Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinets

Ashley Harding
by Ashley Harding
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.
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.
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.
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.
It definitely give the room some serious contrast. Before, I never liked the way the cabinets and floor were the same shade of wood.
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.
Although it's a modern look, the dark wood still gives off a warm feel.
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.
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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3 of 21 questions
  • Judit Ilie Judit Ilie on Dec 04, 2019

    Nice result!

    I used Java gel stain but on raw wood. Actually I removed the old finish. Im interested how many coat of stain you applied? one or two? Have you used any finish coat as sealer?

  • Daniel Kinney Daniel Kinney on Mar 10, 2020

    I want to try this but do. I need to SAND FIRST? I dont' want to have to sand anything. I would rather buy new wood.

  • Sandra Sandoz Sandra Sandoz on Apr 14, 2021

    Do you know if it works the same lightening a finish? I have pretty 'run of the mill' oak cabinets and I'd like them almost looking like bleached cedar shingles. Kind of a whitewashed look. They're rather 'golden' currently. I'd just like them whiter. And, funky is fine, I'm just trying to avoid buying new.

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2 of 115 comments
  • Patty Patty on Jan 16, 2022

    Looks great. Thanks for the tips when using gel.

  • Tammy Tammy on Jan 19, 2023

    I just wanted to say what an incredible job you've done, your kitchen is absolutely stunning 🤗