Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Master Bathroom Project | Refinishing the Cabinets (Part 3)

Weekend #2 in the bathroom remodel! This is part three in my series about our master bathroom remodel. If you haven't read the previous parts on the design process or removing our large vanity mirror, have a look at those first.

I really wanted to change our vanity set in our master bathroom. Get new sink basins, counter-tops, or something... but it is all only 3 years old. And since I am a relatively reasonable person (and the hubby keeps me level-headed when I get a little too unreasonable), we decided to give refacing the cabinets a shot.

Before and after of our cabinet refinish project!
Now, we've actually tried staining wood before with an old kitchen table. Too many steps, very tiring/strenuous (so much sanding!), and we didn't like the finished product... even though we are still eating on said table to this day.

As I mentioned in the design of the master bathroom, when I went on a field trip for my Materials and Resources class, I saw this DIY cabinet refinishing kit. It made the process sound simple and easy, so we decided to give it a whirl. It ended up dramatically changing the look of our cabinets, although I'm sure we could have brushed up on some of the application technique.

Here's how we refinished our cabinets, if you would like to DIY:

  • Cabinet Rustoleum Transformations Kit  (There is also a smaller size just for bathrooms, but we had already purchased the bigger one when we realized it)
  • Two 2" synthetic paint brushes
  • Drop cloth
  • 1-time use laytex/rubber gloves
  • A few paper cups
  • Blue tape
  • A drill or screw driver
  • An extra set of hands
  • Pen/Pencil

Time frame: an entire weekend, preferably a 3-day weekend (including drying times)
Follow instructions manual as it is quite detailed. To get a sense of what we did in addition or in substitution of the manual, read through this DIY.
1. Before you leave Home Depot, you have to tint the base color in the kit.
There are two different kinds of kits: a dark color kit and a light color kit. We used the dark one and selected the color Kona. The paint department will tint it to one of the color selections provided on the kit. For our bathroom, we only tinted one of the two base color quart-sized cans since we don't have that many cabinets.
2. Start in the morning.
You have to do at least two coats of the base tint which has 3-hour drying times each, plus a 12-24 hour drying time for the decorative and top coats. It's more convenient to let your top-coat dry overnight, unless you have insomnia and need something to do.
3. Create a quick sketch & number each cabinet door or drawer.
We did a quick layout of the cabinet on paper, numbered each cabinet on the sketch, and numbered the back of each cabinet with some blue tape and a pen. This just helps for remembering what goes where later.

4. Protect your floor and your walls (if you care).
Lay down some drop cloth under the frame of your vanity. You are guaranteed to get stuff everywhere. Also with blue tape, mask the areas of your wall where the frame touches. This will provide a barrier between the deglosser, base coat, top coat, etc and the wall color. If you plan to paint the wall later, as we are, then you can skip this step.

5. Remove each door and drawer frame.
We put all of the hardware for each door/drawer in a paper cup that was numbered according to the sketch in step 3. Simple and organized. You'll thank me later. Our painting zone was in our garage — a place with little to no air movement. You don't want dust particles or other nature-related particles stuck on your cabinets.

Note: If you want to leave the house when the paint is drying, may I suggest parking your cars outside so that starting your engine doesn't blow oil, dust, or dirt onto your cabinets. We failed to do this and had to push our cars out of the garage in neutral.

6. Degloss the cabinet frame and doors/drawers.
This is actually step 1 in the kit; follow their instructions. They provide scrub pads and the deglosser; you need to provide the gloves. When using the deglosser, it was a little hard to tell whether it was working or not because it still looked glossy. But once the deglosser dries, it is easier to see the dullness of the cabinets. Just trust your gut and scrub hard.

Once you've deglossed and wiped down the surface, you'll need to let it dry for 1 hour. This whole process (deglossing + drying) took both of us about 2.5 hours.

7. Apply the base coat color to the frame, and front & sides of drawers.
Again, follow the instructions manual to get the proper technique. I think it's best to use a never-before-used brush to minimize the steak lines. (This is especially relevant for Step 11.) Try to get it as even as possible, but don't worry if you still see some of the old cabinet color. That is why there is a step 8 (you get to do it again!).

