Thursday, June 20, 2013

Part 2: DIY Cabinet Transformation.

I guess I'll begin with what started the ball rolling and got this transformation going in the first place. I wanted to paint my UGLY-80's-orange-colored-oak-basic-builder-grade cabinets. They lacked any sex appeal, short and squat with zero trim anywhere. Kind of like me after babies! Ha! There was no way that we could afford to go out and order all new cabinets, so naturally painting them seem like the most cost effective solution. I was weary about taking on such a big job but I knew they couldn't look any worse then they already did (well, in my opinion anyways).  I just pushed whatever doubt I had about painting mishaps out of my head and researched my options. Besides, I'm pretty handy with a paintbrush. I just oozed confidence and played it off big time to J and assured him that "of course I knew what I was doing"!

I knew that I DID NOT want to sand, strip or stain anything. I wanted to stay away from harsh chemicals, and sandpaper. I wanted the easiest way out of this job, not a science experiment. I looked for a way to produce the quickest results with minimal effort. After much research, I decided to go with Rustoleum's Cabinet Transformation Kits. I Googled the product for reviews, watched YouTube videos from other users and read through tons of DIY blogs who used this same product. I felt pretty confident that I could handle painting my cabinets with ease. Everything you need start to finish is included in the kit. I went to my local hardware store and talked over any concerns I had with the guy at the paint counter. He was quite helpful and pretty knowledgable especially since he just redid his own parents kitchen cabinets a few weeks prior with this very same kit! The best advice he gave me was to invest in a set of good paintbrushes. I choose a 3 pack of Wooster Paint brushes in various sizes and picked up 2 Cabinet Transformation Kits. One kit in Federal Gray and another kit in Pure White. Make sure you get the paint tinted in the right shade at the paint counter before you leave the store. There seemed to be a lot of questions about that online from the reviews I read. It does not come pre-mixed.

For putting the cabinet look together, I opted for 2 colors. I've always been drawn to pictures with two-toned kitchen cabinets and the drama it brings. I was hoping these colors would add some character to my room. I chose Federal Gray for the bottom cabinets and Pure White for the uppers. Gray is one of my favorite neutrals and goes well with any color. I liked the way it played up to my dark wood floor and thought it would make a crisp pairing with the white. The decorative glaze in the kits seemed to be the same color so the finish pulled both colors together nicely. We added another decorative element to the top cabinets that gave them a whole new custom look. J, built up a false top on the existing upper cabinets to add height with some plain white wood measuring around 12 feet long and 6 inches wide. He then glued and nailed crown molding onto the new higher top. He finished the look by adding decorative rope molding on the front and sides of new taller cabinet face. The new height made a huge impact and the decorative glaze really made the detail in the rope molding pop! The last thing we changed out was the hardware on the drawer fronts. I bought a 10 pack of Oiled Rubbed Bronze bin cup style drawer handle pulls from Amazon for $23. Much cheaper than the hardware store who wanted $5 a pull! The bin pulls mix well with our existing knobs and the simple switch made for a more polished and finished look overall. 

A quick close-up of the unpainted new tops.

The painting didn't take as long as I thought it would. It wasn't hard to do, just time consuming. The main part was allowing enough drying time between the coats. The kit itself had easy to follow directions and the paint was wonderful to work with. I have no reservation whatsoever about the paint and process that I chose. It has been a few months and they have held up wonderfully. There isn't one scratch or knick so far BUT I know that it is bound to happen sooner or later. I would definitely recommend these kits to anyone looking to change their cabinets, easily. For a couple hundred dollars we totally updated and change the whole look of our kitchen. I LOVE the combination with the gray and white and I'm so glad I decided to go with both. Such a dramatic change. It's definitely not boring anymore!

Here's the simple steps to DIY painted cabinets.
Remove and label the backs of your doors and drawers. The kit also recommends drawing a diagram of your kitchen and number the pieces on as you take them off on your diagram. This was helpful. I labeled them in the spot where J took the hinges off so I wouldn't paint over the numbers. I knew the hinge would cover the writing after it was put back on the door. We took the actual drawer fronts off the drawers since they clipped on and wrote on the backs since they were going to clip back on to the drawers. 

