How to Refinish Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets and Save Thousands

Our home has good quality modern cupboards that were sadly starting to show wear.  In today’s post I will share how to restain cupboards. I cannot take credit for this project, refinishing the kitchen cabinets was all Hubs, doing a few at a time.  The process is easy, it just took patience and elbow grease as this house has lots of cupboards including the bathrooms.  He finished all our cupboards for $25.00, and they look new again.

You typically see cabinets refinished in paint, but its not always the wisest choice.  As our cupboards aren’t outdated we were very worried about depreciating our homes value.  We just spent thousands putting in new granite throughout our home, so the last thing we wanted to do was devalue our home.

After five years of indecision we asked our realtor and were told it was best to leave them as they are.  I was not willing to leave them as is and here’s why?  This is the cupboard door after I had already scrubbed them down.  Besides the built up grey ick I pointed out on the photos it has all those white dry areas in the grain.

How to refinish wood kitchen cupboards using stain.

The white grainy areas are rough to the touch.  That roughness is how I convinced Hubs they needed repair.  I think the roughness is caused by the long cold Edmonton winters with several months of extremely dry air.  Thankfully, not all the cupboards have the white faded areas, but half of them did.  It drove me crazy every time I washed them down, and I found it noticeable.

It was stressful to start sanding them, but as soon as Hubs finished the first two doors I was excited, I knew we had made the right choice for our home.  Here is how he did it.

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets Tutorial

Begin by removing the doors two at a time, and washing everything well with warm water and TSP. Let dry. Removing them a bit at a time kept the turmoil to a minimum and you don’t get mixed up as to which cupboard door goes where.

Sand off the cupboard by hand (not with a sander) with 120 grit sandpaper to remove all the grey portions and smooth out the white grains.  Be gentle while sanding, you don’t need to remove the existing stain, lots of light strokes is better than heavy handed.  Then wipe the door off with a dry cloth.

Once sanded, he added two coats of Minwax PolyShade in Classic Oak stain with Poly, letting it dry 6 hours between coats.  He did both the fronts of backs of each door, and the actual cupboard frame as well, luckily they didn’t have all the white wear the doors did, so they required very little sanding.

Applying stain to refinish kitchen cupboards.

The final stage was sanding them with a paper bag as it acts as an extremely fine sand paper.

How to re-stain wood kitchen cupboards using stain.

He did one pair of cupboards at a time.  Doing it this way there was no need to label them and it made sorting the hardware and doors unnecessary.

The difference is subtle but they just look new again, smooth and fresh and bright wooden cupboards.

For 15 year old cupboards I think they look really really wonderful. Replacing them with the identical Kohlers would have cost thousands.

PS>  Once I get the bathrooms redecorated I will share pictures of the 3 bathrooms as well.  I am quite excited to show you.

Why We Didn’t Paint the Kitchen Cupboards

We didn’t paint our cupboards for a few reasons although I did think about it off and on for years. Here are some reasons you may prefer to restain to refresh your cupboards than to paint them.

In newer houses like this one white cupboards are often a cheaper grade of cupboard. Painting good quality wood cupboards can devalue your home. By restaining this cupboards we didn’t need to go through using primer and sealer afterwards, no big stripping jobs to do and painting is just so permanent. Once you paint the cupboards its virtually impossible to go back to the natural wood. I know that white is the preferred colour right now, and I do love it. However wood is classic and this room is bright without the white cupboards. Final thoughts I like wood, and I can paint all sorts of furniture white to brighten the room if I have to, and Hubs would not have been happy coming home to painted cupboards.

Want an alternative to painting your cupboards? Pin this for Later!

A set of wood kitchen cabinets refinished with light stain, not paint.

This is the after picture of our cupboards with new moulding.  We had not installed the new granite yet.

kitchen cabinet moulding, kitchen cabinet molding, installing crown moulding on cabinet, installing crown molding on cabinets

Adding Moulding to Existing Kitchen Cabinets

The new granite counter tops meant we needed new back splash repairs.

How to Tile a Back Splash

The final job was finishing the cupboards. I am so glad its finished and all I need to do is just clean it.


  1. I would love to know how you did the microwave oven shelf.

  2. Looks fantastic my friend and I’m thrilled I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to paint my wood!

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