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Getting rid of the golden oak--restaining kitchen cabinets

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Nov 19, 2004
I have some 1980s golden oak cabinets in my kitchen. The cabinets themselves are in decent shape and it''s not in the budget to replace them.

Ideally, I''d paint them a cream color, but my husband is against painting cabinets due to chipping/scratching problems. I hate the golden oak and would like to restain the cabinets a darker color. Just getting them to a more brown pecan color would be a big improvement in my book. So, does anyone know if this will work? A lot of the top finish is worn off but I figured we would need to lightly sand them, then stain, then polycoat. We''d need to do the boxes & doors.

I was also thinking of cutting out the centers and installing frosted glass on all the upper cabinets. And of course changing the knobs and probably hinges.

The part that worries me most is the restaining...I don''t want to wind up with blotchy cabinets. Any tips or suggestions greatly appreciated.


Nov 24, 2004
Truth is - you''re not going to lightly sand them - you need to sand the old finish off down to the bare wood to avoid any uneveness in color. Time to purchase a power sander and some elbow grease.

Else use a paint remover/stripper but that would be hard on the side cabinets if you''re leaving them installed.

The results will be well worth the work but it''s one of those projects while in the midst, you think you''ll never ever finish!!!


Jul 13, 2007
Oooh. Okay, first off, paint them instead. LOL!
We have gone this route you are considering undertaking before. Blotchiness *IS* a problem, and my DH is a master carpenter/handyman. Right now (we have been blessed with the same oak cabinets you have apparently), we're remaking all the doors ourselves for a particular look, Mission style. It's looking great, but we've only done the 7 drawers and 4 doors so far, so it's a long term project. All new hardware in a pewter finish but old style too. Also, we have put glass in upper cabinets before very successfully, so we're doing that with 4-5 of the upper doors. We use an opaque glass, and really like the look.

In general, what you're proposing is possible, but it'll drive you nuts in the execution. The doors may be solid oak, but all the end pieces that are visible might just be a veneer. You pretty much have to replace that. It's also hard to find a stain in the perfect colour you have in mind. We went through tons of testing!


Jul 22, 2007
Hi, there.

I do a lot of refinishing. With your cabinets, you MAY be able to get buy with a light sand and then stain/poly. This will only work if your faces are decent (not grease-stained, dinged, etc.) There is a product that combines stain with polyurethane. (Minwax makes a great variety.) If your cabinets are in good shape, just sand them lightly to increase adhesion of the new poly. Then, you can layer on your product. It takes a while to dry, so make sure you remove your doors/drawers so they can lay flat. Work in quick, thin coats for the remaining cabinetry stuck to the wall to ensure a smooth and even finish. The more layers you add, the darker the color will be. Use a fine steel wool to smooth the finish between coats (after it dries). Then, use a tack-cloth (available at hardware stores) to remove any dust and residue.

Good Luck.


Nov 2, 2007
I you cook a great deal, I would advise against anything resembling white. You''ll regret it later. I think I''ll always have dark cabinets for that reason alone.
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