How to Paint Cabinets Using Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations
An Easy and Inexpensive Way to Refinish Cabinets (without sanding or stripping!)
Looking for an inexpensive and relatively easy way to make your outdated bathroom or kitchen cabinets look new again? Do you want to modernize the look of your home? The cabinets in my house are 25 years old and were looking very dated, but I didn't have $20,000 to spend on new custom cabinets. (Who does?) So, I looked around for other ways to update them and found Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations. This is a kit that comes with pretty much everything you need to completely change the color of your cabinets--without sanding or stripping the old finish. This is the easiest and most inexpensive route you can go and still end up with great looking cabinets.
I spent a few days reading reviews around the Web and looking at photos of other people's experience with this product. I found that almost everyone who used it was delighted with the results, so I decided to give it a shot. Compared to the price of a full remodel, this kit is extremely inexpensive (around $74).
Image courtesy of mazaletel via Creative Commons.
Why I Recommend Using Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations to Refinish Cabinets
So, before you read through how to use this product, I'm sure you want to know why I recommend it. What are my credentials? I'm just a homeowner trying to save some money and make my house look more modern. I was very pleased with the results of this product, as shown in the before and after pictures here (I'm not a photographer and this picture does not do it justice. It looks even better in person...like a brand new cabinet):
I decided to try the on the cabinets in my master bathroom to see if I was pleased with the results. Now that I've finished, I can tell you I am very happy with the results and I will be using this product to refinish the rest of the cabinets in my house, including the other bathroom, linen cabinets, and kitchen cabinets. I love that they don't look painted...the wood grain still shows through the paint, so they look like stained, custom cabinets. Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations, Small Kit, Espresso
I recommend this product because is it is both inexpensive and the final results look great. Although time consuming, it is very easy to do. Most of the time involved is simply waiting for coats to dry. It doesn't take that long to actually apply the coats. I finished the bathroom in 4 days, but almost all of that time was drying time. I spent a total of about 2 hours preparation, 2 hours applying bond coat, 1 hour applying decorative glaze, and 1 hour applying the final protective top coat. Then another 1.5 hours reinstalling the cabinet doors and drawers. That's a total of 7.5 hours of labor. The rest of the time was just waiting for paint to dry.
The total cost for this project was:
Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Small Dark Kit: $74
Paint Brush: $9
10-pack of Nitrile Gloves: $4
Plastic Paint Bucket: $2
Blue Painter's Tape: $7
That's a lot better than several thousand dollars for new cabinets. Even my wife was pleased. The first thing she said when she saw them was "It looks like you installed new cabinets." And, I only used about 1/4 of the product in the kit, so I still have plenty left over to finish the other bathroom and the other cabinets in the hallway. This same kit would cover a small to medium sized kitchen.
What else do you need?
Depending on what you already have, you might or might not need all of these, which you can find on Amazon:
Item Estimated Price
2-Inch Paint Brush $6.43
Paint Brush Comb $7.42
Foam Paint Brushes $8.75
Rubber Cabinet Door Bumpers $12.43
Felt Cabinet Door Bumpers $4.17
Playtex Heavy Duty Rubber Gloves $2.61
1.5-Inch Blue Painter's Tape $7.15
Black & Decker Cordless Screwdriver $29.97
What is Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations?
Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations is a kit that comes with everything you need to refinish cabinets without sanding, stripping, or priming. It is the fastest, easiest, and most inexpensive method I know for redoing cabinets to make them look completely new. The kit comes in two sizes: The small kit covers up to 100 square feet; the large kit covers up to 200 square feet. There is a light kit and a dark kit. The light kit can do 11 different colors. The dark kit does 24 different colors. There is also a pre-tinted kit available for these colors: pure white, cabernet, and espresso.
So what comes in the kit? This photo shows the contents of the small dark-tint kit I bought. It includes:
- 2 cans of bond coat
- 1 bottle of deglosser
- 2 cans of decorative glaze
- 1 can of protective top coat
- 3 stir sticks
- 2 green scrub pads
- 1 roll of decorative glaze cloth
- Instruction booklet with DVD
You can read more about this product on the Rust-Oleum Website.
