What are the Best Tips for Refinishing Cabinets?

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  • Written By: Michael Straessle
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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One of the most pleasurable feelings a homeowner can experience is when remodeling turns a house into a home. This is the time when owners put personal touches on everything they can to make living as comfortable as possible. The different things that can be done vary in difficulty and refinishing cabinets can be one of the most difficult projects to undertake. Here are a few tips for refinishing cabinets.

As with any job, preparation makes all the difference in the world. Watching refinishing videos can provide tips for refinishing cabinets and will help you gain confidence before beginning the job.

Among the first tips for refinishing cabinets is how strippers differ in strength and that they require needed steps that cannot be skipped. One of the most common reasons refinishing cabinets becomes a frustration is not allowing the stripper enough time to do what it was created to do. Just be sure to read the instructions on the container with special attention paid to how many coats of stain, paint or varnish will be removed with one application.


Another good tip for refinishing cabinets is that the stripper should be applied to flat level surfaces. What this means is removing the doors and the drawers so you can lay them flat, which will allow the stripper to stay against the finish longer. For the part of the cabinets that are vertical and cannot be removed, use a stripper that will not run once it is applied. In addition, cover the countertop with the recommended covering needed for maximum protection. Remember to wear gloves that go past the wrist and up the arm a bit to protect the skin as much as possible. If the stripper comes into contact with the skin, flush the area with water immediately and follow further instructions on the container or get medical attention.

Since the purpose of the project is to refinish cabinets, all the old finish must be removed. Once the bulk of the stripper is removed, flat surfaces and large areas can be scrubbed with steel wool and removed with a putty knife. For cracks and seams in the wood or molding, try an old toothbrush or toothpicks. Remember to put used stripper in a styrofoam container. Even some plastic containers are not recommended. There is a danger of the stripper eating through plastic and styrofoam. If you have a metal container such as an old coffee can or even a steel bowl, these are highly recommended.

Once you have removed the first layer of the finish, clean the rest with the recommended cleaner on the container and steel wool. One more tip for refinishing cabinets concerns what to do if there are trouble spots. Just apply a little stripper to the steel wool and use a circular motion to lift the stubborn finish. Finish it off with a soft, damp cloth. You may have to apply more than one coating of the stripper to get all the old finish off, but the instructions on the container will tell you how to know if another application is needed. Once this is done, the wood needs to be able to dry thoroughly before sanding. When you sand use fine sandpaper such as 100 grit or finer. Remember, strippers give off quite an aroma, so be certain to have adequate ventilation.


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