Sunday, October 19, 2014

How I Transformed My Kitchen Cabinets for Under $100!

Do you ever have that feeling with a certain area of your home that just irritates you? Every time you walk in and see you just think, "Oh if only I could change would look so much better in here!" I know I can, and for me that area was my kitchen cabinets. Now don't get me wrong, my whole kitchen could use a little updating from it's late 1980's look/appliances, but my biggest "house peeve" was my kitchen cabinets.

They were this golden oak color that took my kitchen in a time machine back to a time when maybe those were cool...cue early 90s, but not here in 2014. So being the feng-shui fan that I am, I knew I had to do something to get my kitchen from feeling "ugh" to feeling good. So I devised a plan. "New kitchen cabinets..." I told my husband..."That's just what we need!"

Some "before" shots of the cabinets.

"You realize those are pretty expensive right?" he replied.

"I know, I don't care. I will save up the money a little each month and eventually they will finally be gone!"

"Good luck," he said.

Now if you know me, you know I'm a pretty driven/determined girl, so I did my work. I set up a little account where I could automatically put away a little money each month to go towards my "cabinet fund" and in no time, I mean years, I could finally have enough saved to buy myself some nice modern cabinets.

But, truth be told, I got about a month into this savings plan, and had about $200 saved, and then I started to get antsy...I was bored with waiting and I felt so powerless, just sitting around. So I took to Pinterest to pin a few more pics of my dream cabinets, and that's when I found out about a product called, Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations where you refinish your kitchen cabinets in the stain of your choice all for around $80. I was intrigued. So I read more about it, looked at other blog posts, watched videos about it, and decided that it really didn't look too hard.  Time consuming= yes, but not that difficult. So since I had 3 weeks left of my summer vacation before I had to go back to my teaching job, I knew it was now or never, so I went for it.

To tell you a little more about the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit, it's a 4 part kit that allows you "transform" your current kitchen cabinets into they style/finish of your choosing. For me that mean going from my golden oak color to a dark espresso finish. The kit isn't too daunting to understand...
Step 1: Pre-wash the cabinets to remove the finish
Step 2: Base Coat
Step 3: Glaze Coat (optional, I skipped this one)
Step 4: Final Glaze coat

Now although this product doesn't claim to be green, here's some ways I think it is...
1. Decreases potential waste going to the landfill because you get to keep the current cabinets you already have.
2. Helps save energy and materials that would have been required to manufacture, transport, and install a whole new set of cabinets
2. Helps save you some green ($80 compared to $10,000+) that you could spend updating your appliances to Energy Star Certified appliances.

Don't get me wrong, I wish they were a few less chemicals in the products, but to make the drastic changes I did to my cabinets and not have to replace them makes it worth it to me. Hard core greenies, this may not be for you.

Once I was ready to get started I headed to Lowe's and purchased the kit. When we purchased our kit it cost $79 for the Small Kit.  They have a Large Kit for $149 as well.  Just like regular cans of paint you would buy, you take it to have your Base Coat tinted to match the finish you would like. I decided on the Espresso color, but there's a variety of colors included in the "Dark Kit". On the flip side, if you would like your cabinets to be lighter, there's even a "Light Kit" too.

What included with the kit...

From left to right: Decorative glaze cloths, Deglosser (Wood Cleaner), 2 cans
of Bond Coat (gives it the color), 1 can of Protective Top Coat, a DVD and
instruction booklet, 2 cans of Decorative Glaze, paint stir sticks, and 2 scrub pads.

Aside from what you need in the kit, they suggest some additional materials. Now you may already have some of these so you wouldn't need to purchase them, but for the sake of this project we went ahead and bought some new ones.

Here's the additional supplies we purchased...
From left to right: 2-2" foam brushes, 2-3" foam brushes, 1 pair of rubber gloves
 (to wear during the first and last step), Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit,
can of Rustoleum Metallic Spray Paint (for the hinges, more on that later),
1 roll of painter's tape, a sander (*we got it just in case, but we didn't need it),
2-2" synthetic angled brushes (for the base coat step), 2 scrubbing sponges
(used for the pre-wash step), a drill to remove all the hardware and cabinets,
and 2 drop cloths for all the cabinets to go on.

Then after letting all the supplies sit for a few days, I finally got up the courage to start this project...yikes!
Follow along as I share how I did this project, here's the video format:

No time to watch? Check out the steps in pictures...

Step 1: Take off the cabinets and hardware.

Brandon helped out with anything hardware/tool related,
thank goodness because that is not my cup of tea!
Step 2: Next we set up a space in our garage for all the cabinets to go so they could have space to be painted and room to try, not to mention stay in order.

We elevated the cabinets with these extra paint cups my creative mom had from a previous art project. But you could use Solo cups, or anything else that's stable and secure that could elevate the cabinets off the ground.

