Do It Yourself » DIY Kitchen Transformation on the Cheap – DIY Cabinet Refinishing

DIY Kitchen Transformation on the Cheap – DIY Cabinet Refinishing

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Do you have basic kitchen or bathroom cabinets that you’ve grown tired of? We did too, but here’s how we transformed them into gorgeous cabinets over a weekend for less than $75!

Let me start off by saying that this is a fairly simple, yet slightly time consuming project. In all, it took me an entire weekend to do my whole kitchen by myself while my other half was working.

I wasn’t sure whether he’d be overly thrilled with the idea, so I waited until he left for work and began the overhaul! I figured, if I’m the one that spends 10+ hours per week in the kitchen staring at the cabinets, then I should at least enjoy how they look!

DIY Cabinet Refinishing

You’ll Need:
1-2 Quart(s) of General Finishes Gel Stain (Any Color you like, I used Brown Mahogany)
1 pkg Foam Brushes
1 old cotton sheet torn into thin strips
Rubber gloves
120 grit sandpaper or Sanding Sponges
1 Roll of Painters Tape

Start by removing all the doors from your cabinets and pull out any drawers. At this point you may discover a new project ahead of you… reorganizing the contents of each cupboard, but we’re not going to worry about that right now.

Remove all of the hardware from the doors and drawers. Keep in mind that you might want to store the hardware from the cupboards and drawers in separate bowls because the screws are slightly different sizes between the two.

Scrub the doors thoroughly to remove any excess dirt, grime or grease. Failure to do so will result in uneven streaks on your finished cabinets. There is a product called TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) at Lowes, Home Depot or even Amazon.

It runs about $3.00 for a small box and a little goes a very long way. You use about 1/4- 1/2 c. per 2 gallons of HOT water (WEAR GLOVES).

Using a basic scrub brush, dip it in the solution and then scrub the doors with it. Let it set for about 10 minutes, then hose them off and let them dry.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like using TSP, can’t find it or are ecologically opposed to using a phosphate product, then you can simply wash the doors in a solution of hand dishwashing detergent, dry them and then sand them thoroughly with 120 grit sandpaper. This is the part that took the most amount of time for me. You want to remove ALL of the sheen (laquer coating) from the doors.

Clean off the dust and make sure they are completely smooth. A vacuum cleaner hose works well to get the dust out of the cracks and crevices.

Once all of the doors & drawers are sanded you can apply the gel stain with a foam brush, the immediately wipe it off with the strips of cloth.

Choosing the Right Stain

In this case I chose General Finishes gel stain, which I ordered directly through Amazon. Here’s why, it’s a no drip, no odor stain that is simple to apply and coats well.

It doesn’t take weeks to get the smell out of your house after using it, like most stains, in fact, it has a pleasant light scent and I’m the kind of person that avoids shopping and malls because of other peoples’ choice in perfumes!


Repeat until all of the doors and drawers have been stained. I used egg cartons on top of a table to set them on to allow them to dry with even airflow. They must set overnight before applying a second coat.

In the meantime, start sanding the kitchen cabinets. Don’t forget to apply painters tape along the walls and appliance edges to protect them from being stained.


It’s not a bad idea to keep a wet, wrung out cloth on hand for quick clean ups of any drips or accidental wall touches. Again, the great thing about this brand of stain is that it doesn’t run all over the place like other stains have a tendency to do.

The next day, apply a second coat of stain and repeat this process until you achieve the desired color you want, you may want up to 4 coats. I wanted to maintain a wood grain, so two coats was plenty for my kitchen.


A couple of things about the finished kitchen:

1. Yes, I changed the counter tops as well; You can too for around $350.
2. How to Install your own Tile Backsplash ( Tutorial Coming shortly) I did not anticipate adding a tile backsplash, but when I saw the tile on sale, I was SOLD!

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