Please review the site Rules, Terms of Service, and Privacy Policy at your convenience. Rules, TOS, Privacy
Get familiar with the reaction system: Introducing the Reaction System

Refinishing oak cabinets

edited January 25 in DIY
Everywhere I look people are really proud of their kitchen makeover where they take old oak cabinets and painstakingly fill in the grain and paint it white in order to make them look like Ikea cardboard cabinets... And apparently it seems to increase house values cause average Jill's and Joe's have never shopped real oak hardwood and the manufactured cardboard where an entire 2inch thick Ikea bookshelf weighs less than one tiny bookshelf speaker.

But that gets me to the real question, is there any way to refinish the 80-90's honey oak stain cabinets to look this side of the millennia without losing the hard wood beauty? Or are old world material like hardwood and granite losing out to the recycled cardboard and plastics - definitely better for the environment, but not reflected in cost or value?


  • There's plenty of real wood at Ikea, it's what make that company so big, they brought a higher level of quality to the table at a price that competes with the cheap melamine coated chipboard that was available at competitors. Today the gap has closed a bit as the competition has had to step up their game to stay in the market. When you compare the cost of an entire kitchen in Ikea parts versus custom manufactured, it makes it real hard to spend the extra on custom work. Around here there are contractors that specialize in Ikea installations, keeps them working in a market where people have a hard time affording the complete custom work.

    Anyway, about the oak. Unless you're thinking of selling soon, forget about what holds market value and just do what you want to live with, and if you think painting them over will improve value, you can think about doing that when you want to sell. 

    So do you want to keep them light or darken them up? It's a fairly labour intensive process to strip the old finish and stain to refinish (another reason why people end up painting over, modern day laziness, quick and easy wins), but you could refinish with an espresso stain to darken, or do something like a liming wax to white wash them. Are you redoing the counter tops, white or stainless appliances, etc?
    I'm not deaf, I'm just not listening.
  • I've painted my oak cabinets.  The heavy grain imo is the problem. I did a satin Kona color on my island and flat/ matte white on some uppers in the laundry room.  I'd avoid any paint with a shine.  I'd sand more and spray paint with a pre-catalyzed paint.

    In my new house the cabinet company hired a local refinisher to fix some of the installers and their mistakes.  These guys were really smart and used high quality catalyzed finishes.  Knowing what I know now I'd get a pro to refinish my cabinets.
     John H, thanks to JP I did get that email
  • When we sold our house three years ago (built in ’93, all woodwork was honey oak) the idea of painting over the oak just killed me.  We were in a time crunch and ended up using a commercial firm in the Twin Cities west suburbs that specialized in re-staining cabinets.  They took all the doors to the shop and did the rest of the cabinets in place.  It took them 2-3 days to do all the kitchen cabinets.  We went to a darker color (walnut like) and it made a tremendous difference.  We only did the kitchen and I refreshed the honey oak in the bathrooms.  It wasn’t cheap (~ $4K), but we had 5 offers in 2 days and got well over our asking price.  Living in a very desirable school district helped too.

    You could certainly do this yourself if you have time and a spray gun.  IIRC the key is to use a special stain that only requires you to scuff up the existing stain.   

  • With the sweet cabinetry I see on this site in regards of driver enclosures, other than time constraints, I have to ask why would anyone here not build their own cabinets?      
Sign In or Register to comment.