Redo of 70's Kitchen With Oak Strip Cabinets - Under $200!

12 Materials
$200
1 Week
Medium

I've read plenty of kitchen redo projects, but no one seems to tackle these ugly oak strip type cabinets. I decided that I'd give it a try, and if it turned out really bad I could always fork out the big bucks and pay for granite and cabinet reface.
Before
Here is the original kitchen. The before photos came out very yellow, but the cabinets were "white" as opposed to almond. They sure don't look white next to the white appliances. And I can't stand those ugly oak strips.
Before
I went online, found an image of a pretty blue granite, and printed it out as my pattern. Then I bought a quart of Valspar 4011-4 Royal Navy Latex paint. Put that down as my "primer." This is the first and smallest section of cabinet in the kitchen. I did everything first here as my experiment. That was a big mistake! Later, after errors, I figured out that I should have done everything FIRST on the least visible section. Oh well!
Base Paint 1
By the time I got to the least visible section, I was getting pretty fast and loose with the primer. It had gradually dawned on me that I didn't need a perfectly solid basecoat.
Base Paint 2
With cheap acrylics from Michael's in white, baby blue, grey and navy, I sponged on my granite pattern, using my computer printout as a reminder. I have to say, this came out so well that I can throw my printout onto the counter and it fades right in!
Sponging complete
Close up
I won't bore you with the details - there are a jillion posts on sponge painting faux granite and I read them all before starting. This part of the project was so much fun - I could do this for hours and was thinking to myself, "Oh boy, I can't wait to get to the bathroom countertops!"
Then came the dreaded epoxy pour. I procrastinated for about a week because all the posts said it was hard. They lied - it is IMPOSSIBLE! I used Envirotex Lite, and (starting with the most visible cabinet) I poured it from the top of the backsplash and down onto the countertop. I smoothed it. Smoothed it some more. It seemed like it was pooling rather than self-leveling but after smoothing and smoothing I decided maybe I was overthinking it, and let it dry.
Then I spent the next few days cursing like a sailor because it did indeed dry in pools. The backsplash areas dried with big gloppy runny trails running down them. I tried going in with a paintbrush over this area. I tried putting the epoxy into a ketchup-type squirt bottle so I could control the application better. (BTW, this is a VERY BAD idea - the bottle got super HOT and then the epoxy turned into a big hard ball in the squirt bottle - a lesson in thermodynamics!) I tried putting it on the backsplashes with a cabinet roller.
The bottom line is, I simply never could get the vertical sides to cover smoothly and evenly. Plus I still had the pooling problem on the horizontal area.
I tried to get to get a photo of the vertical wiggly surfaces and the pooling, but couldn't capture it. Mostly I was too angry to take pictures anyway and spent a lot of time muttering, "Self-leveling my eye!" to myself. Anyway, eventually I spoke with a neighbor who said he thought I should build a lip around the countertop to hold the epoxy, then pour it thicker. So I built a lip with painter's tape. Then I thought, "If I bump the tape it's going to go down into the epoxy and stick there." So I put painter's tape going the other direction in the inside of the first rim. Again, like an idiot, I did this on the most visible area.
The rim idea worked great. However, I found that when I peeled the tape off, the epoxy had glued itself to the wrong side of the tape. Had I just left the sticky side exposed it would not have adhered to the tape. The end result is that my edges are infused with bits of blue tape. Luckily it blends in if you aren't looking too hard.
Tape lip before the pour
Midway
At this point I am resigned to imperfect edges and wobbly uneven vertical surfaces. Time to move on - I can always have a professional put in real granite when I win the lottery.
So next it was time to tackle the cabinets. The old guy at Lowes told me that I would have to use oil-based paint on laminate. A younger guy said I could use latex, but would have to use a primer but that it only came in gallon size. After looking at the Zinzer primer, it said it had "excellent adhesion to glossy surfaces" and it came in a quart size, so I bought it, and primed the cabinets, including the oak strips, with it.
Then I painted the strips with the navy latex I had used as a primer on the countertops, and painted the cabinets with a white latex. Then I went over all of it with Minwax Polycrylic. I will be adding cabinet pulls, but haven't decided whether I want wooden ones painted navy or nickel-coated ones. Here is the "finished-for-now" job. It's got lots of flaws, but it's way better and brighter than before. (I will not be tackling the bathrooms anytime soon!)
The whole job cost less than $200. It probably could have been accomplished in four days but took me longer due to deliberate procrastination, work schedule and laziness. My story is that I wanted a more artistic, textured look on the backsplash...I'm sticking with that one.
After
Warnings: This has not yet stood the test of time or the pummeling of small children. If you choose to pour epoxy, pre-reserve a rubber-lined room, and provide ear plugs for family members. No fumes were involved in this project and taking deep calming breaths was a necessity.
After
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 12 questions
  • Cat
    on Dec 6, 2018

    This looks wonderful, but will the paint not chip or peel off? Especially if something hot of semi-hot is put on it? I would be scared to try this for several reasons. I wouldn't want it to mess up, or fade./cm

    • Milagros Pacheco
      on Feb 22, 2019

      I wish I could have the nerve to do this, it looks amazing. If someone could tell me if I could do this on formica counters and cheap cabinets mdf,i think is the name that we give to the cabinets, the cheapest ones

  • Kathie Osborne
    on Dec 24, 2018

    Idea: If you used a half round on the front of the counters before painting, wouldn't it look more like granite? Just an idea.

  • Rox1846598
    on Sep 1, 2019

    I have these cabinets and once asked two different painters about them...they said they wouldn't hold up and no matter how they did it, it would start chipping and I wouldn't be happy with it. Is yours holding up???

Join the conversation

2 of 293 comments
  • Louise
    on Jan 27, 2019

    Well, Kathy, I thought about it too...the turning point for me was a "nothing to lose" scenario...I was either gonna spend big bucks to get it done, or give DIY a chance. I was glad I did it myself!

  • Carol de la Fuente
    on Jan 31, 2019

    Great job!!! Looks fantastic!!!

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