Re-Finish Cabinet Doors & Drawer Fronts; Paint Rest?

The cabinet doors and drawer fronts are wood that, when stripped of the finish previously on it, looks ripe for a nice re-finishing job, showing the grain.
The cabinet sides appear to be a veneer, maybe stick-on, on top of particle board.
Maker is Aristokraft. Everything seems mechanically in good repair. I do not think these cabinets are the cheapest grade Aristokraft makes but I imagine they are not the top grade either.
Plan A: Has anyone just re-finished the doors and drawer fronts and then painted the cabinet sides a closely matching color? "Closely matching" may be the tricky part.
I do not want it to look too busy.
Plan B: Paint the cabinet doors, drawer fronts and cabinet sides all the same color.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

In all probability, the cabinet sides are melamine board. Melamine is a plastic and is applied to the particle board by the manufacturer. It can be black, white, almond, other colors and a phony wood look too. Being plastic, you will need a paint specifically FOR plastic.
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On 05/30/2015 07:36 PM, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Yup, about 8 years ago I used spray lacquer to refurbish about a half dozen bathroom cabinets. They still look great today.
Matching paint color is easy. Just take your color sample to a real paint store (not McLowesDepotMart) and they'll custom mix color and put in an aerosol can.
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On Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 7:36:32 PM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I guess it depends on how noticeable the cabinet sides are, which depends on what we can't see. If the sides are almost unseen, then maybe you can get away with A. But in the typical install you see plenty of the sides. An example would be over the sink, where you're going to see the sides and the fronts up close, in your face. So, I don't think refinishing the fronts and then trying to use paint on the sides is going to work. I'd probably go with spray painting the whole thing. (I assume here by refinishing, you mean to stain the fronts. Another option might be gel coat stain, which is like a cross between paint and stain.)
Another option, there are plenty of companies always advertising that they do cabinet refinishing jobs. You could get a quote from one, might also learn some things about what they do, what can, can't be done, etc.
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That's a hard question to answer without looking at the actual cabinets. The type of wood? The quality of the grain? If it's oak with good grain and you can do a good refinishing job, that might look good. You could then paint the boxes a dark, solid color for accent. Maybe cranberry, forest green, or deep blue. You can also buy hardwood veneer with paper backing to put on with contact cement. (One caveat with that, though: It can sometimes buckle in heat.)
Another thing you didn't mention: Are the doors flush or panel? If flush they're probably wood veneer plywood. It would make the most sense, in that case, to just replace them.
To be worth refinishing assumes solid wood and that you do a very good refinishing job. Even with flat surfaces that's hard to do. It also assumes good grain, which is rare in mass market cabinets. When maple was the fad, Home Depot used to sell do-it-yourself cabinets. I'd have to pick through the doors and drawer fronts because some would have green or even burnt wood in them. And all were made up of poorly matched scraps. They get away with that because most people just aren't very discerning about grain quality. But it still shows in the final product, even if people can't put their finger on why they think it doesn't look so hot. (On the other hand, the self-assemble HD cabinets were very cheap compared to pre-made, and the same quality in general, so they were great for budget jobs.) With newer styles like the dark "mahogany-esque" finish that's currently popular, the wood underneath is obscured by the stain, so it's unlikely to be any good. Probably something like low grade beech or maple. If you can't see the grain well, assume it's no good.
Another issue is type of grain. Oak is open grain, which will show up through paint. Maple will paint better, but the wood is less likely to be worth saving. There are pros and cons with each wood.
Then there's the finish. In most cases that will be some kind of plastic factory finish. It may or may not strip easily. If you don't also strip any face frame then the paint may not stick very well.
Another possibility is that the wood grain might actually, itself, be plastic. I was on a job recently in a very "exclusive" condo complex in Boston. The customer wanted me to remove mirrors that the former owner had stuck to the kitchen cabinets, which were allegedly something like rosewood. (I don't remember the actual wood type.) The cabinets were from Poggenpohl, a company that's managed to market itself as high end. Their store is on the fashion street in Boston -- Newbury St. But the cabinet doors were low-density particle board with plastic veneer. Very tacky. The customer just assumed they were high-grade wood because the condo cost a fortune and the cabinets were bought from a fancy looking "concept" store. Last I saw, the mirrors were still there. There's no way to fix junk cabinets like that. Like Ikea furniture or Scandinavian Design before them, there's really nothing of value in the product, so there's nothing to repair or refinish later. They're just junk particle board with plastic or junk-wood veneers.
If you're uncertain about the doors and they have European hinges, you can remove one of those to see the core.
Without seeing your cabinets and without knowing what level of quality you're going for, I'd suggest sticking with paint for the whole thing if you want a budget job. If you want it nice, and the boxes are "European" style with no face-frame, I'd suggest ordering new doors and draw-face slabs from someplace that will make them to order. Then you'll have basically new cabinets with good wood grain.
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Thank you for sharing your experiences, dadiOh, Joe, Trader_4 and mayana.
They're maple but with "flat veneer center panels" per the spec guide for Aristokraft. Here is more info: http://www.aristokraft.com/products/landen?prod =
The "Autumn" finish is what I have.
The cabinet sides do look like melamine. Also yes they are quite visible. Whatever I do to the sides needs to pass muster.
The cabinet doors all have these odd holes drilled in them, one per door, at an angle, about 1/8" diameter. It occurs to me that maybe this was done to prove that they are solid wood. The sides are provably particle board.
I did strip down the finish on four small drawer fronts. I cannot tell the wood type. Stripping was not too awful, and I have the summer off to mess with this.
If the cabinet doors have center panels that are veneer, I am thinking they are not going to strip anything like the drawer fronts, right? I am stuck with either re-veneering them or painting them, right?
I appreciate the tips about the gel coat; matching paint using a real paint store; contact paper; how even expensive homes end up with cheap cabinets; and all else.
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| I did strip down the finish on four small drawer fronts. I cannot tell the wood type. Stripping was not too awful, and I have the summer off to mess with this. |
Then maybe that's your answer: They can be stripped and you'd kinda like to do it. :)
| If the cabinet doors have center panels that are veneer, I am thinking they are not going to strip anything like the drawer fronts, right? I am stuck with either re-veneering them or painting them, right?
They may clean up fine. If it's flat like Shaker style it's probably 1/4" plywood. That could be stripped or replaced, if you want to get into a bit of woodworking.
The sides could be melamine, but with wood finish it's probably printed paper veneer. You have 3 options: Paint them, glue veneer over them, or attach a panel of 1/4" maple plywood to them. (The latter is a fairly good option if there's a face frame in front that overlaps a bit.)
For veneer, see the "peel and stick" category here:
http://boulterplywood.com/products_pliableveneer_4.htm
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A little while ago I tried the Crown Liquid Multi-Stripper on a large cabinet door center panel. It worked well, as you suggested it might. The wood underneath is fine for my purposes.
Thanks for the link with all the stick and peels; great selection (and I have already been looking around lots). I am going to get the cabinets stripped over the next couple of weeks and then decide what approach to take. :)
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On Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 5:05:31 PM UTC-6, Mayayana wrote:

