Can You Refinish Hickory Cabinets: Refinish Your Kitchen Cabinets




Personally, I like my furniture shiny, glossy, and new. But one morning, I noticed that the hickory cabinets in my kitchen were looking dull and old. The shininess, glossiness, and that new vibe was gone. I could not let my hickory kitchen cabinets look that way.

Even the situation of the upper cabinets was the same. So, I decided to refinish the hickory cabinets, and the result came out outstanding. Wanna know, ‘Can you refinish hickory cabinets’ also? The answer is yes; keep reading and learn about it.

Can You Refinish Hickory Cabinets

Refinish Hickory Cabinets

Unfortunately, you can refinish the hickory cabinets. You just need to remove the objects and drawers from the wood cabinets, lighten the wood surface and cabinet doors, apply stain or paint colors, and lastly, apply sealer.

Wanna learn about the entire process? No worries, keep reading and refinish your hickory modern cabinets like new ones.

Estimated CostEstimated DurationSkill Level
$200-$50024 hoursBeginner

Essential Understanding:

  • You can definitely refinish the hickory cabinets but need to apply the right method to refinish them.
  • There are many types of finish available to refinish the cabinets but the best finishes for hickory wood are polyurethane, lacquer, stain, paint, and conversation varnish.
  • Sanding is necessary to remove the old finish, but sand the wood lightly. And if you don’t want to sand the cabinets, try using a chemical stripper or steel wool.

Can You Refinish Hickory Cabinets?

It is obviously possible to refinish hickory cabinets in your kitchen. You can do it on your own at home. You just need to apply the right techniques and follow the guidelines properly to refinish the kitchen cabinets made of solid wood. Actually, hickory is a solid type of wood. And to restore the new look, refinishing is an important thing. You can also refinish the hickory cabinets installed over laminate flooring.

Can You Refinish Hickory Cabinets

Refinishing is a useful thing to do. Moreover, you can give your furniture a new, shiny, and glossy look throughout this process. You can even bring some additional changes to your furniture during this procedure. If the doors are damaged, you can replace the kitchen cabinet doors as well.

However, to refinish the cabinets properly, you need to know about the process in detail. So, without wasting more time, read ahead and learn about it in detail.

What Is The Best Finish For Hickory Cabinets?

Many finishes are available in the market. And each of them claims they are suitable. I know it is confusing. But exactly what are the best finishes for hickory cabinets among them? Wanna know? Let me help you with this:


This is a water-based and oil-based finish. Polyurethane is durable. It can protect the wood surface from getting damaged and stained. If you want a glossy finish, polyurethane is a good choice.


Want a finish that can dry fast? Lacquer is the best option for you. It dries quickly and can bring a glossy and smooth finish to the wood surface. It is easy to maintain as well.

Conversation Varnish

Conversation varnish provides durability. It can protect the wood surface from abrasive chemicals and moisture. Want a finish like professionals? You can go for conversation varnish.

Paint Or Stain

If you want to change the color of your cabinets or wanna try a new color, paint or stain is the best option for you. But if you don’t wanna change the color, then match the paint or stain color with the cabinet color and then apply the paint or stain. These can provide you with a modern and clean look. There are low-VOC paints and stains available and these are eco-friendly. You can use these as well.

Actually, I used ‘Paint’ to refinish my hickory cabinets, and the result was really good. You can choose any of the finishes mentioned above to refinish your precious hickory cabinets.

How To Refinish Hickory Cabinets: The Step-By-Step Guidelines

How to refinish your precious hickory cabinets? Do you know how to do it? If not, I am sharing how to refinish it, the same way I did refinish mine. Here you go;

How To Refinish Hickory Cabinets

Prepare The Work Area

Before starting to prepare the work area properly to experience a smooth refinishing process, use some newspaper or paper towels on the floor to avoid mess. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Prepare The Cabinets

Now prepare the cabinets for the refinishing process. Remove all the hardware from the cabinets carefully, such as drawers, knobs, handles, and hinges. Also, remove thermofoil from cabinets if there is any. Clean the cabinet using a tack cloth completely and remove the dust and debris.

Remove The Existing Finish

Now it is time to remove the old finish from the cabinet. With the help of fine-grit sandpaper, remove the old finish. Sand the wood surface. Make sure it is a light sanding. Don’t be aggressive during this procedure. If you are somehow wondering, Can you refinish hickory cabinets without sanding? You can use chemical strippers or steel wool to remove the old finish without sanding.

But remember one thing: sand the surface in the same way as the wood grain. Dark stained hickory cabinets need to be sanded properly to remove the old finish paint. Do the same thing for the oak cabinets. You can even refinish if the wall oven is installed in a base cabinet.

Clean The Cabinets

Now again clean the cabinets and wood surface as well. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean the cabinets. Let the cabinets dry before moving forward.

Apply The New Finish (Paint Or Stain)

Can you stain hickory cabinets? The answer is yes. Now it is time to apply a finish. You can choose from the stains or paints. Choose the one that goes with your desires. Though staining hickory cabinets is not a bad idea. But make sure you are choosing the right stains for your cabinets.

 You can choose paint as well and of any color. If you are thinking, can you paint hickory cabinets white? 

Let me tell you, 

You can obviously do that. First, take the chosen paint on a  paint tray. Now, with the help of a paintbrush or roller, paint the cabinets. I can suggest to you something, that enamel paint is a good choice also.

Moreover, no matter which finish you choose, you need to apply them using a thin layer. You can apply several coats if needed. But let a coat dry before applying another one. It is really important to dry the finish completely before moving forward to achieve a smooth finish and avoid stickiness.