Here's a view of the cups under a cabinet, and the number/letter
that named where it would go when we put it back...very important!
Now before I really got into the nitty-gritty of this project I watched this video by Rustoleum (that you can find below), a lot to really show me what I needed to do for each step and how I needed to do it. It's a little hokey, but helpful to see just what I need to do and while I didn't follow every detail step-by-step, I used it as a guide.

Step 3: Clean the cabinets. So this is not a very fun part. No real action. No changing colors. Just cleaning. This where you use your own soap and scrubbing sponge to clean any extra dirt, food, and grease off your cabinets before you start with the project. Now based on some other blogs I've read about doing this process, I thought I really needed to clean all the cabinet really well. But truth be told, I spent way too much time on this step.

I cleaned every nook and cranny, front and back of all of our cabinets, and while it was helpful for those cabinets near the sink and stove top that were the dirtiest, it was overkill for the cabinets that were pretty clean because in the next step you clean them anyways. I stayed up pretty late one night cleaning all the cabinets and shelves to the point where my arm muscles were even sore from all the scrubbing, just to find out that I had to clean them all again with the next "official first step" called "Deglossing".

One important thing you do want to do is to take off the little felt stoppers (circles) on the corners of the cabinets that keep them from slamming, those will get in the way of all the steps if you don't remove them now.
I used a some diluted Dr. Bronner's castile soap and warm water to clean
the cabinets.
Step 4: Deglosser. This step is designed to remove the shine and previous finish on the cabinets so it is prepped and ready for the painting coat which comes next. Here's the steps to complete it...

Apply a generous amount of the deglosser solution to one of the scrubbing pads,
now scrub the cabinets, being sure to follow the "grain" of the wood, meaning
up and down in the middle, and side to side on the bottom sections. I also
made sure to get in all the cracks and crevices.
*Side note: Have a fan around and open a window or two, the smell of the Deglosser was a bit strong to me and I needed lots of ventilation for this step.*

Next I used a wet cloth napkin/towel to help remove the residue of the deglosser,
apparently you don't want any left on the cabinets or it will interfere with the
bond coat. 
So I would get the cloth wet, wipe down the cabinets, then get it
wet again and wipe them again in case I missed any of the solution.

Then I dried off the cabinets with a dry cloth napkin. Then it was time
to flip it over and do the other side! I repeated this for all cabinets
and also for all my cabinet frames...

...and for my drawers too (which took a new home on my dining room table
for a few days as you can tell). 
*Side note: According to the Rustoleum video linked above, you'll want to wait at least one hour after cleaning with the Deglosser to apply the Bond Coat. We had our project spaced out over a few days, so we just waited overnight.*

Step 4: Tape off the cabinets and walls. Painter's tape and I aren't exactly the best of friends (I always seem to leave too much space, or too little and then the paint seeps through), so Brandon helped tape off all the cabinet frames both where it met the wall, as well as inside the cabinets too (fun times right?).

Step 5: Apply the bond coat. For this step we broke out or 2" synthetic brushes and got to work painting the cabinets dark. This was my favorite step because you could literally see the cabinets start to change before your eyes!

We started with the cabinet frames inside...
Here I am rocking out a late night, bond coating step. We knew we wanted
do to this coat when our girls were asleep so they wouldn't walk by and touch

As noted by the instructions, you want to be sure and paint in nice even coats
that follow the grain of the wood. So on the cabinet frames here, we made sure
to do up and down strokes, but on the bottom portion of the cabinet frames we
went side to side. 

Here's a sneak peek of the finished product, but I wanted to bring your attention
to the inside of the cabinets, as you don't paint them. I wondered this when before
I started the project. 

Same goes for the inside of the drawers, those don't get painted either. 

Next up were the cabinets themselves outside in our garage...this is where my mom came in. She is one crafty lady and she really took on this portion of the project (thank you mom!).

As you can see Avery was very intrigued by what her Nana was working on
in the garage and had to be a part of it. Now just as with the cabinet frames
we painted inside, we made sure to go with the grain of the cabinets, and to be
sure and get all the little grooves and indentations. 

Sometimes she used a smaller paintbrush to get in the little corners.

Once one side dried, we applied a second coat, waited 2-3 hours, and then flipped
the cabinets over and painted the other side. This was by far the most time
consuming part (since the cabinets had two sides!).

Here was the inside coming along...I loved waking up to darker cabinets,
unfinished darker cabinets, but nonetheless, darker cabinets. These cabinet
frames got a second coat before they were done. Just FYI, you can wait
and do the second coat, 2-3 hours after you do the first coat.
We also did two coats on the drawers...don't forget about those!

Step 6: Apply the Final Coat. There is an additional step called "Applying the Decorative Glaze" but I skipped this step because I thought the cabinets would look nice, dark, and textured without it. Plus, I did not want to add an additional step at this point.

