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.




Pool Deck Project


Several summers ago, we were swimming in our pool and I noticed a reddish brown stain on the wall in the deep end. I tried to scrub at it, I poked and prodded at it, and couldn’t figure out what it was. My pool serviceperson said “Well, you do need to resurface your pool”.  The 28-year-old plaster was crumbling and eventually would get into the pump system, ruining it. That mystery stain? Rebar coming through the plaster and creating a pretty magnificent rust stain.

The financial worry felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on my head. How much was this going to cost? Why the heck did I allow myself to buy a house with a pool? Of course, the frugal part of me was wondering if I can do it myself… HA! Nope. Long story short, we just now signed the contract for the resurfacing job to get done. Which led to the inevitable Backyard Makeover Domino Effect. After the initial sticker shock, we began to get super excited- no more decades-old 80’s pool/ pool tile! Maybe we CAN transform this dumpy backyard into an oasis! Maybe we can finally enjoy being OUTSIDE!

After cleaning up and getting rid of old backyard crap, we decided to figure out what to do with the concrete pool deck. It is exposed aggregate, which is beneficial because it helps prevent slipping when wet. So whatever we did, it had to maintain that same slip-resistant property. We couldn’t afford for it to be ripped up and replaced, and besides having a few rust stains it was in great condition with little to no cracks.

Concrete staining or painting would need to be sealed, which could get slick when wet. I did tons of research and decided to go with a product found at Home Depot, called Behr Granite Grip. It comes in 2 colors, gray and tan that can be tinted to several different shades. We had ours tinted to Copper Marble, and got two big 5 gallon tubs.


We chose this product because of the ease and cost. After prepping the concrete, you simply paint it on. I wasn’t sure it would work on exposed aggregate, so I bought a small can and tested it on my side walkway. It worked beautifully!

As part of the prep, the concrete needed to be thoroughly cleaned. There were several options I read about online- TSP, muriatic acid (which was pretty frightening to read about- it’s hydrochloric acid), Simple Green, and commercial cleaners and degreasers. The surface must be cleaned, scrubbed, scrubbed, and scrubbed again- otherwise the color won’t adhere properly to the surface, and can cause discolored areas.

Moreover, the surface needed to be etched. It took me time to figure out what etching was (finally just googled it- could’ve saved me time if I’d thought of that from the get-go). Etching basically roughs up the surface so the concrete will accept the paint or stain. I sent an inquiry to Behr customer service to see if exposed aggregate needed to be etched since it’s rough to start with. The answer is YES.

I finally came across a product at Home Depot from Rustoleum, which is one of my favorite DIY products. It’s a concrete and masonry cleaner and degreaser. It has to be diluted, so follow the directions on the container. As for etching, well, here’s where my newbie-ness comes into play. Rustoleum has a cleaner and degreaser, and also a cleaner and etcher (with added components to rough up the surface at the same time as cleaning it). The containers are almost identical. So I actually ended up cleaning the concrete, then having to clean and etch.  Note to all you DIY-ers out there- just get the Clean and Etch.

rustoleumcleaner                                             Rustoleumetcher



After applying the cleaner/etcher, you have to scrub with a long-handled scrub brush, using about 10 million tons of elbow grease. Trust me- my arms and shoulders were super sore the following few days! Rinse it a MINIMUM of three times, and let it dry. The surface should feel like 150 grit sandpaper. Just keepin’ it real though- I don’t know what 150 grit sandpaper feels like compared to other grit sandpapers, so I just felt it and yup, felt like sandpaper. Done. Just needed to keep the kids and a crazy dog off of it for a day.

We did not have any cracks or chips to repair, so if anyone out there has them, you would repair the cracks after the etching. There are a couple products out there from mixing your own concrete (in a small bucket- apply with trowel, putty knife, etc.) or premixed in a sort-of squirt bottle for filling cracks. Let it dry and sand down lumps or ridges.

Here’s a few pics of the concrete after cleaning and etching. There were rust stains on the concrete which did not come up. I didn’t worry too much about them because 1) the color we chose is similar to rust-color 2) they were small 3) I was too lazy to go out and buy the recommended Krud Kutter to try to get it up.


The next step was to tape off the areas we did not want painted. We used painter’s tape for concrete- which I never knew existed and probably have picked up in the past on accident and ruined an interior wall or two, but whatevs. It adheres well which I needed. We taped around the pool coping and bricks, and covered over the additional copings (is that what they’re called?) and pool deck drain (the horizontal black lines in the picture). We also taped over our current pool fence holes- we had the fence replaced a few years ago and new holes were drilled- the old ones we left uncovered.

Now the fun part. Well, not so fun. Keeping two young kids away from wet paint and a wide open pool was not fun OR easy. Not to mention the numerous interruptions we had  to break up fights going on inside. Regardless, we started by painting the Granite Grip with brushes alongside the taped areas and borders. This was super exciting- I knew from the first brush stroke I was going to love the color!


Then came the rest of the surface. Behr is pretty clear that one must use a 1/4 inch adhesive roller for the Granite Grip. We got a couple long-handled rollers as well. The problem: Not easy to get the first two coats on with a long handled roller on exposed aggregate. More pressure is needed to get the product evenly spread, so we ended up on our hands and knees covering about 800 square feet (just a guess) of rocky, sandpapery, jagged concrete. I’m not bitter.


A note about the first coat: The first coat of the Behr Granite Grip is NOT what the final color will look like. Behr is very clear about that. The second and subsequent coats are more accurate. We did 3 coats after the initial border-painting. Also, the surface became smoother after multiple coats. On the last coat, we were able to use the long-handled roller, giving our backs, butts, and quads a break!

This product dries fairly quickly- ok to have light foot traffic after 24 hours, can move furniture back after 72. We had to take the dog on walks and despite my neighbor behind me spraying a hose over my fence onto the newly painted surface, it went off without a hitch. Took us about a day to complete (after the surface prep).

And now, the final look! We keep looking dreamily out the window….and planning the next project. =)


My name is Amanda. I hate my house.

Well, not really. But sort of. I bought my home in 2005 as a newlywed, and thought it was awesome. Ok…it was because of the pool. I wanted a pool.

I overlooked the 80’s wallpaper, 80’s linoleum, 80’s carpet, and 80’s dark wood cabinets for as long as I could. I began to feel unhappy in my home. I began cursing whenever I walked into my kitchen or bathroom. But I was stuck- I couldn’t afford professional remodels and couldn’t afford to move. I had been taken advantage of by contractors and repair services in the past and the thought of dealing with the rigamarole of getting estimates, choosing a company, and forking out loads of dough for projects made me cringe. Don’t get me wrong- there are projects I would never attempt on my own. But I finally came to a point where I was sick enough of my house that I bravely decided to step up and take the plunge on the DIY projects I wanted done. So I did what any twenty-first century homeowner would do- I You-Tubed various projects and decided to take the bull by the horns to update my 1988 home.

I am by no means creative, but I want others to know that you don’t necessarily need to be creative, a designer, or a handyman to transform your living space.