Ashley Harding
Ashley Harding
  • Hometalker
  • Chicago, IL

Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinets


A couple months ago I painted our bathroom cabinets. I was really happy with the way they turned out, that I decided to turn it up a notch and refinish our kitchen cabinets. A friend of mine recently told me about the gel stain product by General Finishes and I figured this project would be a good opportunity to test it out. I went with the Java color which is a deep, rich brown. Below are the before pictures.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
We have the builder's grade laminate covered cabinets. I wasn't sure how the gel stain would adhere to them but I figured I'd give it a shot anyways.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
Here is the comparison after one coat. Basically, the majority of the stain came off when I wiped off the excess. It also left it looking very streaky. Definitely not the rich, java color I was going for. I decided to check out the manufacturer's website in hope of some tips. Well the first tip I read was that this product is NOT recommended for laminate surfaces. (Too late for that). However, they also mentioned an option to paint the stain on. I thought if I could use some technique where I didn't have to wipe the stain off afterwards, it may work out better.
So, I started down a new path...
I first primed the cabinets with a Gripper Primer.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
I then painted the stain on the cabinets, letting it dry instead of wiping it off. This technique gave me the rich color I was originally envisioning. Here are the after results.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
It definitely give the room some serious contrast. Before, I never liked the way the cabinets and floor were the same shade of wood.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
I think it also coordinates much better with the granite counter top. The rich colored cabinets help to pick up the black specs in the granite.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
Although it's a modern look, the dark wood still gives off a warm feel.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
I also switched out the hardware to match the new hardware I used in the bathroom. They make much more of a statement than the old pulls.
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
gel staining kitchen cabinets, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
I think whenever you do projects like this, it's a good time to re-assess some of your current decor. Over the years I have slowly been transitioning our house from rich browns and reds to bright greens and blues. This project gave me the chance to finally purge the remaining old decor and bring in more brightly colored decor.
All I can say is our next house better have my dream kitchen, because I am officially burnt out with painting cabinets (at least for the next month)!
Ashley Harding

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

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 16 questions
  • Crumly
    on Aug 6, 2018

    After you put the gel on, and let it dry, you didn’t have to seal it with something? Especially by the sink area? By the way it is gorgeous! Thanks.

  • Sandy Fink
    on Aug 7, 2018

    I would like to try where do you purchase the gel and i am putting it on wood can it go over it directly or do you need to sand

  • Irvinia Maynard Hall
    on Mar 20, 2019

    Love this! 😍 also you backsplash... it looks like tiny tile... is that real tile or wallet because I can’t tell.... where did you get the backsplash material?

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