How To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets? 5 Steps To Save From Professional Cost




Don’t you think the dull and old wooden kitchen cabinets are enough to ruin the look of the entire kitchen? Well, I do think so. To be honest, I like my furniture shiny, glossy, perfect like new.

What would you do if your old wood cabinets start looking old? Have you ever wondered how can I update my old kitchen cabinets without replacing them?

The solution is ‘refinishing’. But do you know how to refinish old wood cabinets? No need to go anywhere else because you are about to reach the solution.

How To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets

But here is how you can refinish old wood cabinets in a glimpse-

Refinish Old Wood Cabinets

  • You need to start the process by removing the hardware of the cabinets and cleaning them.
  • Remove the old finish with fine-grit sandpaper or an orbital sander and get a smooth surface.
  • Now apply a finish with paint brushes evenly and you can apply a sealant to protect the cabinet surfaces from damage.

Actually, these are not enough to perform the process because you need to learn about it in detail. So, let’s go!

An overview of the project-

Estimated CostEstimated DurationSkill Level
$5o24 hoursBeginner

Some main facts-

  • All types of stains, paints, or stains are not appropriate to refinish old wood cabinets.
  • It is better to apply many coats of finish to get a durable finish.
  • You can apply sealant to get a protective layer on your cabinets.

Reason To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets

Before you dive deeper into learning how to restore old wooden cabinets, let me ask you something: what made you think about refinishing? Why would you refinish the old wood cabinets? Generally, the reasons behind the question are;

Reason To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets
  • One can get back the original beauty and shine of the cabinets by refinishing the cabinets.
  • It is possible to regain the smooth surface of the cabinets and get rid of the damaged surface through refinishing.
  • You can upgrade the look of your cabinets and try new stain colors such as a darker stain, to give the cabinets different looks.
  • Through refinishing you can get a smooth finish look for your cabinets. Therefore, you can refinish the speaker cabinets as well.
  • It extends the lifespan of the cabinets.
  • Enhance the beauty of the house and rooms 
  • Saves your money as it is more expensive to buy new cabinets or replace them than refinish them.

Types Of Damaged Wood Cabinets Which Can Be Refinished And Can’t Completely Be Refinished

Before knowing how do you restore old wood cabinets? But do you know all types of damaged wood cabinets can’t completely be refinished? No, I am not kidding you. Wanna know about it? Here you go;

Can Be RefinishedCan’t Be Refinished
The cabinets have surface scratches and minor dents.The cabinets have difficult with water damage or rot.
The cabinets that finish have faded or worn away.The cabinets have massive molds on different parts.
The cabinets have stains.Badly warped or swelled cabinets.
The cabinets are discolored.The broken or structurally damaged cabinets.

How To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets? [The Step-By-Step Guidelines]

Wanna learn how to restore old wood cabinets and refinish them to get a look like new cabinets? Well, here is how you can do that-

How To Refinish Old Wood Cabinets

Prepare The Cabinets

The first thing that you need to do is to remove hardware like knobs, handles, etc, and clean the cabinets. Just like you would do with a racked cabinet. Wanna know how to clean old wood cabinets?

Basically, you need to clean the cabinets properly with mild, soapy water and a soft cloth. Make sure you are removing all the dust and debris properly. After you clean the cabinets, let the cabinet dry completely before you move forward to the next steps.

Remove Old Finishes

Now, it is time to remove the old finish from the cabinets. You need to remove the old existing finish from the cabinet with fine-grit sandpaper or an orbital sander.

Sand the entire cabinets really lightly to avoid making the surfaces rough. However, over-sanding or aggressively sanding the cabinets can ruin the surfaces of the cabinets and damage them.

if you are wondering how do you refinish wood cabinets without stripping? generally, you can use mineral spirits, trisodium phosphate, or steel wood to remove the old finish and refinish the cabinets 

Fix The Damaged Areas And Sand The Cabinets

It is important to fix the damaged areas before you move forward to the next steps. Therefore, you need to apply wood filler on the damaged areas to fill the damaged parts.

Well, you can repair the chipped laminate cabinet doors with wood filler as well. Let the filler dry completely, and then sand down the cabinets again to equally level with the surrounding area.

Well, then how to refinish old wood cabinets without sanding? Basically, you can use liquid deglosser or chemical strippers such as mineral spirits or trisodium phosphate to clean the surface, remove the old existing finish from the cabinets, and continue the refinishing process.

Apply Stain Or Paint

Actually, it is important to choose the appropriate stain or paint with the right color to apply to the cabinets. Wanna know how to paint old wood cabinets or stain them? Actually, this is really easy.

Evenly apply paint or stain with paint brushes or foam roller on the cabinets. You can apply many coats of them if needed. But let each coat dry before you apply another. And if you are thinking about how to refinish old wood cabinets white, basically, you can use a white finish for that.

After you are done with painting or staining, leave the cabinets in a well-ventilated area, open area, or in front of a fan to dry them completely. Do not use the cabinets without drying the paint or stain completely. If you don’t dry the paint or stain completely, it will become sticky, and you will have to fix the sticky-painted cabinets.

