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Should You Paint or Stain Your Old Cabinets?

If you have old cabinets that are in need of revitalizing, you have two basic options. You can repair your old ones or buy new ones. It is more economical and, in many ways, easier to just repair your old cabinets. The best way to make them look new again is by refinishing them. That could mean painting or staining. Whether you choose to paint or stain, the process begins the same.

Prepping the Cabinets

 Before you paint or stain your cabinets, you’ll need to begin with some preparation. Take off the cabinet doors so you can get around them more easily. You might also remove the hardware as well. If you’re going to replace it or refinish it too, that would be a good idea. If you have metal hardware that needs an update, you could attempt some metal cleaner to make them shine again.

Once you’ve done that, you need to strip the cabinets. If they’ve been painted or stained, stripper will remove the paint or stain. Make sure you follow the directions on the stripper carefully. Strippers are caustic chemicals that require care and ventilation to use properly. Then, once you’ve done that, allow them to dry for the proper amount of time. You’ll need to sand away any remaining paint or stain. Sand away any chips or scratches in the wood. Use a damp shop towel to clean up any sawdust.

At that point, you should have cabinets that are bare wood that has been sanded smooth. You’re ready to paint or stain. Which should you choose?

Paint or Stain?

 Painting your cabinets will give you a wider range of options for colors. Stains tend to come in many of the same colors but since they seep into the wood, they’ll be diluted in hue and the wood tones will always shine through. Paint will sit on top of the wood, which means that it will cover up some of the grain. You won’t have to seal the cabinet either; the paint acts as color and top coat.

Stain will highlight the natural grain of the wood. Stains tend to increase the contrast to make patterns in the wood stand out. There are stains available in a range of colors. You can find stains from subtle clear stains that will simply highlight the grain to bold colors such as bright blue. You can find stains to mimic different types of wood as well; for example, you might find a hickory or a cherry stain. That’s very helpful if you want to make your cabinets look like new, natural cabinets.


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