Note: Make sure your paint is not dripping or forming puddles on your surfaces. You will see them later when it dries. Let the base coat dry for 2-3 hours. This whole process (painting + drying) took us about 4 hours.

8. Repeat step 7 for frame, front and sides of drawers.
After the first coat has dried, apply a second coat. This step was a lot quicker because less precision was required. If you washed you brush from step 6, make sure it is completely dry, or use a new one. We decided to stick our brushes in a cup filled with the base coat, then used plastic wrap to keep the air out and moisture in so that the brush wouldn't dry out. It worked pretty well; we could just reuse the same brush.

Let dry for 2-3 hours. The whole process took 3 hours.

9. Flip the wood boards over and paint one coat for the back of the drawers and doors.
If you are like us, you aren't that concerned with the back of the doors and drawers. We just did one coat of the tinted color on the back and let them dry. Actually, we didn't even degloss the backs.
10. (Optional Coat) Apply decorative glaze.
This portion is optional and is totally determined by the look you want to create. If you want to see more of the wood grains show through the paint, then you should use the decorative glaze. With the Kona color, it already seemed dark enough where we wouldn't notice much change with the glaze, so we skipped this step.

If you decide to do this, it will take about 8-9 more hours (because of additional drying time).
11. Apply top coat to frame and door/drawer fronts and sides.
It should be nighttime by now (unless you did the decorative glaze at which point it's been nighttime for a while) and its time to put on the glossy top coat. Here is where it is super important to have a soft brush. The brush strokes will show through when applying the glaze. It dries relatively quickly, but also drips a lot. Try to make sure you remove any excess glaze from your boards so that you wont have beads of dried glaze in places. Also, be careful about tiny air bubbles created with the glaze and paint. Not sure how to avoid it, but try to minimize them if possible. Diligence is important here.

Let dry for 12 hours before touching.

12. (Optional) Add handle hardware.
Once the paint was touchable after 12 hours, we added hardware. We wanted a modern feel for our cabinets, so in addition to the dark wood, we also purchased the IKEA BLANKETT cabinet handles. They added a nice touch.

Adding the handles took about 1 hour.

13. Reattach doors and drawers.
If you haven't already solicited help from another person, this is where an extra set of hands is necessary to hold the cabinets in place while you screw them in.

14. Touch-ups and top coat for door/drawer backs.
Once everything was back in place, we saw areas that need some touch-ups of both the base color and the top coat. In addition, we applied the top-coat to the backs of the doors and drawers so that they wouldn't scratch easily.

Phew!!! And that's everything!

Final look of our "brand new" modern bathroom cabinets!

I think it goes without saying that DIY is way more cost-effective, but I'll say it again: DIY is way more cost-effective! Because we reused brushes we already had, we were able to essentially get new cabinets for about less than $100 (and a weekend's-worth of time).

We just received an email from Costco about giving our bathroom (or kitchen) a "fresh look" with their new all wood cabinets with All Wood Cabinetry. A quick glance at their pricing, reveals that we would've easily spent thousands of dollars to replace our cabinets. I'd much rather pay with sweat & energy than thousands of dollars!

Overall, I cannot complain. I think the kit dramatically changed the look of our bathroom, and we haven't even finished our full project yet! The toughest part about the kit was finding the right brush technique. You can still see some of the brush lines, but my guess is that they can be eliminated with a newer, high-quality brush. I want to refinish our kitchen cabinets as well, but the ambient lighting in our kitchen will definitely show the brush stokes more than the lighting in our bathroom. So until I figure out the proper technique, I'll hold off on that.

Next up on the remodel project  is wiring the new lighting! I can't wait for this one! I get to learn something brand new!



  1. Oh, that must have been a tiring day for you, Rashida! But I’m sure all the labor was worth it, because the outcome is great! Your new cabinets make your bathroom look cozy and sophisticated.

    Gabrielle Jeromy

  2. You did great with your bathroom cabinet, simple but cozy i must say. a good choice of color corporate with the bathroom paint.
    sidler-international bathroom cabinets 

  3. Pretty remarkable post. I simply came across your blog and desired to say that I have really enjoyed searching your blog posts.Bathroom Remodeling

  4. Your blog is so informative. I appreciate your great work please keep it up. Bathroom Refacing