How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinet Doors
Unscrew the cabinet doors at the hinges.
If you’re only going to refinish the doors, leave the hinges attached to the cabinet boxes. Empty the cabinet drawers and remove those also. Remove knobs and pulls. Use an electric drill or screwdriver to make this go faster.
Clean the cabinet doors.
Scrub the cabinets thoroughly with a strong degreasing cleaner, such as trisodium phosphate (TSP). Use a kitchen scrub-sponge and a toothbrush to remove grime collected in grooves and corners. Get every bit of grease and dirt off; unless the surface is completely clean, the new finish won’t adhere well to the cabinet doors, ruining your refinishing project. Rinse clean and let them dry.
Fill in holes or cracks.
Fill holes, cracks and dents in the cabinet doors and drawers with carpenter’s wood putty in a color closest to the original wood. Let the putty dry, and then continue.
Sand the cabinet doors and drawers. Sand the cabinet doors using an electric sander and 100-grit sandpaper for the initial sanding. Sand corners and grooves with sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Finish by sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper or a medium-fine sanding sponge, by hand, sanding along the grain of the wood.
Clean off the dust. Remove the sanding dust from the cabinet doors with a vacuum cleaner attachment or “tack” rag (a sticky rag that picks up even the finest dust, available at most paint stores). Make sure all the dust is removed before refinishing the cabinet doors.
Apply the wood stain. Using a fine-bristle brush, liberally apply the stain to the surface of the cabinets. Wait 5 to 10 minutes, and then wipe it off with a clean, lint-free rag. Wait for the stain to dry.
Apply the varnish. Wait about 24 hours for the stain to dry before varnishing. If you’re doing both sides of the doors, wait about 8 hours before turning the doors over and staining the other side. Apply at least two coats of compatible varnish or polyurethane, using either a sprayer or a high-quality brush. Sand the cabinets lightly between coats for a smooth, durable finish.
A warm garage is the ideal place to set up sawhorses and refinish the doors. If you do it in a basement or other enclosed area, use fans for ventilation and to dissipate harmful fumes.
Keep all the screws and hardware together in a container.
Number each cabinet door and drawer. Using an indelible marker, write the door numbers in the space that will be covered by a hinge and mark the backs of the drawers.
Discard oily stain rags in a bucket of water. They’ll dry in the water, and then you can put them out with your trash. Never put them straight into the trash or any enclosed space; the build-up of fumes can cause spontaneous combustion.