What to Expect When Your Cabinets Get a Makeover

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

This is not a fast or simple process

  • The very first thing to happen in this multi step process is the removal of all doors & drawer fronts, which will then be brought to my house for refinishing.

  • I work on facings before I start work on the doors & drawers.

  • If your cabinetry is made of unpainted wood & is in good condition, every door, drawer front, and every inch of the facings, toe kick, and moldings has to be prepared thoroughly or your new finish will not last.

  • All surfaces will be cleaned with either trisodium phosphate (TSP) and/or liquid sander, a.k.a. deglosser, with a scouring pad or sanding block to scuff up the surface.

  • If your cabinetry has been previously painted, it's the same process… Unless they were badly painted or are in poor condition, then machine sanding will be required. After a machine sand, the surfaces will be dusted off with a blower, then a tack cloth, then they get to be deglossed.

  • After deglossing, cabinetry to be painted is primed with two coats of Stix high bond primer. It is too thick to spray, so it must be hand rolled or painted on. A light sanding is required between coats & before paint is applied.

  • Your cabinets will then get two coats of base paint, which must dry 16 hours between coats & requires a light sand between coats. They may either be sprayed or rolled. I exclusively use Benjamin Moore's Advance latex urethane cabinet projects.

  • If your cabinets are getting a tonal glaze, an oil based glaze which goes on top of the existing finish, after the deglossing & scuff sanding, the layering process will begin. The glazes must dry & be scuff sanded between coats.

  • If you are getting any sort of specialty finish, it typically comes after the 2nd coat of base paint. Each layer must dry before the next layer or any top coating, if required.

  • Doors will usually be reinstalled 3- 5 days after painting is completed to ensure the paint has hardened enough to be durable for transport.

  • You MUST be delicate with the facing surfaces after it gets painted. I'm not responsible for damage done before the paint has had a chance to harden. There's a reason the facings get painted before the doors. Their paint needs to be setting up ahead of the doors being re-installed. Be patient. Eat out! Give your kitchen a break.

  • It takes 30 DAYS for the paint to fully cure.

  • Be nice to your beautiful new cabinetry surfaces while they are “toughening up.” USE the door knobs & drawer pulls. If you're having an sort of glaze or specialty finishing, expect to add another week to the time line, especially if a protective top coat will be required.


Machine sanding is a big mess.

  • Prepare for it by removing everything from your cabinets & drawers & placing flat sheets over all soft furnishings. A thousand apologies, but there is no clean way to machine sand.The multiple subsequent light hand sandings are much less messy, the dust will be more localized, but it's still dust… and they are necessary to the process.

  • I'll dust off the counters & sweep & vacuum the work space area when I'm done. Everything else is yours.

What type of paint do you use & why?

  • Latex paints have come a LOOOOONG way in durability in recent years. It used to be that oil based paints with their high odor & VOCs were the only thing to use for trim, doors, & cabinets. Most builders still use them for those key surfaces, but all major paint brands now offer “alkyd enamels,” “acrylic urethanes,” or “oil enriched” latex. Coupled with a thorough preparation process (as I noted above) and some a solid priming (I ONLY use STIX primer), there is no reason why oil paints must be used on wood or cabinetry any longer. Great article on the subject: HERE

How long is this going to take?

  • I'm a small business with a small crew: me plus a helper. I do not have a stable of employees from which to pull, nor do I want one. Naturally, I'm going to work more slowly than a contractor with a crew. Please, be aware of this when you hire me. Don't expect me to work at the same rate as a someone with a big crew.

  • This process does NOT produce a factory finish; everything is done by hand, and done so beautifully, but it has it's limitations. If you expect a factory finish, you might consider replacing your cabinet or doing a refacing instead.

  • If you total up how many times every square inch of your cabinets will have to be touched in order to give you a quality refinish, it is quite a lot! In fact, the number is somewhere close to 10...every square inch, and most of it is done by hand. There is only so much than can be given over to a machine, especially if mechanical sanding is required.

  • Heat & humidity slow things down a great deal. If we hit a patch of bad weather, it will add time. If it's warm out, please, run your A/C to pull humidity out of the air. I often bring your doors & drawers inside when it's gross out, allowing them to dry in an air conditioned environment, but I can only control so much.

  • Conversely, if we have a cold snap, I can’t do some of the processes. My garage is my work space, and if it is below 55 degrees, most of the products I use won’t “perform” properly. Thankfully, in Houston, the cold moves on in a few days- most of the time.

  • Over all, expect 7 to 14 days, from the time I pull doors, depending on the exact finishes being done, top coating, my health, your household circumstances, & weather

Be patient with the process.

  • Firstly, as noted above, you have chosen to hire ME, not a bunch of workers or subcontractors. I am THE worker bee, along with an assistant, and my oldest daughter, 6 months of the year. I work as quickly as I possibly can, and I typically work long days at your house and/ or in my garage on your behalf. If needed, I will hire trusted subs or contractors who offer complimentary services, but I don't make a habit of it.

  • Secondly, I clean up after myself. I've been through this process several times in my own home, & I know how irritating it can be to have the kitchen, master bedroom/bath, or living room (or even the secondary spaces) tied up under construction. But, please, remember, I'll only be traipsing through your space for a relatively small amount of time. When I'm done, I haul away the trash (or get it to the curb) & tidy up the work area. Sorry, I don't clean the rest of the house though.

  • Finally, all of the touch-ups, caulking, & clean-up work, the finishing touches, if you will, are typically done at the very end of the process. It takes time to go back & check the details when in the thick of working through the multitude of steps in this process, but once the bulk of the work is completed, then all the little bits & pieces, trims and edges, get cleaned & sharpened up. I PROMISE!

I hope this has answered the majority of your questions, but if there is anything I missed or other concerns, please, ask!


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