Considerations for Painting or Staining Existing Cabinets from the Pros

Refreshing your cabinetry with paint or stain is a cost-effective way to change up the look of the entire space.

Are you looking to spruce up your kitchen, bathroom or laundry room without committing to the cost of new cabinetry installation? Consider painting or staining your cabinets for a wallet-friendly style upgrade. If the cabinetry itself is in good shape, there’s no need to start from scratch.

Can My Cabinets Be Saved?

The standard lifespan of quality cabinets can be upwards of 50 years (or even longer depending on construction and materials used) according to the National Association of Home Builders. While age is definitely a consideration, so is the overall structural stability. Let’s start with the cabinet boxes first.

  • Are the joints tight? If so, that’s a good indicator your cabinet boxes are in good shape.
  • Try pushing on the sides. Do you notice any soft spots? If you sense any give here, there could be an undiagnosed issue like water damage.
  • Are the cabinet face frames and cabinet fronts in good shape? If you want to update your cabinet hardware (or need to replace some drawer guides), the cabinet boxes need to be up to the task.
  • Do you notice any damage from water or mold or a musty smell? Depending on the scope and location of the damage, your cabinets may need to be repaired or replaced before moving forward.

Now for the door and drawer fronts: Do you like the style? Paint and stain can do a lot of the heavy lifting for a makeover, but it won’t alter the profile. If you’d rather update the drawer and door fronts, consider refacing your cabinets instead of painting.

And little nicks or gouges don’t necessarily mean a replacement is in your future. Reach out to a Furniture Medic expert to learn more about cabinet repair services.

The Best Cabinet Finishes for Painting & Staining

The good news? Almost any finish is a good candidate for a paint refresh. Unfinished or previously painted or stained wood, MDF or other compressed wood material can all be updated with a long-lasting finish. For updating previously stained cabinets (or glossy paint), a special surface preparation process is used first.

Stain & Finish Enhancement Options

When it comes to finish styles and colors, you have lots of options. Technicians at Furniture Medic use professional-grade paint finishes, including oil, catalyzed lacquer, enamel and waterborne acrylic. Experts recommend avoiding matte or eggshell finish, and instead choose satin, semi gloss or gloss for easier cleaning and longevity.

And stains are almost as varied. Oil-based stains dry slowly, allowing more time for workability. Water-based stains can be sprayed or padded on, and absorb quickly into the wood grain. Combination stains include a top coat with the stain color that’s applied at one time.

Prep & Process for Painting or Staining Cabinets

Depending on size, materials, and other location-specific circumstances, the refinishing process may look a little different. But as a general guide, here’s an at-a-glance look at the steps for painting or staining cabinets.

  • Remove all cabinet hardware, doors and drawers.
  • Thoroughly clean the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers (and hardware, if it will be reused).
  • Sand all surfaces that will be refinished.
  • Prime the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers. Or, if staining, apply the first coat of stain. And then lightly sand again.
  • Spray two coats of paint on all cabinet surfaces. If staining, add more layers of stain to reach desired color. Then apply a top coat to seal the stain.
  • Reattach doors and insert drawers, drilling for new hinges and hardware if necessary.

Benefits of Hiring a Pro to Paint or Stain Cabinets

Depending on your DIY skills, schedule and kitchen size, tackling this project yourself could take weeks. When you select a professional to refresh the finish on your cabinets, they have the tools, know-how and time to get it done right the first time — and in a lot less time, too.

Find a Cabinet-Painting Expert Near You

Get a professional cabinet-painting estimate from your local Furniture Medic technician today. Find a cabinet-painting expert near you.