Where to get the kit
The kits come in several variations. First, there is a light kit and a dark kit. These can be tinted to one of many different shades and colors, but you have to get it tinted at Lowe's or Home Depot or a paint store. They should do it for free, regardless of where you get the kit.
Then there are the pre-tinted kits. If you want to use one of the three most popular colors, just get a pre-tinted kit. Then you don't have to worry about getting it tinted somewhere. These colors are espresso, cabernet, and pure white.
If you're lucky, you can find the light or dark kits at Home Depot or Lowe's. I couldn't find the pre-tinted kit at Home Depot, though. You can order any of the kits, pre-tinted or not, on Amazon, often for a better price and free shipping. Amazon is the way to go if you get a pre-tinted kit (espresso, cabernet, or pure white). Home Depot or Lowe's is probably better if you want to choose a different tint because you'll have to go there anyway to get the base coat tinted.
Step 1: Preparation
Before you jump in and begin, you should first prepare for this project. You need to decide which color you want and measure the square footage of your cabinets. You should also purchase or gather the recommended supplies. You can browse the available colors here.
To calculate your square footage:
1. Measure the length (in inches) of your top cabinets, including the exposed sides (A+B) and multiply by the height (E).
2. Repeat for the bottom cabinets (C+D) multiplied by (F).
3. Add the top and bottom cabinet measurements together and divide by 144 to get square feet.
The small Rustoleum kit covers 100 square feet. The large kit covers 200 square feet.
Image from rustoleumtransformations.com.
Step 2: Cleaning and Deglossing
After you have the necessary supplies and have purchased a Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit, the next step is to clean and degloss the cabinets. This is the hardest step, and also the most crucial. Properly cleaning and deglossing will ensure that the base coat paint sticks and doesn't flake off later.
Start by drawing a diagram of your cabinets and drawers, numbering each one on the diagram. Then, use a piece of painter's tape to label each door and drawer with the number corresponding to the diagram. This will make it easy to put things back together later.
Next, remove all cabinet hardware, including knobs, handles, and hinges. Use a cordless screwdriver to speed up the process. Remove each cabinet door and drawer from the cabinet frame. Place the hardware from each door into a separate plastic baggie or cup and label it with the corresponding number on the door and diagram.
Excellent screw gun / drill
Then, fill any nicks, cracks, or gouges in the cabinet frame, doors, and drawers using plastic wood filler. Let it dry and sand it smooth.
After that, use a wet rag and soapy water to thoroughly clean each door, drawer, and the cabinet frame. The goal is to wipe off any dirt, grease, fingerprints, or other grime.
Finally, take the green scrub pad and deglosser from the Cabinet Transformations kit. Make sure to wear good rubber gloves during this step. Apply deglosser to the scrub pad and scrub each cabinet frame, door, and drawer. Scrub in the same direction as the wood grain. This step is critical to make sure the base coat sticks later on, so make sure to scrub well and get all the corners and edges, too. After scrubbing with the deglosser, take a damp rag and thoroughly wipe all the deglosser off the wood. Then wipe it down with a dry rag.
Step 3: Applying the Bond Coat
Now it's time to apply the bond coat, right? Not so fast. First, you need to tape off the areas you don't want to paint. Make sure to get the inside edges of cabinet frames and the wall along the edge of the cabinet. Use 1.5 or 2 inch painter's tape.
Next, make sure you have a good work area, free from dust, pets, and children. You should set up a workspace large enough to lay out all the doors and drawers. The doors should lay flat for the best results. One suggestion is to lay a piece of plywood across two chairs to create a flat table to lay the drawers on.
If you have a kit with two or more cans of bond coat, make sure to pour all the cans into a single container and mix them together before using them. After mixing them, you can pour the mixture back into the original containers. This will ensure that the color matches across all the cans.
Use a good quality 2-Inch synthetic paint brush to apply an even coat of the bond coat paint. Start on the back side of doors, using brush strokes in the same direction as the wood grain. It is very important to allow the paint to dry for at least 2-3 hours, then apply a second coat. Allow the second coat to dry for 2-3 hours, then turn the doors over and repeat the process for the front sides. Also, paint the fronts and edges of the drawers, as well as the cabinet frames, making sure brush strokes follow the grain of the wood. A paint brush comb will help keep the bristles clean and prevent excess paint from building up.
