Is restaining and refinishing kichen cabinets the same?

My kitchen cabinets are in good condition so they do not need to be replaced. The tannish color has faded, so I would like to darken them. I also believe this is less expensive than to reface them.

  7 answers
  • Nancy Turner Nancy Turner on Feb 04, 2018
    Basically they are the same, in order to restain you need to take off the top coat in order to be able to change the stain color, then put on your new top coat and you have refinished kitchen cabinets.
  • Gale Allen Jenness Gale Allen Jenness on Feb 04, 2018
    Ok, this is a little technical, I ‘m a cabinet maker so first if I may let me explain a little bit to you about materials used in building cabinets! First and most important thing to know, is their are basically two grades of plywood whether it be oak, cherry, birch, or what have you! There’s what’s called Domestic plywood and there’s import plywood. Naturally the import is cheaper 99 out of a 100 times, reason being the veneer on the plywood for imports is literally paper thin if not thinner! Many times you can see thru the veneer and see the glue that holing the Cabrera on when we get it from factories. It comes already presented and you can hardly touch it with sand paper yourself without sanding thru the veneer! This becomes a huge issue with refinishing impor material being the stain usually soaks completely thru the veneer and you can take the old finish off very well without sanding thru the veneer even when using a stripper first!
    Donestic plywood on the other hand has a veneer usually over 1/16” thick and it can be stripped and re without any problems usually! Unfortunately Domestic material is a lot more expensive and most people aren’t educated enough to know the difference between materials and once their finished and installed in your home most people wouldn’t have a clue whether their materials are Domestic or import? Unfortunately many cabinets shops use the cheapest materials they can get a hold of! (Import) Only your high end cabinet shops but Domestic materials to build their cabinetry out of as well as hardwood frames the cabinet doors attach to! Although just cause you have hardwood frames don’t mean the plywood is Domestic? You can only tell if you can see a raw edge where you can see the layers of the plywood and the edge of the venee. Domestic you’ll see the thickness of the veneer but the import will be almost non existen being so thin!
    This is going to be your biggest issues with refinishing or finishing over the original finish if you have any sanding to do! In most cases your cabinets will have a lacquer or varnish gloss or semi gloss on it and trying to stain over it really won’t work being the new stain you use won’t soak into the grain like it would with raw wood. It act more like paint where it would just sit and dry on top of your lacquer or varnish finish! Unless you strip the lacquer or varnish off first, restraining not the best idea and won’t hold up for long.
    There’s a lot of factors to look at with cabinets and what’s your best choices for improving or replacing cabinets. If their chipboard/particle board or plywood? Are the cabinets made of 1/2” or 3/4” thick materia. Some are even worse where finish sides are only 1/4” thick that you can push on the side of a cabinet and watch it move in and out with the pressure of your hand on it! Sadly some are so poorly made that I’d never recommend anyone trying to put good money into a cabinet that’s never going to have any real strength! Kind of like the old saying you can slap paint on a pig, but it’s still a pig!
    Another good thing to look at are your shelves in your cabinet, how thick are they? 1/2 or 3/4” and some shops cheat and put a molding on the edge of their shelves to make them stronger from bending with weight and to hide how thin the shelves really are? Are the shelves adjustable, which means you can take the shelf out of your cabinets and inspect the raw edges that will give you a good idea if your cabinets are chipboard or plywood?
    Mid you believe your cabinets are built well enough to hold up to many more years of use and is worth the money your going to be putting into them to hopefully get them to look how you want? By all means go ahead and refinishing them! Btw, older kitchen from say the 60’s or older are often better cabinets then the ones bulit in the 70’s and after!
    Myself, I refuse to build anything out of chipboard or particleboard. All my cabinets I made are built out of 3/4” birch plywood with whatever species of plywood on finish end like oak, cherry, etc. With hardwood face frames. Many cabinet these days don’t have a face frame and that makes the cabinets a lot weaker too!
