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How to Inexpensively Refinish and Refresh Your Kitchen, Bathroom, or Laundry Cabinets and Save Big

Updated on September 14, 2014

Background

My parents bought a house in Las Vegas to relocate from Pennsylvania and be close to me. It was in decent shape but needed some fixing and updates. After remodeling the master bathroom, new carpet, fixtures, lights and landscaping, we needed to do something with the kitchen cabinets but were running out of cash. We got a few estimates for resurfacing and replacing them from the big box stores but it was just too much money. We also didn't want to get in to any stripping, sanding, priming, or messy demolition on our own. We saw the Rust-Oleum do-it-yourself DIY refinishing system kit while walking through Lowes one night and decided to give it a try. The results were FANTASTIC and now I want to show you how we did it.

The End Result

Here is the finished kitchen after doing the cabinets ourselves and adding appliances/new countertops.

The Rustoleum kit comes in a dark color tintable to 24 colors and a light color tintable to 11 colors, each you can do with or without a final decorative glaze, so there's many possible 'looks'. The glaze really brings out the wood grain so I highly recommend the little bit of extra work to do it.

Easy to do yourself on your home or an easy upgrade for your rental or fixer-upper

The "Before" pictures speak for themselves: We started with regular, run-of-the-mill builder-grade cabinets and ended up with modern, custom-looking upgrades!


Ordinary builder-grade cabinets, ready to be transformed
Ordinary builder-grade cabinets, ready to be transformed

It Comes With Everything You Need... Almost...

The kit really does come with almost everything you need.

You might be tempted to breeze through the deglossing step (the preparation step) but DON'T, it's actually really important to the final product. For that, you need a scrub pad. The kit comes with one scrub pad, but we ended up needing more than one to properly degloss and prepare all the surfaces.

Now with brushes, do yourself a favor and get good brushes; I recommend Wooster. They will coat more evenly and not leave strands of brush behind in your paint.

Tricks and Tips from Our Experience

According to the instructions it is a "4" step process: Deglossing, Bond Coat, Decorative Glaze (optional) and Protective Top Coat. However, in real life, it is more like a 5 or 6 step process.

I won't repeat all the instructions that come in the included booklet and DVD (never even watched it) but I will supplement them with helpful tips and tricks here:


Step 1: LABEL and Remove all Doors/Drawers

I can't over-emphasize how important labeling each drawer and cabinet is. All your drawers and cabinets may look the same but have tiny variations in length and width, so if you don't return them to their original location after painting they may not work right or fit at all! We used a tiny piece of masking tape and assigned numbers to each one. Although most of the mounting hardware should be universal-fit, we also bagged and labeled it, as well. We later spray painted the hardware a 'rubbed bronze' so it will match the new kitchen sink that is coming in later.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Label each drawer and cabinet door with masking tape so you can return it to its original location We bagged and labeled all of the hardware also, because we spray-painted it to match
Label each drawer and cabinet door with masking tape so you can return it to its original location
Label each drawer and cabinet door with masking tape so you can return it to its original location
We bagged and labeled all of the hardware also, because we spray-painted it to match
We bagged and labeled all of the hardware also, because we spray-painted it to match

Quick and Simple Application

Step 2: The Bond Coats (2X)

This is just painting the surfaces. Don't be afraid to use enough paint, trying to spread it too thin will result in poor coverage. One coat will look ok, but don't stop, do two coats, letting them dry 12 hours in-between.

Paint Two Coats

Step 3: Decorative Glaze (Optional)

The decorative glaze is optional so here is my feedback to help you decide. I think it brought out the wood grain and gave everything a semi-shine that looks really good. Here are some pictures of our cabinets with and without the glaze completed.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Glazed door on the leftGlazed part on the left
Glazed door on the left
Glazed door on the left
Glazed part on the left
Glazed part on the left

Step 4: Protective Top Coat

Your surfaces will be vulnerable to scratches, dust, fingerprints etc. until you apply this coat. Handle them with care.

Step 5: Reassemble Your Cabinets and Drawers

Because you had them all labeled, you can return them all to their original positions where they slide and function perfectly. Now you're done!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Everything back in its place after the protective top coat
Everything back in its place after the protective top coat
Everything back in its place after the protective top coat

Total Costs and Time

Large kit - $149

Scouring pads - $7

Paint brushes - about $25

Total Time- About 12 hours of actual work, spaced out to 3 days because of all the waiting in-between coats.

Total Cost- about $180

Everything We Used

We got the large size kit, which covers up to 200 sq. feet. We could have easily completed this kitchen with the small size kit, which covers 100 sq. feet but we wanted extra product left over for the laundry room cabinets.

We bought 3-4 Wooster paint brushes and some additional scouring pads.

Total Savings

The contractor that is remodeling the bathroom was really impressed with the result and he said that when he has his crew do a similar resurfacing/painting of cabinets it costs the customer about $1000. So by doing this ourselves for $180 we saved $820!

Want To Do Your Countertops Also?

We decided to replace the kitchen countertops because the tile was damaged but I've heard about equally great results with Rust-Oleums Countertop Transformation kit. If you've used it, be sure to link to your results and tell us about it!

We hope you found this review and article helpful!
We hope you found this review and article helpful!

We hope you found this review and article helpful! Tell us about your experience or other projects in the comments below!

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