ultraclyde PowerDork
1/23/20 2:56 p.m.

I know there are a lot of home DIY and construction peeps on here, I need some info on 1990s builder grade oak cabinets. We're talking about redoing our kitchen and the cabinets are original to the 1992 house. They're custom built solid wood in (what else?) honey oak. Every home trend guru is screaming about painting them, but frankly I think that trend is about done and we'd be doing a lot of work just to start out looking outdated. I think the honey oak is coming back around. But even if it's not, screw them, I like it and it's good quality stuff.

My problem is the wear on the finish that is now almost 30 years old.  My question is, what type of finish was probably used on those cabinets? How can I permanently fix the finish without changing the color? Can I rough the surface and paint on a new finish in place? What kind of coating is probably compatible?

I've seen a lot of stuff on the interwebs about how to, but I only trust internet opinions from GRM

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
1/23/20 2:59 p.m.

I believe you can gel stain right over these and then refinish with poly. 

FuzzWuzzy HalfDork
1/23/20 4:27 p.m.

I'd assume you could just sand whatever top coat is currently on it and re-stain...Garage Journal might know.

But I'm going w/ the current fad of painting my cabinets white, because I'm tired of my dark kitchen.

captdownshift UltimaDork
1/23/20 7:40 p.m.

Plasti-dip them


It's the new hot trend. 

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
1/23/20 8:16 p.m.

We have the oak.  Doors, trim, kitchen.   

Wife says new cabinets.  Amish style.  

Eurotrash_Ranch New Reader
1/23/20 8:46 p.m.

If you just want to refinish the topcoat and/or topcoat defects(not the stain):

I would guess that you have a pre-catylized lacquer top-coat (over the stain, over the wood).

Typically the lacquer was sprayed on in a booth.

You may be able to (try this in an inconspicuous area, maybe the back side of a drawer-head, blah blah blah):

Remove doors/drawer heads in question, lightly scuff with fine steel wool or 220 (or better sandpaper) being careful not to sand down into the stained finish. Use Deft Aerosol lacquer (or Mohawk) to re-topcoat. Hit the defects and feather the lacquer onto the old areas. In theory, the new lacquer should melt into the old topcoat, making repairs close to invisible. It is going to take multiple coats, and you will want to lightly sand using a very fine sanding sponge in between coats. Final coat does not get sanded. However, it is going to be sort of like trying to touch up your car with rattle cans. Not impossible, but not easy to make "perfect".

FWIW, I have used aerosol lacquers to touch up a lot of stained cabinetry topcoating with good success. As I mentioned, experiment on "hidden" surfaces first.  Aerosol lacquers usually come in satin, semi-gloss, and glossy. If in doubt, start with a satin and work your way to others if the sheen is markedly different.

NoviceClass New Reader
1/23/20 8:48 p.m.

If they were finished on site, they are more than likely coated in clear lacquer, usually in satin, semi gloss or high gloss sheen.

Is just the clear worn, or are there scuffs that permeate the clear, and show bare wood? If there are just minor scuffs down to bare wood, you can just try to find a matching lacquer based stain, and just lightly wipe it over the scuffs. House lacquer is pretty easily repairable, matching the sheen is the hardest part. Lacquer is pretty unique in that new layers don't just sit on old layers, the solvent reactivates the underlying lacquer and and melds to it, the 2 layers are now 1...to some degree. They make lacquer you can brush on, although it dries quite quickly, they also have lacquer you can rub on with a rag.

With a light sanding, just scuffing really, you can top coat it with polyurethane, or a water borne clear finish.

Boost_Crazy HalfDork
1/23/20 8:49 p.m.

