A brand new kitchen, with blue refinished cabinets

Tips for Giving Your Kitchen Cabinets a Makeover

How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

Nothing spruces up one of the most important rooms in a home like a makeover. Luckily, you do not need to break the bank by replacing all your kitchen cabinets. Get out your DIY gloves and give your kitchen cabinets a makeover by refinishing them. Don’t worry, we offer tips you can use on how to refinish kitchen cabinets.

Refinishing wood is a fun and cost-effective way to bring new life to old furniture. If you are interested in finding out how to refinish kitchen cabinets, read on.

How to Know When You Should Refinish

If your kitchen has wood cabinets that have become dull over the years, then refinishing it is a great way to completely revamp and visually improve the space.

Here are some indicators of when it is time to consider refinishing your cabinets:

  • The existing finish or paint has started to crack, chip, or flake
  • The wood has become discolored from exposure to sunlight
  • The wood has become dark with age
  • The surface feels sticky, even after cleaning
  • There are blemished, scratches, and scuff marks from long years of use
  • The paint color has become dull

Pros and Cons of Refinishing

Let’s look at all the benefits and downfalls of refinishing your kitchen cabinets first.



You will be saving a lot of money by refinishing rather than replacing or refacing your kitchen cabinets. Since you will be performing the job yourself, you will save on labor costs.

Restores Beauty

Over time, wood loses its luster, and the paint becomes dull in color. Refinishing your wooden cabinets will cause a significant visual upgrade to enhance the aesthetic of the room.

Maintains Integrity of Cabinets

Refinishing will not only be visually pleasing, but it will also extend the wood’s lifespan by protecting it from wear and tear like scratches and water damage.


Hard Work

Refinishing requires time and patience. The wood should be allowed to dry properly after each step. The whole task is quite labor-intensive.

Dust and Chemical Fumes

Since you will be using chemical stripper and sanding, there will be fumes and dust released into the area you are working in. Wearing protective gear is essential — which means if you do not have special protective clothing, you will have to acquire some.

Quality of Work

Even though you are saving money by doing the work yourself, professionals know what they are doing and can most probably guarantee a better quality of work.

Supplies and Tools Needed

So, what do you need?

Supplies list:

  • Dish soap, a sponge, and a clean towel
  • Paint stripper
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Epoxy putty (if there are any cracks to fill up)
  • Wood sealant
  • Wood stain or paint (optional)
  • Wood finish or varnish
  • Wax coating

Tools list:

  • Sander and sandpaper (variation of grits available)
  • Paint scraper (to gently remove the stripped paint)
  • Protective eyewear, masks, and gloves (for when you are working with chemicals)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Small wire-bristle brush
  • Clean cloths or rags

Here’s How to Refinish Your Kitchen Cabinets

Before you start, put down leak-proof drop cloths to protect all other surfaces from any drips and spills. Ensure your windows are open for ventilation. Work during the day to utilize natural light so that you can see any missed spots or flaws in your work. Vacuum regularly to remove dust particles that will be lying (and flying) around. Remove any hardware, such as handles and knobs, before starting.

1. Clean the Cabinets

Use a sponge to wash all surfaces of your cabinets with warm water and dish soap. Wipe down with a dry towel and allow to air dry for a while.

2. Remove Old Finishing or Paint

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions of the selected chemical stripper. Apply it to all the surfaces and wait for the old finish or paint to bubble and crack. Gently remove it with a paint scraper and use a small wiring brush to get into any crevices. Once you have removed all the old finish or paint, wipe down all surfaces with lacquer thinner to remove any residue. Remember to let it dry completely.

3. Sand

Starting with the coarsest sandpaper — sand down all surfaces and work your way to the finest grit. This will ensure a smooth finish.

4. Inspect

Once you have wiped down all surfaces after sanding, inspect it for any cracks you might want to fill in or fix with epoxy putty.

5. Seal

Apply a generous layer of sealant on all surfaces and allow it to soak into the wood. This will protect the wood and prepare it for the next step.

6. Paint or Stain

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint or stain that you have selected. Work in small sections and in the direction of the grain to achieve a smooth and tidy outcome.

7. Finish

Apply a finish such as polyurethane or wipe-on varnish to protect the surfaces from wear and tear.

8. Wax

After everything has dried properly, you can apply a layer of wax that will enhance the shine and protect it from scratching.

Once everything has dried and is cleaned up, reattach any hardware you might have removed. Finally, you can reward yourself with a well-deserved snack — made in your newly upgraded kitchen!