Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Back to Bare Essentials: 5 Steps to Stripping Your Kitchen Cabinets

by Melissa Bullard
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

If you are living in a older home, have lived in the same home for several years, or bought a house recently with the intent of updating and making changes, you may be interested in refinishing the kitchen cabinets. Refinishing your kitchen cabinets is a great alternative to remodel and reface jobs, and costs a portion of what they cost, yet can lead to results that are quite dramatic.

So, if you're interested in refinishing, the crucial step is stripping your kitchen cabinets properly. Follow these five steps to ensure that you've gone all the way back to basic wood:

  1. Remove all doors, drawers, and hardware. While some of the cabinet box surfaces obviously have to remain vertical, which requires that you use a gel or semi-paste stripping agent, the whole job is easier and much more thorough if you remove the cabinet doors to create as many flat surfaces for yourself as possible. Make sure you have a system for numbering the cabinet doors and drawers as you remove them to save yourself the hassle of figuring out what goes where later on.
  2. Protect the rest of your kitchen. Lay drop cloths over the floor, counters, and anything else that you don't want dripped on by a stripping agent or varnish. Remove countertop appliances to keep them out of your way.
  3. Give the cabinets a good cleaning. You might be surprised at how good they look after cleaning, and if you're stripping your kitchen cabinets, this is a vital step to getting down to the wood.
  4. Choose the right stripping agent. Lowes.com offers a helpful guide to determine what kind of finish is already on your kitchen cabinets, as well as the types of stripper you need to take off that particular finish. If it turns out that the original finish is actually vinyl or formica, you need a professional to do the job for you.
  5. Sand and wipe cabinets. After the cabinets have been stripped, the next step is to fill any nicks or dents with wood putty, sand the entire surface of the wood, then wipe off any excess dust. After all, you want your cabinets to be as clean and even as possible when you apply the varnish.

Of course, once you've finished the preparation stages, you're ready to apply whatever varnish you've chosen. If your cabinets were basically in good shape and you were just going for a slightly different color or maybe a deep-down cleanse, you should end up with beautiful cabinets that look new, and your kitchen should look refreshed as well.


About the Author
Melissa Bullard earned a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, then a Master's Degree in Spanish Language and Literatures from the University of Nevada, Reno. She has taught writing, literature, and Spanish classes, and is currently working as a fre

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