Hometalk Highlights
Hometalk Highlights
  • Hometalk Team
  • New York, NY

Outdated To Outstanding Golden Oak Cabinets

10 Materials
2 Hours

Hi, I'm Rhonda, and today I’m going to show you a super cool trick that I found to update your golden oak or honey oak cabinets without painting! I know you've all got 'em. These dated oak cabinets that were very popular in the 80's and 90's but today...not so much

The technique I'm going to show you today is called toning and it doesn’t require any stripping or painting! Toning changes the tone of your cabinets by applying a coat of stain mix over your existing cabinets. It'll bring out the natural grain of the wood while beautifully darkening the color of your cabinets.

I am going to show you this technique on a lighter pickled oak cabinet. You might have these in darker or lighter tones, but I'm sure you recognize these cabinets in some form or another. And...it's time for these guys to go!

Today I'm using General Finishes water based wood stain in Espresso, and the General Finishes High Performance water based top coat. Espresso is a dark color that I love and is very popular right now, but if you'd like to go lighter, the General Finishes stains come in lots of colors.

Mix 1 part stain to 1 part top coat (in a 1:1 ratio). I like to mix well in these disposable plastic containers with lids, because the mixture stays a long time if you keep it sealed tightly.

I also like to add some paint extender which will delay the drying time of your stain, giving you more time to play with the stain once it goes on, to get the color you want. Add a squirt of extender directly into the stain/topcoat mixture, and mix well.

Before you start staining, you'll want to lightly sand down the surface of your cabinets, just to rough up the edges a bit so that the stain really gets into the wood. You don't need to do any heavy duty sanding. I used an 80 grit paper with a medium grit sanding block. When that was nicely sanded, I went over it with a 220 sandpaper as well. When the sanding is done, wipe down well with a cheese cloth to get rid of any residue.

I also use denatured alcohol and water (another 1:1 mixture) and cleaned off the cabinets well. This mixture is a great de-greaser, and will remove cooking oil from kitchen cabinets as well as hair products from bathroom cabinets too. Wipe down your cabinets well with this mixture, and when dry, you're ready to tone!

Apply the stain mixture with a sponge brush, brushing on like you would paint.

Cover the whole cabinet with stain. Keep going, you got this!

For the next step, you'll need a natural bristle brush with lots of "poof".

Lightly brush with your natural bristle brush, feathering out the stain while darkening the natural color of the cabinet. Keep brushing the stain until the stain is evenly coated across the cabinets.

Check out this awesome Before and After! What a difference a little bit of stain can make!

Here's one of the larger cabinet doors post-face lift. I love it so much!

Bonus idea! Toning isn't limited to only cabinets! You can use toning on stairs, oak furniture, mantels, just about anything oak!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 161 questions
  • Barbara D
    on Sep 5, 2019

    When I bought my condo, they said it had real wood in the cabinets. I rented out the condo for a couple of years. When the last tenant moved out, I thought, Iwas going to give them a quick stain. I got it there and realized they were only a really cheap particle board with wall paper on top. So now I either paper on top (that will not look good) or replace them. Well, I am not ready to replace yet. So, what can I do with them now? Try to tear off the wallpaper Then replace the wallpaper? It does not look like that can be done, very easily. What would you suggest???

    • Ginny
      on Nov 6, 2019

      If the boxes are good, you can get them refaced and in that process, you would get new doors and drawer fronts. I did that in a house I used to own because we had water damage to the side of a cabinet that was very visible. Had it been on a side that faced, say, the side of a fridge, I probably would have lived with it. Anyway, it cost about half the cost of a kitchen full of new cabinets and looked fantastic. Good luck!

  • Evangelist Valerie
    on Sep 19, 2019

    How would I lighten a Medium colored cabinet door? Thanks

  • Phylis F.
    7 days ago

    Do you have a before and after photo of your kitchen or bath? I’m wondering how much darker the room seems. Also, would you use matte polyurethane as an overcoat to make cleaning greasy kitchen cabinets easier?

Join the conversation

2 of 138 comments
  • Laura
    on Aug 23, 2019

    Just an addition to your project for those who love a lighter stain or even a color stain, they make those and I have seen the stain with a pretty grey both light and dark as well as some very awesome other colors you may want to check out that idea also.

    I don't mean to toe step your project, which came out rather awesome, which has inspired me to do my mom's outdated kitchen. I am planning to give hers a hint of color which will stand out nicely with some colors she is using in kitchen already.

  • Deannie
    on Oct 29, 2019

    Yes, if I can use it on knotty pine.

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