here is a peek look at what the stained door fronts will look like. This picture was taken just after applying the stain and removing the excess stain. This is a good indication of how they will look with the finish coats applied although they will not be shiny as I'm using a satin finish. Note how the original stained sides are lightened just a bit with the new stain. Also note how the shape of the original handle still shows. This is more apparent on some of the doors than others. The veneer was to thin to sand away this problem so as already mentioned I am reusing the handles. Not only is this frugal since I don't mind the handles especially after being spray painted (see tomorrow's post) but environmentally re-using instead of replacing is a good thing. The stain is not near as yellowish after it dries as you will see in tomorrow's pictures.
I've already started spraying the handles and have to say they are coming out better than expected. I will post more about them tomorrow including a little cheater trick for cleaning them before painting. So please check back tomorrow as I get one day closer to finishing our kitchen renovations.