Re-Finishing/Staining Kitchen Cabinetry - Painting - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 05-19-2012, 08:25 PM   #1
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Re-Finishing/Staining Kitchen Cabinetry

Ok I need some help/input, I have kitchen that we are updating, we have added additional cabinets (same manufacture as original) that are raw (unstained). The existing Cabinets are stained but beginning to discolor and show some signs of age (age unknown to me). All the cabinets are oak front with raised panel doors. We would like to refinish them darker than the existing cabinets (coffee or espresso). Re-finishing cabinets is very time consuming and although I am very handy I have never had much luck when I have tried staining in the past. So I have resigned myself to paying for either a refinish job or (last option) having them painted (sprayed). So I found a gentlemen that does re-finish work on cabinets and he came to today to evaluate the job and write up an estimate. He said what he would do was to clean then sand everything, then he would spray everything with a shellac with the stain mixed into the shellac. If I remember correctly shellac is very quick drying and very durable. Of course this makes the cost very affordable, his initial estimate was about 900.00. Sounds too cheap for the amount of work. To give an idea of the size of this project I have the following:

16 Existing doors (already have stain)
4 New Drawers (wood is raw)
11 Existing Drawer Fronts (already have stain)
1 New Drawing Front (wood is raw).

I know that the very best finish would be to strip then sand then stain the raw wood and then apply a clear protective finish i.e. shellac or something similar. However I also know that unless I did that myself a job like that would probably be extremely high and that is why painting was a consideration. My question is, Is what this gentleman is proposing really a good and durable option? Am I missing something here? I was expecting an estimate somewhere in the $2500-$4000 price range.
Painting was a last option since these are Oak Cabinets and I know that painting shows the grain, unless you use one of the filler products and then sand that product and prime and then spray. I thing spraying provides the best most professional looking results.

Any help or input would be greatly appreciated.


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Old 05-20-2012, 10:10 AM   #2
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Matching old stain to new stain is tricky at best. It sounds like your painter intends to try using shellac as the base for a glaze. I am skeptical but perhaps he can pull it off. I would ask to see some sample work and check references. Gel stains would be another possibility, especially for the old stain. Not sure what oil base stain he proposes to suspend in alcohol based shellac? Perhaps he is using some sort of pure pigment? Could work to darken things overall. I should think you are going to have to try to stain the new wood to what you currently have first?

I hope you have some scraps for trial runs?

For kitchen cabinets I should think you would want some sort of clear coat like urethane as a final clear coat. Shellac is rather brittle and chips easily. Also note that shellac will yellow and can show water marks and splatters. I have not heard of it being used for cabinets in quite awhile. No reason it cannot be I guess.

It would be unfair to all reading this thread and to you to comment on what is a fair price. There are too many factors involved. Your best bet is to get a couple more estimates. Try to be consistent in what you are asking for in terms of bids or you will find yourself comparing apples to oranges.

If you do go with spraying of an alcohol base product (or any other for that matter) make sure your HVAC system is off and you have adequate ventilation available. The fumes can get very intense.


Last edited by user1007; 05-20-2012 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:30 PM   #3
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sdsester thanks for you valuable input.
First off I apologize if it sounded like I was asking if the estimate was a fair price. I didn't intended for my question to sound that way. You are correct, there are too many variables for anyone by myself to gauge that, and only I can tell that based on some other estimates. And you are correct that getting the bids as apples to apples is very important. As well as checking references.

Secondly, matching the color of the new cabinets to the old cabinets is not the plan but instead to actually darken all the cabinets. First to stain the new cabinets with the color we are seeking and then do the best to match the older cabinets to the newer cabinets in color. The existing cabinets will definitely look much better refinished (they are starting to show their age) and I agree that trying to matching the new cabinets to the old would be very difficult. Thus going darker with everything seems to be the way to go.

What you said "It sounds like your painter intends to try using shellac as the base for a glaze. I am skeptical but perhaps he can pull it off." Is exactly the kind of input I am after. I don't have an abundance of "re-finishing knowledge" so what you said is/or the kinds of information I am seeking. The process he is describing to me sounded like not quite a re-finish (strip and stain) and not really a Painting process but kind of Hybrid process. Which if it would or will work and is durable I am OK with.

Your other statements about Shellac as a finish coat (yellowing, water staining etc) are also exactly the kind of info I am after, since I don't know much about Shellac. So that gives me things to ask him about his intended final finish. I don't remember him mentioning anything about a final clear coat after the stain/glaze (or what ever you would use to describe the process).

I will keep researching and doing my due diligence to get to a resolution.

I am still open to suggestions from anyone.

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Old 05-20-2012, 08:28 PM   #4
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the shellac may also be used as a sealer. This will help with the evenness of any applied stain. It also has great adhesion properties. It is very durable and dries fast and very hard...but brittle. It is easy to fix mistakes with shellac.
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