Cabinet Refinishing Instructions


Refinishing is time consuming, but can provide an amazing end result. You can take an old, damaged and dated cabinet and make it fresh and beautiful. In some cases, refinishing can even dramatically change the appearance of a cabinet, whether it is freestanding or wall mounted. No special skills are required to refinish furniture, but care and patience are to create a polished and professional result.


The right tools can make cabinet refinishing faster and easier. While you can sand by hand, this is time consuming and physically draining, particularly if you are working with a large cabinet or a roomful of wall-mounted cabinets. A random orbital sander is the best tool for this job. You might also want to invest in a smaller detail sander for those hard-to-reach spots. Purchase both coarse and fine sandpaper. While every woodworker has her own preferences, 120-grit and 220-grit will work well for many cabinet refinishing jobs. You will also need tack cloths, fine steel wool, paintbrushes and clean cotton rags.


Good prep work is key to a beautifully refinished cabinet. Remove all doors and hardware, then clean the cabinet thoroughly. In some cases, a mild solution of soapy water is adequate, while in others you may want a harsher degreaser for effective cleaning. Sand well with coarse sandpaper, then fine. You should have a smooth and clean surface once you're done sanding. As an alternative, you can opt for a chemical stripper followed by a light sanding with a fine-grit sandpaper. Take time to fill nicks or scratches with a good quality epoxy-style wood putty and sand smooth.

Staining and Finishing

Apply stain using a bristle paintbrush. Allow to sit on the surface briefly according to the manufacturer's instructions, then wipe away the excess with a clean rag. Repeat for a richer color. Once your stain has dried, use a wipe on polyurethane to seal and protect your newly refinished cabinet. Wipe on polyurethanes avoid many of the problems traditionally associated with polyurethane finishes, including visible brushstrokes, and are quite easy to use. You can also opt for a tung oil, linseed oil, or wax based finish if you prefer.

Using and Caring for your Refinished Cabinet

Allow the polyurethane to dry completely, then replace the doors and hardware on your refinished cabinet. Maintain the look of your cabinet refinishing job by caring for it appropriately, depending on the finish you have chosen. Polyurethane can be simply dusted or polished; however, wax or oil-based finishes may require special care.

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About this Author

Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing on a variety of subjects from finance to crafts since 2004. Her work appears on sites including eHow and She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, which has provided strong research skills and a varied range of interests.

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