Wondering how to paint old wood cabinets white? You just need to use the white paint for this. However, you can refinish the pressed wood cabinets the same way if needed.

Apply Sealant

Actually, it is a wise idea to apply sealant on your cabinets. Because a sealant can protect your cabinets from any kind of damage by putting a protective layer on them.

You can use a clear coat, varnish, or polyurethane to seal the finish and add a protective layer on the cabinets with a paintbrush. But make sure you are letting the sealant dry properly before you start using the cabinets.

However, if needed you can install cabinet knobs if there are not any, as knobs can help you to use the cabinets gently. What next? You are actually done here. Now, enjoy the smooth, shiny, and beautiful finish look of your cabinets.

Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

What Types Of Finishes, Paints Or Stains Work Best For Wood Cabinets?

Now that you know how to paint old wooden cabinets, do you know what finishes, paints, or stains are the best for your wood cabinets?

Actually, all types of finishes are not appropriate for wooden cabinets. Some paint may look sticky to the cabinet. Therefore, you definitely need to pick a suitable one to get the best outcome for your old wood cabinets. You can undoubtedly choose any of them-

Water-Based Stains Or PaintsEasy to apply, easy to maintain, dries really quickly, moisture-resistant, and water-resistant.
Oil-Based Stains Or PaintsProvides rich, deep color, easy to apply, durability, and easy to apply.
Gel StainsThicker and easier to control, easy to apply.
PolyurethaneProvides a durable finish, easy to apply, dries really quickly, possible to get a glossy, shiny, semi-gloss, and matte finish.

How Does Applying A Clear Coat Or Varnish Impact The Final Result?

What would you suggest about applying sealant like varnish or a clear coat if you were an expert or professional? Well, a big yes sounds good. Because it impacts the final result really nicely. Such as;

How Does Applying A Clear Coat Or Varnish Impact The Final Result
  • Basically, a clear coat, varnish, or sealant provides the cabinets protective layers and protects them from damage like moisture, stains, scratches, etc.
  • It extends the lifespan of the cabinets and thus you can use them for a long time.
  • It enhances the natural beauty of the cabinets and provides a smooth and polished finish.
  • The sealant provides durability to the cabinets and protects them cabinets from daily wear and tear.
  • It can add glossy, semi-glossy, shiny, and matte sheen to the cabinets.

What Is The Cheapest Way To Refinish Cabinets?

To be honest, the entire refinishing process of old wood cabinets is really cheap. Actually, cheaper than replacing the kitchen cabinets, like the upper cabinets, with new cabinets.

However, to make it cheaper than usual you can use the steel wool that is available in your house to sand down the old finish and sand the surface to get a smooth finish look.

What Is The Cheapest Way To Refinish Cabinets

You can use wood filler to fill the damage and apply a paint or stain that is cheap but appropriate for your cabinets, such as water-based or oil-based paints or stains, as they provide you with an effective result so far.

However, you can use a sealant to add protective layers to your wooden cabinets. You can avoid this step if you want. But try to use tack cloths to rub the surface during this step to gain the best result.

Tips To Make The Refinish Work Smooth

Who doesn’t wanna enjoy a smooth working process? Don’t you want that? Well, it may make you happy that you can obviously make the refinishing work smooth. Wanna know how? Here you go;

  • Clean the cabinets properly with clean cloths before starting the process.
  • You can use paint strippers like trisodium phosphate (TSP) or mineral spirits to clean the cabinet surfaces. If you wanna know, how to clean old wood cabinet doors, you can try this.
  • Try to use high-quality materials like finish, sealants, etc to get the best finish look like the professionals.
  • Pick a well-ventilated area to perform the refinishing process so that you can dry the finish completely.
  • Always use drop cloths in your work area to avoid any kind of mess.
  • You can use sanding blocks with sandpaper to sand the surface smoothly.
  • Try to use appropriate tools like paint brushes, roller, etc to apply finish evenly to run a perfect paint job.
  • Always prefer applying more thin coats of paint to get a durable finish.
  • Let the surface dry completely before applying more coats and after finishing the refinishing task.
  • Do not forget to apply the finish on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts evenly.
  • Wear protective gear such as rubber gloves, masks, and goggles while performing the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Can I Refinish Old Wood Cabinets Myself?

Undoubtedly, you can refinish the old wood cabinets on your own.

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use To Refinish Cabinets?

Basically, you can use water-based, oil-based paints to refinish your cabinets.

How To Clean Antique Wood Cabinet?

Actually, you can use mild soapy water made of non-abrasive cleaner and warm water with a soft cloth to clean the antique wood cabinet.

Is It Better To Refinish Cabinets Or Paint Them?

Actually, it depends on your choice which one could be better for your cabinets. You can paint the cabinets if you wanna change the color and you can refinish the cabinet if you wanna regain the natural beauty of the cabinets.

Final Thoughts

Actually, refinishing old wood cabinets is very easy! Isn’t it? Well, you just need to follow the right techniques and the proper guidelines to get the best outcome so far. So, now that you know how to refinish old wood cabinets, why hire professionals? Give it a try, and enjoy the newly refinished look of your cabinets!
Good luck! If you are interested in more refinishing processes like this, stay with- Restore Journey.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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