A Helpful Guide: How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets-Wholesale Cabinet Supply

A Helpful Guide: How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

If you’ve decided to tackle a kitchen renovation, you’ve probably also thought long and hard about whether or not to replace or refinish your kitchen cabinets. It’s a tough decision to make and, no matter what, the choice will cost you some money. Kitchen renovations alone cost an average of $25,000. You read that right over 25 Gs! For some homeowners, that number just isn’t feasible. One of the many ways you can reduce costs in your kitchen remodel is by refinishing your kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them. However, going the DIY route comes with some additional concerns you should address as a responsible homeowner. In this helpful guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about refinishing your kitchen cabinets! 

Replacing vs. Refinishing

Sometimes, you just need to replace your cabinets. Of course, many homeowners don’t want to face this fact because replacing cabinets can appear expensive on the surface. However, there are plenty of options out there that are affordable and will make your kitchen feel brand new. Our Woodline cabinets are a great option for homeowners who aren’t looking to break the bank when replacing their cabinets. However, if you’re still on the fence about replacing instead of refinishing, here are some ways you can tell if your cabinets are ready to be set free of your home:

signs cabinets need replacing

They’re coming apart at the hinges. 

Cabinets that are coming apart at the hinges need more than a hinge replacement. This typically indicates that the cabinets are no longer structurally sound, so refinishing them won’t solve the real problem. Instead, it just might make it worse! You’ll have paid money on refinishing products and spent time either having a contractor refinish them for you or doing it yourself, just to find out that your entire cabinets actually need replacing. 

They’re pulling from the wall. 

Cabinets that are no longer attached to the wall are cabinets that pose a serious threat to safety. Do yourself and anyone who enters your kitchen a favor and replace your cabinets. You don’t want heavy kitchen cabinets (and all your dishware and cookware!) falling on someone’s head! Go the safest route and get them replaced. You’ll thank us later.

The bases are cracked. 

Cracked bases make it easier for pests and rodents to get into your cabinets. That poses a health risk because they leave excrement or spread diseases through your cookware and dishware. If any of your cabinet bases are cracked, it’s safest to get them replaced instead of refinished. 

Your cabinet doors need replacing. 

If your cabinet doors are broken and need replacing, you might just want to replace all the cabinets. Depending on the age of your cabinets, you might not even be able to find the correct doors or equipment to replace certain parts. Instead, replacing your full cabinet set will ensure that your project gets done on time and that you have a safe space to cook in. Considering the average family spends most of their time together in the kitchen, having a space that people can enjoy safely should be your top priority as a homeowner. 

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You have mold growing in your cabinets. 

This one is for all you fixer-uppers out there. If you’ve purchased a home to flip or fix up that has cabinets from decades ago, but upon inspection has a serious mold problem, you need to replace the cabinets instead of refinishing them. Mold is a pesky fungus, and not much can kill it even refinishing products. Simply painting over mold doesn’t get rid of it, and if bleach and vinegar won’t do the trick, then it’s time to replace your cabinets, no matter how fun it would be to have vintage cabinets in your home. 

Your cabinets were painted with lead paint. 

On the same token, you should evaluate whether or not your current cabinets were painted with lead paint. Most homes between the 1920s and 1950s used lead paint in some way. If the paint on your current cabinets is chipping, and an inspector concludes they were originally installed and painted with lead paint, then you should consider replacing the cabinets instead of refinishing them or painting over them. When the paint chips, it releases the toxic fumes that lead paint has, causing huge health issues to homeowners or anyone who comes into contact with the paint. Save yourself and others by replacing cabinets that were originally installed and painted before the late 1900s. 

If your cabinets pass all the above criteria, then you might be able to refinish them instead of replacing them. 

What Is Cabinet Refinishing

What Is Cabinet Refinishing?

Simply put, refinishing cabinets means changing the color. So, essentially, you’re painting your cabinets. Of course, different types of finishes give different aesthetics, styles and vibes to cabinets, so it’s important to know about the different types of cabinet finishes before choosing one for your space. We provide free kitchen cabinet samples to all our customers so that you can have the chance to pair the samples with potential countertops and backsplashes before purchasing a set of cabinets for your kitchen. For homeowners looking to refinish their cabinets, accessing samples can allow you to see how a particular finish looks and feels. There’s something to be said for seeing a cabinet sample in real time instead of just viewing it online. 

Find Your Perfect Cabinets with Free Cabinet Samples

Types of Cabinet Finishes

There are a variety of cabinet finishes out there that homeowners have to choose from. Here are some of the more popular cabinet finishes:


Glossy cabinet finishes give a sheen to the cabinet face. It almost looks like acrylic, or as though there’s a glass front to the cabinet faces. Popular in modern and contemporary kitchens, many homeowners who are going for a European or even Asian look in their kitchen design will opt for a glossy finish. This finish is high maintenance, though. Be sure to have lots of multipurpose cleaner on hand to wipe away smudges and fingerprints.