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Thank you mayayana. I stripped one of the big cabinet doors easily the othe r day. As you suggested, they are cleaning up fine. I started with Formby's gel stripper, outdoors of course, but feel it's less effective than the Cr own "Handi-Strip" liquid stripper with which I did the drawer fronts. Using 60 grit sand paper, followed by 80, then 100. Elbow grease is not too dema nding. I do a final cleaning with acetone. I appreciate the link to the sti ck and peel. This is the best selection I have seen yet. Coloring of the st ripped wood is kinda uneven, but I have not yet ruled out staining. Leaning towards painting at the moment, with attention to the challenge of paintin g plastic. All goes well. Much obliged again.
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Thank you mayayana. I stripped one of the big cabinet doors easily the other day. As you suggested, they are cleaning up fine.

You're welcome, but I'm not sure I'm the one who said they'll clean up fine. :) In most things I avoid stripping, unless it's just belt-sanding polyurethane off of a flat surface.

Yikes. I would have used 120. I hope it doesn't leave grooves.

I live close enough to them that I buy all of my hardwood plywood for cabinets, and most of the hardwood and poplar stock I use, from them. They also cut plywood to order and ship anywhere.

It's rare that stripped finish will yield a surface clean enough to not need stain in order to even out the color, especially if the surface is not entirely flat. But you can also use a thin stain, like Minwax something mixed with paint thinner. Generally the oil-base stains will look better but carry more risk of being splotchy due to differences in how it soaks in. (Grain and sanding can both create areas that soak up the stain very differently.) The water-base is more foolproof, but since it doesn't soak in it tends to look like a coat of thin paint.
Something like Minwax cherry mixed with golden oak might give you a color in the neighborhood of what you've got. (Assuming you want a real-looking wood tone. Maybe you don't.) Watch out for the Minwax colonial maple stain. It used to be a good match for old maple furniture coated with shellac. Then they changed it to a completely different color without changing the name! Now it's a garish orange-red color.
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On Saturday, June 6, 2015 at 11:02:19 AM UTC-6, Mayayana wrote:

Indeed the cabinet doors are a bit scratched up here and there from the 60. I will work on the cabinet doors a bit more with 80 then 100 or 120 before staining or painting.

I am looking at some pickling stains at the moment. I understand these are thinned down paint. I plan to experiment on tiny areas with a few sample cans of whatever I buy. All other points noted. :)
Thank you!
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