Easy Way to Restore Your Oak Cabinets

Real Estate Agent with Realty Benefit

Ok, so maybe Golden Oak has fallen out of favor with the masses, but I still like my Golden Oak kitchen cabinets.

I'd like them more if they weren't beginning to show their age.

The cabinet under the sink was the worst. Little drops of water over the years had taken its toll on the cabinet's finish.

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows that I am a total do it yourselfer, but the thought of sanding my cabinets down to bare wood, was unbearable (pun intended).

So, for the last couple of weeks I have been trying to think of a simpler way to "repair" the finish. I thought about painting them, but I haven't liked the oak cabinets I've seen that have been painted. The grain always seems to show through.

Here is my formula -

Remove the doors and drawers. Take one of the fake (faux) drawer fronts from under the sind, down to the local big box depot.

The first step is to find a stain that is as close to what you already have as possible.

Next, get some scotch bright pads (that's the scratchy stuff on the back of most kitchen sponges).

Get some paint thinner.

Look for a new product from Minwax. It's a poly urathane, water based, that you apply with a rag. I know, you think, "that can't work" - but it works great, it dries super fast, and gives a great finish.

As an alternative, you can use spray on poly urethane, but that take forever to dry. I used the spray on the front before I tried the rub on. I will probably never go back to the spray.

I actually built the Oak Cabinets in my last house, so I am not totally cluess about finish work.

Buy some 100 or 120 grit sand paper (get some additional finer paper if you want an extremely smooth surface. 120 grit was fine for my project.

Now, figure out the sheen your cabinets have. Not what they used to have, but what they have now, so you can blend if necessary.

Ok, go home, take one of the door fronts that really looks bad.  Grab your scotch bright and paint thinner, have some paper towels handy. Now rub down the entire door with the scotch bright and paint thinner.

Anywhere the wood is exposed, the paint thinner will darken, but once it dries, it will lighten back up.

The object here is to clean the wood, and to remove any of the really loose finish.

Let them dry, then go over them with the sandpaper. This time to smooth the existing finish, but not to remove any more than you need to.

Wipe the wood down real well with the paper towels, or blow it off with compressed air like I did.

Now you are ready to stain. I put it on with a brush, let it stand about 5 min, then removed it with the paper towels. If you did it right, the stain should blend in very well with the existing stain. You'll want to cover the entire surface, but the stain will only darken the exposed wood where the finish has warn off. Don't try to only paint the stain on the areas that are bare, just stain the whole piece, then wipe it all off.

Follow the directions on the stain. I had to wait 8 hours before I could poly coat mine. They do make a waterbase stain that I have used in the past, but they didn't have the right color at Lowes, so I used the slow dry stuff (Minwax again).

Once the stain was dry, I sprayed the fronts of two doors and faux drawer fronts.

Once those were dry, I turned them over and did the other side with the wipe on poly. That stuff is great. I used the same process on the cabinet frames.

Mine were actually falling apart, so I had to do some rebuilding, but in the end, the cabinets I repaired look better that those I haven't gotten to yet. In the mean time they blend in very well

Please note that there are many finishes out there and I can only say that my instructions worked for me. If you decide to try this, do so at your own risk, but enjoy the outcome if it works out for you.

 Good luck!


Comments (2)



I want to try following your directions, but I need a clarification. What did you put or spray on the cabinets after the polyurathane minwax? Many thanks.

Jul 13, 2012 03:26 AM

The Minwax I used is called PolyShades - here is a link. http://www.minwax.com/wood-products/onestep-stain-finishes/minwax-polyshades It's a stain and poly Urethane in one. No paint brush needed. I a more recent remodel I used oil based stain, let it dry over night, then sprayed it with Deft water based satin clear coat available at home depot. The Deft is a great product that dries super fast and is very forgiving. I have used 3 gallons of it in the last couple of months.

Jul 13, 2012 02:17 PM