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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Painting Merillat (oak) cabinets


We've researched this project and checked with several folks (Home Depot, Pittsburgh Paints, remodelers) but we're not getting consistent replies.  

Here's the basics:
Our home was built in 1986 and still has the original Merillat (oak)cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Although they may have been shinier before, most of the sheen (veneer) has faded with age and wear.  We want to paint them white, but so far our experiments with an exra door haven't turned out so well.  Paint goes on gloppy and wood grain still comes through (note: primer + paint as one product was used).

I've read that a light coat of Durabond (applied, dried and sanded to a thin layer) will help hide the wood grain while providing a good painting surface.  What is your opinion?

Do you have any suggestions and/or ideas on how to approach this project?  We want to start with the bathrooms first, then - if successful - move to the more onerous kitchen cabinets.  We've had cabinet experts in and they want to charge $11K (which was reduced to $8K when I balked).  It's too much for us to pay either way, and we're looking for a better alternative.  

I can always add a photo (or detailed photos) if needed. Thanks.

Hi Len,

If you notice in my "All-Experts" bio, I don't claim to know a lot about wood finishing. My specialty is solid wood furniture, on which I use a simple Danish Oil finish. I don't stain, paint, lacquer or varnish anything - just a simple oil makes my work look great.

That said - I have a couple of suggestions. If I were in your shoes, I would have two options - refinish the cabinets, or replace the drawers/drawer fronts and skin the existing boxes. Refinishing is obviously easiest, and that quote of 11K seems really ridiculous. Are you handy? Do it yourself!

I would recommend using a product called liquid sandpaper - it removes the gloss and built up dirt on your cabinets. It won't make anything smooth - you still have to sand the wood, but this just removes the gloss and preps it for the finish. If you Google "liquid sandpaper", you'll be able to read about it.

After that, I would use a good primer - I like Kilz. If you're getting goops or runs, you're applying it too thick. Make sure it's thin enough to spread well on your wood.  Here's another tip - buy yourself a good paintbrush. I mean it - this makes all the difference in the world, compared to a cheap one. If you're bad with a paintbrush, consider spraying it, they make it in spray cans. A light sanding with some fine sandpaper should give you a decent surface on which to paint your final color.

This isn't hard to do, but it's a lot of work. There is a lot of work in prepping everything, priming, painting, reattaching everything - know that it's going to take some time. The average homeowner can absolutely do this - the big question is if you have the time. Like you said - I'd start with a bathroom, which should take you a weekend to do. See if it goes well, and if you like the results. I think using a deglosser (the liquid sandpaper) and then priming (separately) and then painting your cabinets will give you a better result. And it certainly beats shelling out thousands of dollars. I'm guessing all of this wouldn't cost you more than a few hundred dollars in supplies - but A LOT of elbow grease.

You can do it!

Good luck, write back if you need more advice, or if you just need some moral support.

Jamie in Vegas

Jamie Yocono
Wood It Is! Custom Cabinetry
Las Vegas, NV

Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks

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Jamie Yocono


Woodworker, Furniture designer/builder, industrial arts educator. Bachelor degree in Furniture Design, and journeyman carpenter, with a 4 year apprenticeship. Currently owner of custom furniture/cabinet shop in Las Vegas, NV. Can answer most woodworking questions EXCEPT those regarding repairs, refinishing, and antiques.


Bachelor in Furniture Design - Ohio University (1980) Journeyman Carpenter, Local 639 Adult educator - Developed adult education woodworking program for the University of Akron, and taught classes there for 9 years. Opened a private woodworking school in Las Vegas, NV and teach private and semi-private lessons. In 2011, I will begin teaching UNLV woodworking classes at my school. Sweet!

Furniture Society

Tile Design and Installation Magazine (Article on inlaying tile into wood)

Journeyman Union Carpenter Bachelors degree in Furniture Design (Ohio University) College of Hard Knocks!

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