Apply Sealer

After the finish dries. You can apply sealer to protect your cabinets from future damage. Want a protective layer for your cabinets? Apply sealer as a protective finish on the stained or painted hickory cabinets. You can apply multiple coats of sealant if needed. Let the sealant dry properly before you start using the cabinets.

Reinstall Hardware

Now it is time to reattach the hardware back. Put the drawers back in their place. Now your cabinets are ready to be used.

Now enjoy the beautiful look of your refinished hickory cabinets. Can you refinish hickory cabinets before and after they get damaged? You can. Just follow these steps and get the best outcome.

Does Hickory Take Paint Well? Some Tips

Do hickory cabinets take paint well? Can you paint over hickory cabinets? The answer is yes. Hickory cabinets take paint really well. But remember hickory wood has a prominent wood grain pattern. It also has color variations that may be shown from the paint. And this thing brings a rustic look.

Wanna paint the hickory cabinets? Though it is a good decision, it is better to apply primer before applying the paint on your cabinets. Try to use high-quality paint to paint the hickory wood furniture. Choose a semi-gloss finish for your cabinets. After painting try applying sealant like polyurethane or lacquer to protect the cabinets from getting damaged.

How To Determine Which Finish Is Suitable For Hickory Cabinets?

How would you determine which finish is suitable for your hickory cabinets? Is there any trick to make it easier to determine? Here are some tips for you;

  • Consider your desired look. Try to choose the paint or finish that goes with your desires and needs.
  • Think about the durability level of the finish before applying it. You can choose the most durable finish to refinish your hickory cabinets.
  • Consider the maintenance effort you want to put into maintaining your refinished hickory cabinets.
  • Choose the finish or paint that is suitable and appropriate for the solid wood of your cabinets.

You can determine the appropriate finish for you considering these things. However, I have chosen mine following these tips and got the best result so far.

How Do You Modernize Hickory Cabinets?

If modernizing the hickory cabinets is your target, there are many ways for you to do that. Besides, modernizing the cabinets can also help you to build a modern and stylish kitchen. Let me share ideas that I have applied to modernize my hickory cabinets;


If black is your favorite color then you must be wondering: Can you refinish hickory cabinets black to make them look like modern cabinets? The answer is yes. Modernizing the hickory cabinets using modern colors such as black, gray, white, etc is an extraordinary idea. Trying different colors to make the cabinets like modern cabinets is an amazing decision. You can try dark cabinet colors or darker stains as well. Even the hickory cabinets painted white are really beautiful.


You can install modern lights above or under the cabinets for a change or transformation. Besides, in modern kitchens, you may notice these lights. These lights honestly create a new look for the kitchen. For an amazing transformation, you can replace halogen under cabinet lighting with LED lights.


You can also try installing new and trendy backsplash such as mosaic patterns that enhance the beauty of the kitchen more. This can also help your kitchen look stylish.

Clean Lines

You can try to add trim or molding with the clean lines. It will also help you to modernize the cabinets and make it more stylish.

Open Shelving

You can also try open shelving. I have tried this for my kitchen cabinets and it definitely increased the beauty of my kitchen and it also looks like a modern kitchen. Remove some doors from your hickory cabinets. Create an open shelving system. Now put beautiful and uncommon objects inside. They will be displayed amazingly. You can place some decorative items as well.

Choose any of these to modernize your hickory cabinets. Modernizing any piece of furniture is undoubtedly a great idea.

Tips To Keep Your Hickory Cabinets New For A Long Time After Refinishing

Now when you are done with the refinishing process and already got an awesome result, wouldn’t you love to keep it the same for a long time? I know you would! But how would you do that? It’s been one and half years since I have refinished my hickory cabinets and surprisingly these look still the same and new. How? Here is how;

Tips To Keep Your Hickory Cabinets New For A Long Time After Refinishing

Clean The Cabinets Regularly

Clean the table regularly using a tack cloth. You can use mild soapy warm water to clean the cabinets properly.

Avoid Excessive Moisture

It is important to wipe off the spills or moisture immediately right after they fall on the wood surface. It will help you to avoid water damage or warping.

Handle The Cabinets Gently

Handle the cabinet really gently. Do not close the cabinets drawer and doors roughly. Also if these are white cabinets pay some specific care to avoid getting scratches or dents.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Try to keep the cabinets away from direct sunlight as the UV rays can damage the cabinet color and cause fading. Try to use UV protective film on the window to minimize sun damage.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Avoid using harsh chemicals like abrasive cleaners, or ammonia-based products to clean the hickory cabinets and drawer fronts. These destroy the natural color of the solid wood.

I actually follow these tips to maintain the beauty of my hickory cabinets the same. Because I put a lot of effort into refinishing the cabinets, making them last longer is obviously worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Stain Looks Good On Hickory?

Walnut or espresso, these types of dark stains look really good on hickory wood.

Does Hickory Fade Over Time?

Obviously, hickory wood fades over time because of many environmental factors.

Can You Paint Hickory Kitchen Cabinets?

Definitely, you can paint hickory kitchen cabinets.

Are There Eco-Friendly Options For Modernizing Hickory Cabinets?

Low-VOC paints or stains are the eco-friendly options for modernizing hickory cabinets.

What Is The Natural Color Of Hickory?

Actually, light to medium brown is the natural color of the hickory wood.


So, the summary of: can you refinish hickory cabinets? Definitely, you can. Refinishing hickory cabinets is really simple and easy and if you apply the right techniques and follow the guidelines step-by-step you can refinish the hickory cabinets on your own. If you are unable to refinish it by yourself, you can hire professionals and get it done as well.

To learn more about restoring a table, stay connected to, Desk Restore.

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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