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Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets - 10 Steps to Rehab

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets - 10 Steps to Rehab

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June 7, 2010


10 Steps for Refinishing Cabinets

Refinishing kitchen cabinets is one of the quickest, cheapest ways to perk up a woeful kitchen. Besides new hardware, new paint will complete the job. Here are ten tips to smooth your cabinet rehab.

  1. Pick your paint. Buy the highest quality 100-percent acrylic enamel paint. Some old-timers will insist on oil-based paint for added hardness, but it is tough to clean up and emits nasty volatile organic compounds that aren't worth the results. Glossy finish is best. You might want to look into a glaze or crackle finish for added effect. Buy top-quality brushes--synthetic for latex, or natural fiber should you use oil-based. Use a 1-inch brush for the narrow stiles on the face of the cabinet; a 2½ or 3-inch brush for the rest.
  2. Inside job. Paint the interior of your cabinets. Ignoring them isn't classy.
  3. Deconstruct. Remove doors and drawers, hinges and pulls. Most drawers will have faces that are screwed to the box; remove the face making sure to save the screws.
  4. Prep. As with any paint job, proper preparation is everything. Wash everything with TSP or other high-quality cleaner that will remove grease and grime, then rinse. TSP is a harsh product--obey its instructions.
  5. Fill. Repair any dings with filler. Smooth the filler to the surrounding surface with 120 or 150-grit paper on a sanding block.
  6. Sand. With a few swipes sand everything that will be painted with the 120 or 150-grit paper on a sanding block; then, wipe with a damp cloth.
  7. Mask. Cover or mask everything that is not to be painted! Use good painters tape.
  8. Prime. Paint everything with primer. Your neighbor might tell you that you needn't prime if you are painting over old paint, but that's only if you are painting a similar color. Any filler, stained surface or different color will need to be primed. Consult your paint supplier to get the proper primer for your paint.
  9. Paint. Finally--the easy part--painting! To keep brush marks to a minimum, use your brush to lay the coat onto the surface; don't brush back and forth over the paint several times to spread it thin. Keep a "wet edge." Painting over a drying edge of paint will show. Pull the brush off the edge or corner of the wood; brushing onto the edge will result in drips. You will need two coats.
  10. Remounting. The holes in the drawer box through which you put screws to hold the drawer faces will be larger in diameter than the screws, giving you "slop" in the mounting of the faces. When remounting them, tighten the screws only slightly so that the faces can be slid sideways or up and down. When the drawers are installed, align all of the faces; then tighten the screws firmly.

A bright coat of paint goes a long way to revitalize your kitchen. Just because it is cheap, don't give it the brush-off. It will do just fine till you win the lottery and can afford those new custom cabinets.

About the author: Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.

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