Flawless Chaos
Flawless Chaos
  • Hometalker
  • Flower Mound, TX

Refinished Oak Cabinets

12 Materials
6 Weeks

My oak kitchen cabinets were the original color of brown and looked really dated. I know that white is a big color for cabinets these days, but I just couldn't bring myself to paint the oak cabinets. I like white cabinets, but I know from our lakehouse reno that they are more work to keep clean. Every single spec of food and dirt shows up...Here are the before photos:

refinished oak cabinets
Step 1 ~ Design and Planning

Light is also an issue in my kitchen, I needed a brighter/lighter look. We plan on updating our countertops, backsplash and kitchen sink, but I wanted to make color/style decisions slowly as I finished each phase, instead of deciding all up front. Originally, my kitchen had black appliances except for the refrigerator, which is stainless steel with a small amount of black trim. When my dishwasher and oven died last year, I replaced it with stainless. The only thing left black was the oven hood and micorwave. 

For the cabinets, I would strip and sand all of the original color off down to the raw oak wood. This would mean a fairly big mess inside my home, so I started this project by moving out of my kitchen. I stored everything in my dining room during this phase, which is next to the kitchen. It was pretty easy to still operate and make the family meals around the mess.

refinished oak cabinets
Step 2 ~ Project Prep
  • Remove everything from cabinets and drawers
  • Remove and label cabinet doors and drawers
  • Remove top cabinet trim
  • Use drop cloths or old sheets to cover any walkways or openings to the room for when you sand
  • Cover flooring if you plan to use any non-toxic stripping agent
  • Remove any outlet or switch covers
  • Remove range hood and microwave cover
refinished oak cabinets
  • Once you have stripped the cabinet base and cleaned off the stripper, use a palm sander to get the rest of the old finish/stain off the wood
  • Start with a really coarse grade paper like 40 and finish with a 120 or lighter for your palm sander
  • Depending on the detail of your cabinets, you may need to consider other tools like a rotary tool to get in the cracks
  • In the picture below, you can start to see how beautiful the oak wood is under the old finish
refinished oak cabinets

refinished oak cabinets
Step 4 ~ Stain and Sand

I experimented with several different grey stains, but most of them were too dark, until I tried Minwax Classic Grey you are going for a ligher look, a stain/polyurathane one step product will not work, they are way too dark.

refinished oak cabinets
  • Make sure you have wiped down all sanded areas with a damp cloth and the area is completely dry
  • Gather up a bunch of rags that you don't mind trashing after you are done
  • Use a paint brush to apply the stain, then immediately wipe off with a clean rag to achieve the very light grey you see below
  • After the stain has completely dried, use a fine grained sanding block to lightly sand for a super smooth finish
  • I noticed that the stain did vary in how the wood absorbed it, so I held off applying the polyurathane top coat until I got the doors / cabinets finished and put back on. I wanted to make sure I could add stain or sand off some of the stain if areas were too dark.

refinished oak cabinets
Step 5 ~ Appliances

Instead of spending money on a new microwave and range hood , I thought I would try spraying them with stainless steel spray paint. This paint is amazing! But be careful to spray evenly with no drips. I found that if you hang the item, it's much easier to achieve a smooth finish with no drips instead of laying on the ground and turning over once dried for the other side. Make sure to tape off any knobs or labelling.

refinished oak cabinets
Step 6 ~ Cabinet Interiors

After the mess of sanding inside the house is done, consider your cabinet interiors.  Notice the freshly painted range hood, you really can't tell it was painted.

refinished oak cabinets
Step 7 ~ Trim and Finishing touches

My original trim was attached at an angle, which made the kitchen look smaller and more dated. I am replacing it with wider trim that will be attached with small nails and straight up and down instead of an angle/crown molding look like before.

refinished oak cabinets

My original trim was attached at an angle, which made the kitchen look smaller and more dated. I am replacing it with wider trim that will be attached with small nails and straight up and down instead of an angle/crown molding look like before.

One small issue that I ran into was that the trim, after staining with the grey did not have the same look as the cabinets...the trim wasn't oak, so I had to add some oak stain to achieve the same hue.

refinished oak cabinets
refinished oak cabinets
refinished oak cabinets

The end look is slightly darker than I planned but very rich and warm and I think the cabinets will look great with light countertops and white backsplash...our future project. Next steps include new lighting over cabinets and island, and new sink. When I need to replace the microwave and fridge, I will go with all stainless but for now, I think they are fine. In the end, this was a whole lot of work, but I really love how they turned out. For additional info and pics, check out my blog!

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Flawless Chaos

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Smooches
    on Feb 26, 2019

    how does the kitchen look w lights on?

  • Beverly
    on Feb 26, 2019

    I have oak cabinets in my kitchen, but it’s a paper finish on the wall. It is peeling off. What do I do for a new look. My kitchen is dark (no windows) a condo.

    • Liz
      on Feb 28, 2019

      Check out wall vinyl scenes and apply with a window over the vinyl. Makes for a quick getaway at the farm or the beach!

  • Maggy
    on Feb 27, 2019

    What stainless steel paint did you use?

    • Jenise
      on Mar 5, 2019

      It says they used Krylon in the project resources drop down😊

Join the conversation

2 of 41 comments
  • Donna
    on Mar 14, 2019

    I have cabinets in bathroom that are faded from sun so hoping this will work.

  • Carol
    on Mar 25, 2019

    Wow! You really put in the work and it sure looks FANTASTIC! You should really be proud of that kitchen. Thank you so much for sharing.

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