How to Finish Kitchen Cabinets Yourself

Buying unfinished cabinets is a great way to save money on your kitchen revamp. While it’s a great way to get cheap cabinets, it also requires a bit of work on your end. If the fear of ruining your cabinets (unfinished) is an obstacle, here’s a guide on how to do it without hassle. This way, you’ll get the most out of your discount cabinets.

Carpenter Using Electric SanderStep 1: Sanding

The first step to finish kitchen cabinets is to sand them down. Remember to remove the doors from the hinges before starting. To avoid scratches, sand them in the same direction with the grain of the wood.

Use 120-grit sandpaper to lightly remove imperfections and 220-grit sandpaper to reduce the visibility of any scratches from the first round of sanding. Sanding opens up the wood for staining, and it helps paint stick as well.

Vacuum up all dust from your area before continuing to the next steps. If you leave dust on your cabinet, you’ll have an undesired grainy appearance. Pneumatic air compressors, or even the cheap compressed air that cleans your computer keyboards, can help you get dust out of the crevices.

Step 2: Prepping

After sanding, you’ll either need to condition the wood or apply the primer, depending on whether you are staining or painting. This ensures that the stain or paint is applied evenly.

First, line the walls, countertops, and other surfaces with tape if they are in contact with your cabinets. Wipe off any remaining dust overlooked by the vacuum with a tack cloth.

If you’re staining, coat the wood with conditioner by using a basic paint brush. Use primer-sealer instead, if you decide to paint.

Step 3: Staining/Painting

To apply a stain, you can either use a bristle brush, a foam brush, or a cloth. Oak tends to have large pores, so you will have to apply the stain zealously to ensure that it reaches the inner grain of the wood. Applying the stain against the grain will help you achieve this goal. Staining against grain will not give it an uneven appearance.

If painting, start with the inside edges and openings and work your way to the faces of your cabinets. Then apply paint to the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Be sure that paint doesn’t accumulate in any crevices. Painting with many thin coats, versus a few thick ones, allows each layer to dry faster and more consistently. Also, thin coats prevent unsightly brush strokes left in the paint. Be sure to paint the same direction every time, preferably with the grain. Wait four hours before applying a second coat of paint. While two coats may be enough, the best kitchen cabinets have three.

Step 4: Finishing

Staining and painting only changes the color of your cabinets. They are still considered unfinished cabinets until you apply a finish. Apply two coats of finishing spray. Use oil-based polyurethane on kitchen cabinet finishes for oil-based stains.

Visit the RTA Cabinet Store website for more guidance on choosing your cabinets. Stay tuned to the blog for more on how to finish kitchen cabinets.

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