Back to the final step... this is the step that freaked me out the most because from what I read this step had the most potential to go wrong because you only want to go over each area one read that one time! Yikes. 

So after watching the Rustoleum video several times, I summoned up some courage and just went for it. I poured the glaze into a painting cup, broke out my synthetic brush and got to painting. 

The key is to start in one area and finish that area before moving onto the next
one. I made sure to go with the grain once again, and I had to be very cautious
if the glaze pooled in any locations as it would dry and harden like that.

Next my Mom started on the final coat of the cabinets outside. She found it
worked best to use the  foam brushes. 

Here she is going with the grain of the wood. Once we completed the back
side, we waited 12 hours and flipped them over to paint the front side.

Once again, Avery joined to assist...never mind all the skateboards
in the background (those aren't cabinet-related!).

A big thanks to my Mom! I couldn't have done this project without you!

She found the grooves on the front of the cabinet were a bit tricky because
you had to be careful to get enough coverage of the final coat, but
not too much that would cause it to pool. 
Once everything was finally dry, I couldn't bear to wait any longer, I started to pull off the painter's tape to see how it had turned out...

Keep reading to see the finished look!

Step 7: Paint the hardware. Now in our journey to update our kitchen, these old brass hinges just had to go, but in keeping my costs as low as possible, I decided to spray paint the hinges, thanks to this post from the blog: "Five in Tow" for the idea!

The old brass hinges.

Since they were old, we first cleaned them with this Krud Kutter spray and
a cloth napkin to get off the dust and grime.

Next it was time to paint. We used Rustoleum's Metallic Spray Paint.

So we set the hinges up on some spare wood we had and started spraying.
After spraying the first coat we waited an hour and then flipped them
over and did a second coat to the back side.

Here's the finsihed product, probably not as shiny and cute as new hinges,
but a heck of a lot cheaper...again, less trash going to the landfill!
Step 8: Install the hardware and cabinets. Then it was the moment we had been waiting for, it was time to install the hardware and cabinets to complete the project!

Screwing on the hinges.

Securing them back onto the cabinet frame.
Now in case you're wondering how the spray painted hinges are holding up, here's one small disclaimer, they do show a little wear. Not all the hinges have this, but those cabinets that I use daily, have worn away some of the paint, which reveals their lovely original brass color. In the future I may replace these with actual chrome/silver hinges, but for now, no one really notices except me.

With all that said, are you ready to see what it looked like when it was done? I know I was! Here's the finished product...

Hello new puppy JJ!

As you can tell I did a few other updates to the kitchen to better compliment
the new colors, such as this vase to sit among all of our hundreds of bananas!
I got some new hand towels from Target, and my mother-in-law
 helped us make new curtains out of this fabric I found/searched for
at JoAnn Fabrics (which I cannot find the link to at the moment).

Never mind my little photo bomb: Mila ( :

Talk about a difference! Granted it seems like it turned out a little darker then I had planned, but to be such a change from the oak color, is just fine with me.

Now since I was so fired up from finishing my kitchen, I started work on the other areas of my home that contained that same oaky-golden cabinets/wood: my bathrooms and entryway. Trust me, it's kind of addictive.  Here's some more "Before and After" shots of how it turned out!

Painting the cabinet in our half bath on the main floor. 

Half Bath, close up of the sink.

Half Bath from farther back.

The girl's bathroom was due for a FULL makeover if you know what I mean, and the cabinets were one of the main
pieces, as well a fresh coat of paint, a new shower curtain, and new decor.

Another shot of the girl's bathroom.

Next up was our our master bathroom, which as with my kitchen, needs a number of
upgrades but the cabinets were a great first place to start!

Last up was our entryway, which it wasn't until I finished up the kitchen cabinets that
I kept looking at the entryway wood and thinking, "That golden oak seems really out of
place now." So in one last hurrah my Mom and I tackled the stairs. 

Let's just say there was a lot of taping to do in this area, and it didn't help
that Mila followed along behind us pulling up the tape. ( : Silly girl!

So there you have it, my experience with the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations! In case you're wondering, I was able to do our kitchen as well as the 3 bathroom cabinets all with one of the "Small Kits". It wasn't until I started on the entryway that I had to open other second "Small Kit" box (which I got just in case) to finish this extra part of the project. 

I tried to explain the steps as well as I could in this post, but if you have any additional questions, be sure to post them and I'll answer them as best as I can.

Have you ever refinished your cabinets? How did it turn out? What did you do? Share below!

*Disclaimer: I purchased the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit with my OWN money and this is MY honest opinion of it.*


  1. Did you do the bottom of your upper cabinets? Or just the outside frame? Struggling with that as mine are all off the wall so I can’t visualize if you see them or not.


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