Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Updating oak cabinets


I have 20+ year old medium oak finish cabinets in my kitchen and they have come to the point where they are looking shabby, with lots of dings and marks and fading, etc.  They are a high quality wood product I've been told by contractors.  I can't afford the cost of replacing them entirely, and the insides are fine.  I want to go to a dark brown finish, possibly a distressed look.  I am not fond of the heavy grain in oak either.  What are my options for updating them (painting, re-facing, etc...?)  

I have a total of 24 cabinet doors and 13 drawers, a fairly large kitchen.  Would you be able to ballpark a cost for me also for the option(s) you suggest, and also describe the process that would be involved to complete this project?  Thanks so much!

Hi Irene, both options you mentioned are possible, and depending on your skill level, you might be able to do the job yourself...but make no mistake, it's a huge job to do right, and does require some finesse and experience with this type of work. I would also steer you to the Rustoleum site here:
This product is  very good, (actually a system comprised of several products), and the benefit over paint is that this system is designed around more commercial quality finishing products, designed for better durability and toughness than any paint.There is a good video on the process right there on that home page...take a few minutes and watch it. It's very well done, and gives you a real feel of what's involved in such a project. As far as cost, there's no way to give you any good guesses, really, especially not knowing what prices are like on the west coast, labor costs, etc...but I can say that an applied finish like a good paint job or the Rustoleum product will be on the lower end of the cost scale, depending of course on your involvement, refacing would be more expensive, but not as expensive as a complete remodel of the cabinets.There are many refacing outfits around, and this choice has some benefits as well, most notably the quality of the factory finishes that can be applied to the replacement doors and drawer fronts.These factory applied, catalyzed finishes are the ultimate in furniture quality, durable KCMA rated finishes which should give you a maintenance free finish for 20+ years..something that a painted finish cannot rival.It also gives you the option of staying with a clear finish, but making a drastic change fairly easily, (Darker, lighter, distressed, etc.).If doing a finish is the way you decide to go, preparation, cleaning, sanding, repairing dings, dent, damages, is 80-85% of the job, and labor is the biggest expense,the condition of the existing finish is also important as to how much prep will need to be done.. so again, your involvement in the process will make a difference in the final cost. If you decide to hire a contractor to do this job BE SURE to get recommendations and ask to SEE some previous work they've done...even talk to the previous customers about their experience. If they were happy with the process and the outcome, you will likely be too. I hope I've given you a little help...but please feel free to post back if I can do better...

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Greg Scholl


Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects, Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings, wood species recognition and usage,tool recommendations, blade types and recommendation,techniques and methods for many Woodworking related issues, etc.


Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.) Sold, built, serviced, setup Home, Industrial, and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools , provided knowledge, parts replacement, service, and on site service, Trade show Demo, and training as well.

Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002) ...("27 year compilation of expert know-how")

Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars from major Tool manufacturers, Skil/Bosch, Delta, Powermatic, Ritter, Porter cable, Milwaukee, Dewalt/B&Decker, Performax.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT. (the Antiques capital of CT.), Golden Age of Trucking Museum,Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies. For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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