Nice paint brush comb
Step 4: Apply Decorative Glaze (Optional)
Depending on the look you are going for, you may or may not want to do this step. It's completely optional. In my opinion, it makes the cabinets look like they were done professionally and I recommend using it. It's a good idea to watch the video below to see one method for applying the glaze. This is the simplest method, and the one I used. I was very pleased with the results.
You will be doing this on the FRONTS of the doors, drawer fronts, and cabinet frame. It's not necessary to apply to the backs of the doors unless you really want to, but I don't think it adds anything to do so. First, use a 2-Inch foam brush to apply the glaze liberally over the entire front side of a door, making sure to get it in all the corner and edges. Then take two pieces of the glazing cloth that comes in the kit (it's really just cheesecloth), and wipe the glaze off in the direction of the grain. The amount of pressure you use to wipe the glaze will determine the final look. After completing the first door, move on to the rest of the doors, drawers, and cabinet frames using the same method. Allow the decorative glaze to dry for a minimum of 8 hours before applying the protective top coat.
There are other ways to apply the decorative glaze to get different looks. Several other methods are demonstrated in videos on YouTube.
Applying Decorative Glaze Using the Dry Brush Method
Step 5: Applying Protective Top Coat
Before you start -- DON"T SHAKE THE CAN! This will create bubbles in the top coat. Instead, use a stir stick to mix the top coat liquid before applying. This protective top coat will help protect against scratches, stains, and chips. It's important to keep the room clear of pets, kids, and dust after applying this coating. Only one coat is required.
Start with the back side of the cabinet doors, then the drawers, and cabinet frames. Apply with a 2-Inch synthetic paint brush using brush strokes in the same direction as the wood grain. Allow this coat to dry for 2 hours before turning the doors over and repeating on the front side.
While applying, this top coat dries very quickly. It is important not to go back and rebrush over areas that have started to dry. Also, a big lesson I learned is to make sure that no buildup or drips are left to dry on the door edges. This top coat needs to dry for 12 hours before reinstalling the doors and drawers on the cabinet frames.
This is what happens if you don't watch the drips! Luckily, this was an easy fix. I just touched it up with another layer of bond coat, then reapplied the protective top coat to that spot.
Step 6: Finishing Up
After allowing the protective top coat to dry for a minimum of 12 hours, it's time to reinstall the cabinet doors and drawers into the cabinet frame. Now is a good time to add new cabinet hardware to the doors and drawers, such as new handles and knobs if you desire. You should also felt pads on the corners of the doors where they contact the cabinet frame.
Be careful during this step not to mar the newly finished cabinet frames or doors with the screwdriver. I made this mistake. I fixed it by touching up the area with bond coat, then protective top coat after the bond coat dried.
I (and more importantly, my wife) was delighted with the results. Our bathroom now looks like new!
Before and AfterClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Do NOT shake the can of protective top coat. That will create bubbles in the final finish. Instead, stir with a paint stir stick.
- Make sure the cabinet doors and drawers are spotless before applying the bond coat. Any blemished or spots will still be somewhat visible through the paint, so pay attention during the cleaning and deglossing step to remove all blemished, fingerprints, cracks, holes, etc.
- When applying the decorative glaze, keep refolding and rotating the decorative glaze cloth so you are always wiping with a fresh part of the cloth. This will help ensure a more consistent look.
- Use a cheap foam paint brush to apply the decorative glaze. The foam brush works better for this application.
- Don't bother with taking off the false drawers. I did, and it was more trouble than it was worth. I recommend leaving false drawer faces on the cabinet frame and painting them in place.
- Use a marker or masking tape to label each hinge as the "top" or "bottom" hinge as you take them off the cabinet doors. This will help make it easier to reinstall the doors without any extra adjustments.
- Watch the screwdriver as you replace the cabinet doors! It's easy to nick or gouge the newly finished cabinets if you aren't careful.
- Use thin coats, not thick coats. Thin coats will go on much better and allow the wood grain to show through.
Links to other reviews
Nice pictures and writeup of one lady's kitchen transformation
More before and after pictures from a lady named Anna
Bathroom and Kitchen cabinet transformation blog post
Very nice review of a kitchen remodel with lots of pictures