I’m redoing my kitchen, it sounds like the same cabinets. Do you also have the white tile countertops? We want to give the kitchen a new look without spending a ton on new cabinets. The existing are in good shape, just a bit worn and dated looking. We are changing the floor, countertops, and appliances, and wanted the cabinets to look new and to match. I’m also removing a small island to replace it with a much larger one, so I have some spare test cabinets that I can experiment on. So far I’ve tested out the Minwax Polyshade stain that says you can use it on existing cabinets. I purposely did a mild prep, less than I’m planning on my keeper cabinets, just to see how forgiving it was. Just a light sanding on a couple test drawer faces. The gloss black was okay, but too... gloss. Tried satin black, and really liked it. Looks great, shows off the wood grain so it doesn’t look like black paint. Did the test about 6 months ago on high use drawers, no evidence of wear. I’ll be stripping the kitchen down and staining the rest this month while waiting for the counter tops. 

Here is a pic. This was with the bare minimum effort. 

rustybugkiller HalfDork
1/23/20 10:01 p.m.

That looks great!

drainoil Dork
1/24/20 6:49 a.m.
captdownshift said:

Plasti-dip them


It's the new hot trend. 

If I hadn’t seen it already I would have thought you were joking but do an internet search for Plasti-dip shower stall and bathtub and see what comes up. I can’t imagine it would last very long being used in the home like that?

914Driver MegaDork
1/24/20 7:28 a.m.

Sand off whatever is on there now with light paper, 180 - 400 down to  6 or 800. then apply Danish Oil or Tung Oil.  If you get wear spots around the handles, kiss them with fine steel wool or scotch brite pad and reapply.  Oil is good especially if you have hot air heat.

ultraclyde PowerDork
1/24/20 7:48 a.m.

Thanks for the input guys. I do have some spots where the finish is worn down through to the wood, particularly below the sink. I suspect these are lacquer, so I think I'll try some touch ups first and see where that goes. If it looks iffy I'll scuff up and try overcoating everything, and if all goes to hell I'll paint them. 

No way I'm sanding off all the finish and going back to oil. WAY too many insets, detail, and nooks and crannies for that. Plus, for a tiny kitchen there are a LOT of cabinets. but of course, not enough storage somehow.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
1/24/20 9:05 a.m.

In reply to ultraclyde :

Not enough storage.....you married to my wife's sister?

nderwater UltimaDork
1/24/20 10:22 a.m.
Boost_Crazy said:

Here is a pic. This was with the bare minimum effort. 

We did the same to our light oak cabinets using a few coats of a dark brown glaze.  One afternoon's work transformed the kitchen and the whole project cost about $50 including paint, foam brushes, shop rags and drop cloth.

Curtis73 UltimaDork
1/24/20 11:57 a.m.

The original finish was probably factory sprayed Acrylic Urethane.  Cheap, easy, quick.

Easy button is paint.  Anything else will require some serious elbow grease.  If parts have worn through the finish, it's tough to get things to match where it can soak into the wood versus where it can't.

I would try a light scuff on the worn parts and then a wipe-on poly.  If that doesn't provide a good result, I would paint.

The other alternative is to pull all the doors, use a chemical stripper and sand them, then start from scratch.

tr8todd SuperDork
1/25/20 4:43 a.m.

I'm a plumber and my main source of work is from kitchen and bath places.  I have been in a lot of new kitchens the last several years.  All of those kitchens, except for one, has gotten painted cabinets with light colored granite or quartz.  They all look the same to me.  Honestly can't tell the difference between the $20K and the $90K kitchens we just finished up.  Did one last week where the homeowner painted the old wood cabinets white, and it looked like all the rest, except for the old contact paper in the bottom of the sink base.  I have been back to the several of the houses to do other work a year, or two later.  If there are kids in the house, the cabinets are already starting to get scuffed up.  The gray, green, and blue gray ones fair the worst.  They get scuffed and start looking like a chalkboard that needs to be washed instead of just erased.  I still have the dated oak cabinets I built for my kitchen back in 93.  They need to be replaced.  I have looked in my cabinet guys shop and everything is painted.  I am hoping this painted fad goes away soon as well, or else I will have to build cabinets again.  Rather put that time into working on my cars.

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