Past Project- Kitchen Cabinets

When I moved in to my house in 2005, I loved the kitchen layout. But I hated the décor. It had hideous dark blue floral wallpaper that was a huge fiasco to remove, soffit- type lighting (still there- working on getting rid of it), and dark, DARK cabinets. The kitchen itself is small, so the dark colors didn’t help.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I decided I couldn’t live with the dark cabinets anymore. It was me or them. I googled various way to resurface cabinets, but had a heck of a time with a past cabinet project in which I had to sand them all. I wanted to find a way to resurface without sanding. Sanding wouldn’t be so bad, but my cabinets have tiny grooves in them that made it nearly impossible to penetrate with an electric sander or hand- held sandpaper. Plus I lacked the upper body strength to sand an ENTIRE KITCHEN!

I considered chalk paint but was turned off by the waxing part of it for some reason. Chalk paint can be applied right over clean surfaces- no sanding! Again, I think the I was turned off by the waxing because of those dang tiny grooves- I don’t know, but I did come across a product at Home Depot- Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations. It can be tinted to various colors, and they have a light base and dark base depending on your color preference.

Rustoleum Cabs


Rustoleum Cabs 2Rustoleum cabs 4

I watched the instructional video on YouTube, and decided…I can do this! Basically you clean and degrease all surfaces, let dry, paint, let dry, apply glaze (if desired), let dry, then apply the protective top coat. The kit comes with a DVD, the cleaner/ degreaser, paint (you can tint to whichever color you choose), glaze, top coat, application cloths, green scrubbies, gloves, and paint stirrers. Tip: buy extra green scrubbies if you have a big project. Rustoleum Cabs 3

I highly, HIGHLY recommend sketching a map of your kitchen/ project area to include each and every cabinet door, drawer, and cabinet. It’s been almost 2 years, and I still remember I had twenty-six items. I numbered them starting at the left of my kitchen and moving clock-wise on. Each number on my sketch corresponded to a cabinet or drawer. I removed the cabinetry and drawers as I went along 1) to prevent confusion and 2) due to space constraints. Each set of cabinetry I removed, I numbered with post-it notes. I numbered the same corresponding hinges  (since I decided to keep the same ones)  and placed a post-it with the number along with the hinges in Ziploc bags.

I basically had two workshops going- the kitchen (cabinet bases) and the garage (cabinet doors and drawers). In the garage, I set up sawhorses with long pieces of plywood as a work surface, and placed the cabinet doors and drawers on them. In the kitchen, I tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy by trying to work in small areas so we could still use the kitchen.

First, I set to work cleaning and degreasing. Wear gloves for this part. I cannot stress this enough- this step is the most critical part of the process. The surface must be thoroughly cleaned and degreased not only to be clean and degreased, but to dull/ remove the existing glaze on the old cabinetry. This will allow the paint to stick. So, be liberal with the degreaser, and scrub your heart out. Then scrub again. Be sure to get into each nook and cranny. For the cabinet units in the kitchen, take special care (and extra elbow grease!) around the stove area. For some reason I had grease all the way up the cabinets to the ceiling!

After scrubbing, take a damp towel and wipe clean. If you see any suds or bubbles, keep wiping with the damp towel until clean. Then flip over the cabinet and do the other side.

Since space was an issue, I put the post-it notes with the cabinet’s number on the wall in the garage and propped up the  corresponding cleaned cabinet door beneath it. Then I got started on a new set. Then I worked in the kitchen, degreasing and cleaning the cabinet units (is that what they’re called??). Hubby did not help with this project as he was on Keep Kids Away From Project duty. It would definitely help to have two or more working on this project though.

After letting it dry for the recommended amount of time, I got started painting. I first applied painter’s tape on the insides of the cabinets (I did not bother painting the insides), on the floor, walls, and ceiling around the cabinets. Since I was lazy, I didn’t remove everything from the cabinets unless the stuff extended over the paint tape line.

We had the paint tinted to “Linen”, which is a cream-color. I used a paint brush for the painting, rollers are not recommended. Like I mentioned, I have tiny grooves in my cabinets, so I would apply the paint lightly around the grooves to prevent pooling.

The painting was pretty straightforward. I went on cleanly and covered the dark wood beautifully. Just for my own added comfort, I applied 2 coats to every surface. I was about 4-5 days into the project by this point, mainly because of the recommended drying times.

Next came the decorative glaze. I decided to use the glaze to give the cabinets some dimension. It’s a dark glaze that you paint on, then wipe off using the provided cloths. This creates a wood-grain look. Tip: buy extra cloths. I had trouble finding similar ones, but a close match would be first aid gauze. I must have looked suspicious in Walgreen’s buying boxes and boxes of gauze!

You can adjust the look by the amount of glaze you remove- I removed quite a bit, to give a faint hint of depth. Because my cabinet faces have ridges and nooks, more of the glaze got stuck in there- but it gave it a nice “rustic”, country look. Tip: Apply the glaze to the back side of a cabinet first, to decide on the look you want. Then use it to match the cabinet units in the kitchen to ensure a uniform color. Throughout the project, take a step back and make sure the glaze matches. Honestly, after a while, it all blurs together. Consider getting a less exhausted pair of eyes! Another tip: make sure the cabinetry is COMPLETELY dry after painting- if not, when you use the rag to remove the glaze, you can remove the paint. This happened to me, and I had to paint over the spot, let dry again, and apply the glaze to try to match the surrounding surface. I had a hard time getting it to match 100%, but it’s ok- by garbage can is currently hiding it!

Then let dry. This was about day 6-7 of the project.

Then comes the protective top coat. Be careful with this step. You paint it on with a brush- watch for drips. It dries quickly so if it drips, you need to start over from the beginning. Unless you can live with the drip. The good news is that you can see where you have applied the top coat, so you can apply very lightly to help prevent drips. I have those dang ridges to contend with, so I used a foam brush to dab in corners, nook, and crannies. Worked beautifully.

Now the fun part- putting everything back together! Thankfully, I kept track of each cabinet and drawer using my nerdy sketch and post-its. It was just a matter of hanging the cabinets. Easy Peasy!

Here’s a few before and after pics of my kitchen cabinets:

Cabinets 1

Cab 1
Without the glaze applied (right)

Cab 2

Cab 3
The lightly glazed surface



A note about this project: It has been almost two years since I completed it, and it has help up wonderfully. There are small scratches in 2 places- my utensil drawers. However, it does not look bad. I recently decided that I may change the color again, because we will be getting new countertops in the next year or two. I have a new theme I want for my kitchen!

Also, it took about 10 days for me to finish this project. I started it when I had a week off from work. The length of time was mainly because it was just me doing the project, plus the drying times between steps. Overall, I am happy with the result and will probably use Rustoleum again.




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