Refinishing kitchen cabinets is one of the most effective ways to completely change the look of your kitchen. Homeowners love this idea because it often comes cheaper than investing on new cabinets, and better yet, it can be done by themselves with a bit of knowledge and experience.

But how is this process and what do you need to achieve the best results possible?

First we’ll look into the basics on how to refinish a kitchen cabinet – what you need to start, estimate cost and time to completion; then the actual instructions and tips if you decide to do it yourself.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain

How long does it take to refinish kitchen cabinets?

It’s hard to judge without looking at your cabinets, since they may vary a lot in size, format, and materials. But considering at some point you will have to prime and paint it regardless, it’s safe to assume at least two weekends – one for the initial preparations and painting, and the other for final touches and reassembling.

That’s the minimum, as it can easily turn into three or four weekends depending on your experience, how big your cabinets are, how much free time you have on your hands, and other details.

What is the cost of refinishing kitchen cabinets?

Once again, it’s hard to be exact on the cost of refinishing kitchen cabinets with so many variables to consider. Anything from material quality, wood type, number of painting coats, and extra hardware can add up, so take this with a grain of salt.

Generally, you can expect to spend around $200 worth of materials, not including labour. If you’re thinking about performing the work yourself, that’s a pretty solid starting cost for a complete cabinet refinish.

If you’re more inclined to hire a contractor, you can expect the material costs plus labour. It will cost more, but you won’t have to perform any of the work and will probably have better results. 

The best way to know for sure how much it will cost is to ask for free quotes from cabinet refinishing companies in your area. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to decide if it’s better to either refinish or replace your kitchen cabinets.

Step 1: Clean, label and dismantle the cabinets

This first step could potentially take an entire afternoon.

The idea is to slowly disassemble the cabinet while cleaning it thoroughly. You can clean it well before taking anything apart, but some hidden or difficult to reach parts might benefit from first being disassembled entirely before cleaning.

Either way, you’ll also want to label with a pencil which doors go where – this makes sure you don’t get confused when assembling it back together later, since switching doors can lead to odd misalignments that only pros can fix.

Step 2: Prepare for painting

For this you will need wood filler to fill any holes, cavities and small damaged spots you want to hide. This will ensure a perfectly smooth finish after all the painting is done, making sure your cabinets will look brand-new.

The next step is to lightly sand the entire cabinet, which is done in anticipation for the primer and painting that comes later. The sanding will better prepare the surface for the next steps because it helps in smoothing out minor scratches and dents, but also making it easier for the wood to bond with the primer.

The primer itself is used to make painting easier. It’s great for making sure the paint bonds perfectly and requires less coats – for lighter colors only one coat should do the trick.

Once the primer is applied you should let it dry before proceeding, which can take from 1 to 3 hours. Make sure it’s completely dry before moving on.

Step 3: Paint

For painting you can either use a normal paint brush or a paint sprayer, which can be rented for this procedure. The sprayer is much easier to control for a smoother finish even if you’ve never painted before, but it does come with the added cost of renting it. 

If you don’t want to do that, you can just use a paint brush and the process will be similar to anything you’ve painted before. And of course, if this is your first time trying it out for yourself, here’s a few painting mistakes and how to fix them.

Let the paint dry at least for a few hours, depending on the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 4: Final touches and reassembling

It’s possible that you will notice minor scratches or imperfections on the paint, so now is the time to make the final touches. Use a detail brush for these fixes and let them dry before moving on – it’s important to use a detail brush so that brush strokes are not as prominent and you can be more precise.

Once that’s done, you can install pieces of hardware like handles and hinges in preparation for reassembly. As a small but recommended addition, remember to install felt dampers. These will help in dampening the impact when closing doors but also prevent the door from scraping against the cabinet itself, which would surely damage your paint in just a few days.

Do you need help refinishing your kitchen cabinets? Get free quotes from cabinet pros in your area today!


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