    If you want to deface your cabinets yourself, there’s a few different ways to go about it. You can get by with a few minor tools and accomplish the project if your skilled with a skill saw and using a router? I be glad to help talk you thru the steps to help you out. One other think to watch out for! Is cost between refacing and new cabinets! I did both reface or new cabinets for customers, but many times new cabinets isn’t much more then refacing and in some cases refacing cost more! Thing you have to remember about refacing is your paying worker or workers to come to your home for several days to reface your kitchen cabinets! Your dealing with the smell, noise and dust while not having a kitchen you can use!
    where a new kitchen is completely built at a shop and can usually be installed in one day! Don’t let anyone take out your existing kitchen till they have the new cabinets ready to install. Many shops will tear out your kitchen and leave and you won’t see them again for months in many cases! They tear up your existing kitchen to tie you up with working with them and not hiring someone else when they don’t keep their word when the job will be done! There’s absolutely no reason to take out your existing cabinets till the new ones are ready to install and at that point it shouldn’t take more then two days to have a new kitchen installed and ready for you to use! I personally always tried to work around my customers to where they could least use their kitchen to make meals as much as possible.
    Many shops tell customers they can start their job right away, when in fact they have several jobs already booked they need to do yet. Which is why they take out your existing kitchen right away and leave and you don’t see them again for months! Understandably they do this to keep busy and hopefully not have down time with no work! Everyone always wants their job done now and don’t want to wait! So if these shops told the truth they loose jobs to someone else that says they can do it now! But odds are their lying too! I had more than one customer call me up months after I told them I couldn’t start their job right away that hired another shop that said oh yea we can start right away! Then 6 months later they still didn’t have a new kitchen yet! SurpriseI fly to me, they call me saying they wish they had just waited for me since I was at least honest with them! But there was also times I sat without any work for being honest too! So I can’t blame companies for making sure they keep work coming in their door whatever it takes, even a little white lie!
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    • Gale Allen Jenness Gale Allen Jenness on Feb 17, 2018
      What? I made things very clear! I’ve only been in the woodworking trade for over 50 years and just told nothing but the truth what woodworking trade does as a standard of doing business! I educated people so they know the differences to what their buying and I don’t try to keep them in the dark and use cheap imported materials that’s literally garbage compared to domestic material. Maybe you just don’t know the difference yourself or is it you don’t want your customers to know? Yoiu obviously don’t know what your talking about saying your Baltic birch has 10 + layers of vaneer! There’s only one layer of veneer on each side of any plywood and the rest is made up of other layers of fir plus cross crossing each other for strength and to avoid warpage! Or it has a particle board or lumber core center! You best go back to woodshop 101 if you think any plywood has 10 plus layers of veneer? I imagine from that statement alone anything I’d explain to you would sound complicated. But keep trying and maybe someday you’ll be as good as you think you are in your own mind!
  • Barb Charms Barb Charms on Feb 05, 2018
    Right, they're pretty much the same thing. U r going to want to sand ur cabinets because they have that (usually shiny) topcoat on them, but once thats off ur stain will darken the cabinets like u want
  • Flipturn Flipturn on Feb 05, 2018
    The term 'refacing' means purchasing new cabinet doors. At around $75+ for each new door, you are right in thinking that restaining or refinishing are both less expensive than refacing.
  • Gale Allen Jenness Gale Allen Jenness on Feb 08, 2018
    Sorry about all the errors in my first reply, for some reason my typing program is acting up horribly? I haven’t found a way to edit on this site to be able to correct errors either? Hope you got the idea what I was trying to explain at least? There’s something to be said for talking in person! LOL
  • William William on Feb 08, 2018
    Gale was too complicated. A lot of cabinets are made of different products including wood based on costs, price and styles. Some are made of imported Baltic Birch plywood which is the best (ten + layers of wood veneer). Second is American Birch plywood (six layers of wood veneer). Then you have particle board and the worst MDF. Panel doors are usually solid wood so they don't warp. Solid doors can be particle board or MDF with a paper or plastic covering. Face frames are for the most part solid wood. Also cabinet cases can be either 1/2" or 3/4" thickness. You get what you pay for.
  • William William on Feb 08, 2018
    You can go to a darker color stain with very little prep using Minwax Polyshades.

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