Give everything a good wash with hot-soapy water. Use a putty knife to scrape off anything sticky. (e.g. those little pads on the back of the doors to keep them from slamming closed or old ice cream that may have dripped down the front.) Dry throughly.

The kit comes with a deglosser and 2 scrubby pads to use with it. I think they should have included at least 4 pads, since the pads get really worn out towards the end. Fold the pads in half and soak the pad with deglosser. There is plenty of deglosser so don't be afraid to saturate the pads. I still have a lot left over. Go to town on the fronts and backs of the doors and the frame of the cabinets.  Rewash everything when your done and dry with a lint free cloth. I was afraid at first that I didn't scrub enough because they didn't look that different afterwards but it was fine. They should look freshly scrubbed and slightly dull, nothing more.

The kit says to paint the frames first. Go with the grain in up and down strokes, followed by the cross pieces. Allow 2 hrs to dry between coats. While the frame is drying you can start on the doors. They suggest doing the backs of the doors first to get a hang of the painting. We also screwed 4 wood screws into 2 pieces of old  2x4's to use as a stand to paint the doors on. Start with the sides of the doors and finish with the middle. Allow 2 hours to dry before starting the second coat. The next day I flip the doors over and painted the door fronts following the same pattern of painting. In between coats, I worked on the drawer fronts. No point in wasting time. *The white cabinets took 4 coats in between drying time to get it the right shade of white that I wanted. This paint is made to be slightly opaque but works well with oak since its a open grain. The open grain works really well with the provided decorative glaze in the kits and make for a professional finish. 

After 2 coats.

If you're happy with 2 coats of paint and want to skip the glazing step, its completely optional. You don't have to apply the glaze, you can move on to applying the protective coat. Some people from the reviews I saw didn't use the glaze. You can start the decorative glaze after your second coat of paint is throughly dried. I let the second coat of whatever I was working on dry over night. Mix the glaze well. Working in sections, apply the glaze with a paintbrush and let it set for up to 15 minutes depending on how dark you like it. Rub off the glaze going with the grain of the wood, using the provided cheesecloth. I went for a really distressed finish because I wanted a vintage vibe on my cabinets for my farmhouse look. I paid extra attention to the corner and around the knobs where you would normally see wear. When your satisfied with the glaze, let everything dry another 2 hrs before applying the protective coat.  

Apply the protective coat going with the grain of the wood. Don't apply the sealant too heavy or it can bubble. If that happens then you will have to let it dry and then lightly sand the bubbles out and reapply the clear coat. I didn't have any problems with bubbles. The directions say it dries to touch in a hour and you can rehang everything in 8 hrs. It takes a few days for the protective coat to totally cure and harden. I think I waited 3 days before reinstalling the hardware and rehanging the doors. I wanted them to have a chance to fully cured before we rehung them to prevent any damage to the paint. The total time I spent on the cabinets was around 6 hrs a day for 5 days. Not the weekend project like the kit claims but I guess it all depends on how many cabinets you have to do and how much help you have. It would go faster with 2 people working on this project minus distractions from kids.  I have 4 kids and did this by myself so I was pleased to have manage it all in under a week. I'm thrilled with the finished results. I was afraid that by painting them myself they would look cheaply done but I think they came out looking like a custom job. I've gotten many compliments and a few friends have enlisted my help on their own cabinets!  

(Laundry day) but finished bottoms with replaced toe-kick and new drawer bin pulls.

Up close look at finished painted uppers with new higher tops and decorative molding. 


  1. I'm getting ready to update my kitchen and bathroom cabinets myself. Trying to check out different products people have used. I haven't started yet, because I'm afraid of screwing up too and ruining my kitchen. Your tutorial is great, you make it look fairly easy. Just time consuming. I love the two tone you did and the added height you gave the uppers. Looks awesome and professional.

  2. One suggestion, have a dry small paint brush.. to use in the corners to pick up excess glaze and another to put glaze in the corners. I also found having a wet cloth (I used water based glaze) to wipe with also helped to control the overall final glazing look.