How can I give old oak bathroom cabinets a facelift?

Trish Woods
by Trish Woods

Two years ago we bought a house that was built in 1998. Unfortunately the house had not been updated at all. The cabinetry was all builder grade oak cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchen. We have since updated the kitchen but have not touched the bathrooms. We have decided to put the house on the market and sell since my husband and I both agree we want a house that requires no updating. The remodel of the kitchen was enough for us(very expensive since we live close to Washington DC). My question is, we don’t want to invest a lot of money remodeling the bathrooms but we would like to freshen up the cabinets. We have purchased new toilets since they are fairly affordable but what is the best way of changing the look of the cabinets without purchasing new ones? They need serious help.

  10 answers
  • Emily Emily on Jan 04, 2020

    Without seeing the actual cabinets/bathrooms it is hard to give advice.

    • Trish Woods Trish Woods on Jan 05, 2020

      Yours turned out wonderful. I have the exact same mirror/storage area and lights above my mirror as well. Thanks for your help.

  • Gk Gk on Jan 04, 2020

    Hello Trish! After 25 years I painted the oak builder grade cabinets in my bathrooms. I gave them a light sanding, cleaned them, used Kilz primer, and then painted with a quality latex acrylic paint in an enamel finish-3 coats of black. They lasted another 5 years before I remodeled the bathrooms and got new vanities. They looked so much better after I painted them. I also bought new vanity tops for a reasonable price because I knew eventually I would be replacing the entire vanity. You don't mention the size of your vanities but if they are standard builder grade I am assuming they are 24 to 60 inches long and have doors and drawers. Nothing fancy! They would be easy to repaint. You can also find new hardware on sale/clearance for good prices or spray paint what is on there now. A quart of paint for one vanity should do it plus your primer depending on the size. You may be able to clean things up for less than 200.00/300.00 if you do some careful shopping.

  • 17335038 17335038 on Jan 04, 2020

    The easiest way to change the look of any cabinet vanity is to purchase new doors. This is called 'refacing'. Some painting of the middle post and edges may be necessary to completely hide, but it would be much less work than attempting to paint the entire base cabinet.

    However, in my experience being both a seller and buyer, one of the first things home owners do when move in is to start making the home 'theirs'. This often involves ripping out previous owner's efforts at quickly (or cheaply) updating anything in the home.

    Decorating trends and fads come and go, and it is impossible to predict what exactly it will be able the house that will appeal to the buyer enough to cinch the sale.

    Any money spent trying to make cosmetic improvements just for the purpose of listing the house for sale, might see at best only a % cash return at the point of sale.

    I agree that sinking any money into decorating the home now that you have decided to sell is not a wise use of money or time. Save your efforts for your new home.

    If there are any aspects that you feel are not up to par, reduce the price of the house to reflect these deficiencies, get the house sold, and move on.

  • 17335038 17335038 on Jan 04, 2020

    The fastest and easiest way to 'freshen up' any bathroom is to replace the existing bulbs with LED. The light is so much cleaner and brighter than either incandescent or fluorescent.

    The least expensive way to 'freshen up' any bathroom is to give it a very thorough cleaning and shining. Don't forget to remove the cover of the ceiling fan, the light switch cover, and on top of the light fixture.

  • Dee Dee on Jan 04, 2020

    Easiest way is paint. Use a paint sprayer to ensure no brush marks. I did my bathroom vanity in a beautiful gray. The walls are light gray and the vanity is a darker gray. Also either frame your mirror, or get a new mirror at either Home Goods, Kirklands or Lowes.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dee Dee on Jan 06, 2020

      I have a Wagner spray painter, but Homeright makes an affordable sprayer.

      Well worth the investment if you cannot stand brush marks.

  • Megan Megan on Jan 04, 2020

    I would definitely recommend painting them with chalk paint. Annie Sloan works great for kitchen cabinets! No sanding required or priming!

    Here are oak cabinets that we painted that were builder grade! We did it With Annie Sloan. They have still held up great!

  • 17335038 17335038 on Jan 05, 2020

    Although the use of chalk paint seems to be trendy at the present time, it is not seen by everyone as being attractive.

  • Deb K Deb K on Jan 05, 2020

    Hi Trish, a new coat of paint on the cabinets will work wonders, and paint on the walls as well. I love chalk paint for cabinets, it goes on easy and will last a long time, pick a color you love!! I have attached a video with instruction for you, you will love it!