How to Restore Kitchen Cabinets in A House

How to restore kitchen cabinets

Remodeling the kitchen is one of the best improvements you can make to increase the value of your house. Unfortunately, the task of renovating a kitchen can put a large dent on your wallet. A budget-friendly solution to this problem is to simply restore the kitchen cabinets. This will give your kitchen a complete makeover and make it look brand new. This job only requires a bit of work and knowledge on how to restore kitchen cabinets.

Steps to Restore Kitchen Cabinets

In nearly all homes, the kitchen is a very frequently used area. Family members are constantly opening and closing kitchen cabinets to get their favorite coffee mug or get dishes to set the dinner table. Cooking can also result in oil splashes and splatters of food across the cabinets. It doesn’t take long before stains start appearing on your kitchen cabinets or the wood begins to fade. These faded spots and smudge marks can make your entire kitchen look old and worn out.

So, without further ado, we present to you a complete DIY guide on how to restore kitchen cabinets. Follow the steps below and transform the way your kitchen looks.

Step 1 – Get the tools and equipment

Before you start the process, make sure you have all the necessary tools and equipment needed to restore kitchen cabinets. We have created a checklist of all the things you will need to restore kitchen cabinets in your house

  • Screwdriver
  • Mineral Spirits
  • A clean rag
  • A dry wiping cloth
  • Safety Gear including gloves and eye goggles
  • A tub of water
  • Soap
  • Stripping solution (depends on the finish of your cabinets)
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Brush
  • Paint
  • Wax

Step 2: Clean the Surfaces

Carefully unscrew the cabinets from their hinges and separate the knobs and handles from the cabinet doors. When removing the cabinets, it is a good idea to number the cabinet doors. This will make it easy for you to reinstall the cabinets back in the correct place.

Thoroughly clean your kitchen cabinets and remove oil residue and excess grease from the cabinets. To do this, take a clean rag and spray mineral spirits on it. The mineral spirits will help cut through the dirt and remove any stains. Wipe the dampened rag in an up and down motion to remove dirt. Once the rag becomes dirty, replace it with a clean one.

Step 3:Use Protective Gear

Cover your countertops, appliances, and floors with drop cloths if you are working indoors. This will protect your kitchen against any spills or stains caused by the wood cleaner. Make sure to wear gloves as you will be working with various tools and chemicals in the process. A long-sleeved shirt and gloves will prevent your skin from getting in contact with the chemicals you use. Wearing protective eyewear is also essential as you will be working with chemical stripping agents in the subsequent steps.

Step 4: Assess the Finish

Mineral spirits can also be used to assess the finish of your kitchen cabinets. They will temporarily saturate the finish of your kitchen cabinets. This step will give you an idea of how your kitchen cabinets will look if you just add a coat of clear finish. To do this, simply apply a coat of oil-based clear finish on your kitchen cabinets and see how they look. If you like the look of your kitchen cabinets after doing this, you can stop the process here.

However, if your kitchen cabinets still don’t appear shiny and new, then you should proceed to the next step.

Step 5:Clean the Hardware

In order to restore your kitchen cabinets, you must pay attention to the hardware as well. Hardware includes the knobs and handles on your kitchen cabinets. In order to clean these items, soak them in a tub full of a solution of soap and water for half an hour. Before rinsing the hardware items, gently brush them using a brush with soft bristles. Once the hardware is clean, allow it to completely dry. Lastly, polish these pieces and wait for them to dry again.

Step 6: Identify the Right Stripping Solution

The type of finish on your wooden kitchen cabinets determines the type of stripping agent you will need to use. Different types of finish include shellac, paint, vinyl, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, water-based finish, or penetrating oil. We have listed down the stripping agent you will need for each finish to ensure proper removal.

  • Shellac –denatured alcohol is a good stripping agent for cabinets with a Shellac finish.
  • Lacquer –lacquer thinner is a good stripping agent to dissolve this finish.
  • Water-based – Xylene helps to liquefy a water-based finish
  • Varnish or Polyurethane – Varnish remover will strip these finishes. However, you would still have to use sandpaper to strip off the old finish.
  • Penetrating Oil – the color cannot be stripped since it is now part of the wood. You can simply clear-coat, wax, or paint it.
  • Paint – to strip off this finish, apply denatured alcohol to a clean rag or cotton ball and rub it on the surface. If the finish begins to get soft, it’s latex. In case it is an oil-based paint, then alcohol cannot be used as a stripping agent. Here, you will have to sand and prime the finish and then cover it with Latex paint.
  • Vinyl or Formica Surfaces – Do not try to refinish or paint these cabinets yourself. It is best to let a professional handle these cabinets.

Step 7: Start the Stripping Process

You can now start the stripping process by applying the appropriate stripping agent. Ideally, you should be doing this outdoors. A well-ventilated area will ensure that the fumes from the stripping agents do not cause you any headaches, dizziness, or nausea.

A good idea is to start off by applying the stripping agent to a corner of your kitchen cabinet. Do wear the appropriate protective gear as you work.

Step 8:Fill in Small Cracks

The next important step to restore kitchen cabinets is to fill in the small cracks. You may use fill pencils, colored wax fill sticks, or wax repair sticks in this step. Simply break off a chunk of the stick and mold it, according to the shape of the defect. Then, gently press it inside the crack.

Pro-tip: When fixing a crack, make a wafer and slide that into the small crack on the wood. After that, work the wax in both directions. This way, you’ll fill in the small crack without ruining the surface.

Step 9: Sand the Wood

Once you have done filled in the holes and repaired the scratches, wait for the patch to dry and lightly sand it using 220-grit sandpaper. The best way to do this is to apply, long, even-pressured straight strokes.

Use your fingers to get the sandpaper between the indentations in the cabinets. Light sanding roughens the surface and makes the finish adhere better to it. Meanwhile, you also need to be careful to not sand over the marks you put in Step 2.Once you are done, use a dry cloth to brush away the dust from the surface. You can also wipe the cabinets with mineral spirits one more time if you feel the need.

Step 10: Apply Primer

In order to restore kitchen cabinets, it is extremely important to use a primer. Primers are chemically manufactured to dissolve with the surface which helps to hide any imperfections on the surface. Primers also have an adhesive quality which helps the surface to absorb the paint well.

Before applying the primer, you should mix it well. Then using a brush, apply the primer on the surface of your kitchen cabinets. Even though brushing requires time and effort, it will result in a thin and even layer on the surface. An easier way to apply primer is to use a spray primer. However, this requires several coats to get good coverage.

Step 11:Paint the Wood

The final step in the restoration process is to apply a coat of paint. If you notice any piece of exposed unfinished wood, then simply roll on another layer of paint.

A good way to ensure that the paint lasts on the cabinets is to apply a layer of wax over the paint. This will give your cabinets an additional layer of protection and enhance the appearance of the finish. Once the paint is dry, use a screwdriver to reinstall the cabinets in your kitchen. The labeling you did in Step 2, will help you match the cabinet doors with the place you need to put it in.


Now that you know how to restore kitchen cabinets, you will be able to give your kitchen a whole new look without putting a huge dent on your wallet.

Recent Posts