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8 Tips for Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets

Aug 17, 2007
If you've shopped for new kitchen cabinets recently, you know that it's often much more economical to refinish your old cabinets than to buy new ones. Here are 8 tips that will make your kitchen cabinet refinishing a huge success.

1. If your cabinets are painted, remove the paint with a chemical stripper. If your cabinets are stained or varnished, either clean the surface well or remove most of the stain or varnish with a chemical refinisher.

2. Take the doors off your cabinets and remove the handles and hardware. It will be much easier if you lay the doors flat to work on them.

3. Check to see how much damage there is to the cabinets. If there is only minor damage, such as dark stains around the door handles, just clean these areas. Use a synthetic steel wool pad because it won't hurt your fingers or get caught on the wood grain.

4. Dip the pad in paint thinner, mineral spirits, or turpentine, and scrub the stains. Then lightly scrub the whole surface, cleaning and dulling it so the new finish will stick.
5. Once you've cleaned the surface and removed the dark stains, wipe on an oil-based, clear finish such as Minwax. All clear finishes are low-odor and most are available in either glossy or satin finish. Apply several coats for a thicker finish.

6. If you find you need to redo more than just a few stained areas, use a chemical refinisher - a strong solvent cleaner that dissolves and removes part of the old varnish. Ask an expert at your local paint store to suggest a good quality refinisher.

7. When you're using the chemical refinisher, work in small areas, and scrub the finish with a synthetic steel wool pad. The chemical refinisher will remove the finish and even out the color of the wood and stain. Rinse the pad in more refinisher when it gets clogged with dirty finish.

8. The cabinet's surface should be smooth and evenly colored after you've scrubbed the whole surface. If you find it isn't, just wipe the entire cabinet in long, overlapping strokes with clean refinisher and clean steel wool in long, overlapping strokes. Most of the stain color will remain, and the wood will be very smooth.

It's extremely important that you wear protective clothing and make sure that your work area is well-ventilated when you're refinishing your cabinets. And don't forget to follow all safety precautions on the refinishing product labels.

By following the 8 tips above, you're sure to enjoy your newly-refinished, beautiful kitchen cabinets for many years.
About the Author
Check out Joan Yankowitz' free "Easy Home Repair Tips & Techniques " Kwik Guide, and subscribe to her free " Home Repair Tips" newsletter.
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