Outdated To Outstanding Golden Oak Cabinets

Hometalk Highlights
by Hometalk Highlights
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 icon

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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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  • Maria Maria on Feb 04, 2024

    Glad this is working for you. I still see golden oak color coming through. And what does one do if one wants to go lighter which, if I am not mistaken, is the trend? Lighter is not going to happen with stain on golden oak. Someone please tell me I am wrong!!

  • Kpas6185 Kpas6185 on Feb 10, 2024

    Those look like my cabinets which I bought from Home Depot. Did you compare the price of just buying the cabinet doors instead of spending all those hours staining and wiping and staining and wiping?

  • Loretta Loretta on Feb 11, 2024

    I will definitely try it on my down stairs bath room. But I would like to see a photo of your cabinets before I tackle my LR and Kitchen cabinets.

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  • Melanie Salerno Melanie Salerno on Dec 23, 2023

    Would be nice to see the entire kitchen finished. I would love to do this but have no idea what it would look like

  • Janexists Janexists on May 15, 2024

    Golden oak will come back again. Love mine, wouldn't dream of changing. Hides dirt & grease really well. Not too dark either. You can have your white or black kitchens!