A matte finish is much more subtle and doesn’t have much shine. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful! A matte finish is seen in many homes, typically paired with an oblong set of cabinet hardware or even in farmhouse kitchen designs. Many of our RTA cabinets come in a matte finish, so you’ve got lots of options available.

modern kitchen with dark wood cabinets


Stained cabinets look the most like wood. Whether they’re stained lightly to be a very light brown or they’re stained to be a dark brown, almost black, stained cabinets are best for cherry or other wooden cabinets that have a deep grain. If you’re a big fan of a traditional kitchen or are looking to renovate the kitchen in your cabin or beach house, then stained cabinet finishes are perfect for your space.


While all cabinet finishes are similar to paint, there’s something to be said for cabinets that are painted specifically. For cabinets made of wood with a light grain, painting them can be a great way to add personality or give them a facelift. If you’re all about bold colors or fun statements, then painting your cabinets can really go a long way in making your kitchen design stand out. Consider painting your lower cabinets one color and your uppers another! Alternatively, you could paint your kitchen island cabinets a color that’s bolder than the cabinets lining the walls of your kitchen. 


Distressed cabinets give your space an entirely natural feel. You can achieve a distressed look on your cabinets by sanding down the layers of paint, but leaving enough to ensure that your cabinets are still durable. You can also use a paint scraper to give the doors and bases a more distressed feel. For the eccentric or industrial design enthusiast, distressed cabinets are a great choice! Since the wood base will be showing, try to use a smooth countertop, such as quartz or marble, instead of butcher block. Too much wood can overwhelm your kitchen space. 

How to Refinish Your Cabinets

Refinishing your kitchen cabinets is a DIY project that you can do without a contractor; however, a word of caution to the unfamiliar: remember that mistakes equal money. If you destroy your kitchen cabinets refinishing them improperly, then you’ll not only have spent the money on tools to DIY it, but you’ll have to spend more money ordering new cabinets, hiring someone to install them or even hiring someone to correct any of the structural damage you might have done to your space. If you’re really not confident in your DIY abilities, we recommend hiring a contractor or phoning a friend who’s handy to help you out instead. You and your bank account will thank us later!

If you’re confident you can DIY your cabinet refinishing without turning your kitchen into a war zone, then read on for some tips on refinishing your cabinets!

steps to refinish cabinets

Step 1: Assemble your tools. This includes screwdrivers, paint brushes, finishing material and anything else that you might need, including a pencil and ruler. 

Step 2: Clear out your cabinets. Now’s the time to remove all the contents from your cabinets. Consider storing items in plastic storage containers so that pests don’t get to your perishables.

Step 3: Disassemble your cabinets. Using your screwdriver, remove the doors from your cabinets and the hardware as well. 

Step 4: Label your doors and keep hardware with the corresponding doors. You’ve got to reassemble these items later, so be sure to label them now to prevent any headaches or mishaps in the future. 

Step 5: Clean! That’s right take this time to clean your cabinets. Using a cleaner that doesn’t destroy wood grain, scrub your cabinets down, inside and out. You want your cabinets to look and smell like they are brand new.

Step 6: Strip the current paint/finish and varnish. Using a scraper, paint thinner or a varnish remover, remove the current finish on your cabinets. Make sure to wear a mask or be in a well-ventilated area when you do this. We recommend doing this outside so that the fumes don’t cause any health issues for you. 

Step 7: Sand your cabinets. You can use sandpaper, or get fancy with sand blocks here. Lightly sand the cabinets, but don’t oversand. You want them to remain durable. Sanding your cabinets helps to ensure that the new paint or finish will adhere to the cabinets.

Step 8: Prime your cabinets. This is especially if you’re planning on painting them. Using primer on your cabinets will go a long way to ensuring the paint and finish last for years to come. Pro tip: If you’re painting cabinets, be sure to sand them lightly after priming them the first time. 

Step 9: Paint your cabinets! Using paint brushes of different sizes, paint and finish your cabinets. Apply even coats and allow for the layer to dry completely before starting on another one. You can add a protective coating at the end as a sealing layer to help protect your cabinets against dings, scratches or smudges. If you’ve got kids or pets, this is practically a must!

Step 10: Reassemble your cabinets. Using the numbers and guide you wrote in Step 4, reassemble your cabinets. If you’ve purchased new hardware for your cabinet doors and drawers, now’s the time to put them on! 

open kitchen with marble backsplashes

Step 11: Enjoy your new kitchen cabinets! Fill them with your dishware, bakeware, glassware and anything else you have been storing in your kitchen cabinets. Stand back, admire your work and make plans for all the ways you’ll be using your kitchen in the future. 

The Bottom Line

Refinishing kitchen cabinets is a task that you can easily complete if you know the proper steps. However, there are some instances where it’s more efficient to replace your cabinets instead of refinishing them. Knowing the difference can save you both time and money in the long run. Otherwise, you might just end up with a kitchen disaster on your hands that could have easily been avoided.


Image Credits

Gegham Kalajyan/Shutterstock.com




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