Home Improvement: How to Stain Kitchen Cabinets

If you are looking to change your kitchen’s theme without spending a lot of money, then you might want to think about staining your kitchen cabinets. If your kitchen cabinets have years of built-up paint, then stripping them and staining them a lighter color can make your kitchen seem a lot brighter. If you are looking to update your kitchen or are buying new cabinets altogether, then you might want to consider buying them unfinished. Not only is it cheaper but you can save yourself some time when preparing them for the staining process.

Before you can even think of staining your kitchen cabinets that have old paint on them, you will have to keep in mind that it is going to be a lot of work. However, beginning a kitchen makeover by staining your kitchen cabinets can make a big difference right off the bat. You might find that the change is so remarkable that you might not want the shiny new appliances after all. Your kitchen will seem bigger and brighter if you go with a lighter shade of stain. If you are wanting to tone down your kitchen’s color scheme and bring a softer ambience to the area, then you might want to choose a darker stain.

STEP #1 How to Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

STEP #1 A) For already painted Cabinets

The first thing you should do before you remove your cabinet doors for sanding and prep work is to label them. Starting at either end of your kitchen cabinets, mark a piece of masking or painter’s tape with #1, #2, and so on. Place each one on the back of the cabinet door as you go along. Once that is done then you can remove the doors and hardware to begin the sanding process. Keep the hardware in a covered container so that you don’t lose any of the screws or pieces. Take your doors to a well ventilated area to get them ready for sanding. It is a lot easier if you have your location already set-up for doing this work. Try setting a sheet of plywood on top of a couple of saw-horses to make the cleaning, sanding, and staining easier on you. Remember that you will also want to stain the “body” of the cabinets and not just the doors. You can take everything out of your cabinets, which is easier to do once the doors are off, and give them a good cleaning before you begin sanding the doors.

When you have all of your cabinet doors removed and taken to your work station, then you will want to give them a thorough cleaning to remove any grease build-up before you start the paint stripping process. Using a mild cleaner wash the cabinet doors down. Start with cabinet door #1 and move down the line in order. Once you get the last one done then the first one will be dried and ready for stripping.

STEP #1 B) For Unpainted or Natural Cabinets

As stated before, if you purchase new, unpainted cabinets this will save you a lot of prep time. All you will need to do is, if they are already installed, label them and take them down. If however they haven’t been installed yet, then be sure to remember to at least label the doors so that you will know what order they go in when it comes time to put the doors on.

STEP #2 How to Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

STEP #2 A) For already painted cabinets

Once the doors have been washed and allowed to dry, it is time to begin the stripping process. There are a lot of different products on the market that you can use for this step. Try finding one that will do the job that is required. If there are a lot of layers of old paint, then use a product that will remove a lot of layers at one time. No matter what type of paint stripper that you use be sure to follow the package directions to the letter. Do this in a very well ventilated area with the proper attire; safety glasses or goggles, heavy gloves, and a heavy apron if required. Do the doors in order and when they have been stripped, go and strip the paint off the “body” of the cabinets inside. Remember to open the windows and use fans to get the proper ventilation. You might also want to lay down a tarp to protect your kitchen counters and surfaces.

STEP #2 B) For unpainted or natural kitchen cabinets

Another time saver on this step if your cabinets are unpainted. If you’ve already cleaned them and they have dried then you can skip this step because there is no paint on them for you to have to strip off.

STEP #3 How to Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

STEP #3 A) For already painted kitchen Cabinets

By now you have the doors removed, cleaned, and stripped. Now it is time to give them a good sanding with a heavy grade sandpaper. You can use a palm sander to save yourself a lot of hard work. Your kitchen cabinets, especially the doors take a lot of abuse throughout the years. There is not a day that goes by that you don’t open them or close them. Give them a good thorough sanding to remove any nicks or scratches and to “open up” the wood. This will allow the stain to sink in and get a good bond. After the doors are done you will need to do the same thing to the “body” of the cabinets inside. After you have sanded wipe them down with a damp rag to remove the dust.

STEP #3 B) For unpainted and natural kitchen cabinets

These should have come already primed and ready to go. If they have been up for awhile, then give them a light sanding to get the wood ready to receive the stain. Make sure to wipe them down afterwards to remove any specks of dust that will remain.

STEP #4 How to stain your kitchen cabinets

STEP #4 A) For already painted kitchen cabinets

Now that the sanding is all done, it’s time to apply the stain. Whatever type of stain that you have decided to use, just follow the application instructions on the label and this step will go smoothly. Remember, when applying the stain to brush it on in the direction of the grain. Allow for the proper drying time as is stated on the label in between coats. Once you have the doors stained and left to dry you can apply the stain to the cabinets inside the house. Remember to ventilate the area well.

STEP #4 For unpainted and natural kitchen cabinets

This step is the same for already painted kitchen cabinets and unpainted or natural kitchen cabinets. Just follow the step listed above.

STEP #5 How to stain your kitchen cabinets

STEP #5 A) For already painted kitchen cabinets

In between coats of stain and after the last coat has been applied, you will want to give the kitchen cabinets and doors a very light sanding. Remove any dust before applying the next coat of stain or the sealer. This will take a little bit of time, but it will give you a nice, clean, professional look to the finished product. When they have been sanded and cleaned for the final time, give them a fresh coat or two of sealer to finish them out. You can choose a glossy finish or a matte finish when choosing the sealer you will use. Once finished and given the proper drying time, then you can re-attach the hardware and re-hang the doors. Voila! You have given your kitchen a whole new look!

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