After redoing the kitchen in our first house, we were hoping that our new house would have an old kitchen.
Then, we could just gut it and start fresh. Plus, an old kitchen would save us some money on the asking price.
However, that was not the case with the house we bought. The house itself was amazing, but the kitchen had somewhat modern granite countertops with old, dated cabinets.
I spent so much time in the kitchen, from trying to get my one-year old to eat to upholding my title as family baker, and this kitchen begged for an aesthetic update.
DIY Kitchen Decisions
Currently, it had brown countertops, black appliances, oak cabinets with gold pulls, and there was red stone backsplash just behind the oven.
Even though brown granite would not have been our first choice, we didn’t want to gut the kitchen and waste the stone.
My thinking was to come up with a plan that worked around the granite.
I made some subtle changes first – I painted the walls a lighter color, which was the same color I had painted the open family room.This gave the downstairs a seamless feel and the lighter kitchen worked with the brown granite more than the tan did.
Ash also replaced the ’70s vinyl baseboard with freshly painted white wooden baseboard.
We had also planned to switch out our old black appliances with stainless steel ones. The oven and fridge didn’t keep their temperatures properly – Ash was constantly microwaving his ice cream because it was too frozen and my cookies were constantly burning even though the middles were cooked through.
We had been waiting for Black Friday to get the best deals, and we did pretty well!
Next, I had to make a decision about the cabinets. I wanted to gel stain them like I did with the bathroom vanity, yet I was nervous about it. It was a huge undertaking!
When I did the bathroom vanity, it was one cabinet.
This was 22 cabinets!
I came up with some other options, like staining just the frames and then replacing all the doors and drawer fronts; however, even those costs added up, and there was no guarantee that the colors would match.
I hemmed and hawed over it, until I saw the forecast for the upcoming weekend.
It was mid-November and the forecasters were calling for the 50s on Saturday and Sunday! Mild weather meant I could easily air out the kitchen from the gel stain.
I decided it was now, or let the kitchen continue to drive me crazy until Spring.
So, now it was 🙂
Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinets
I used the same General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain that I used for the bathroom vanity.
I needed about 3 quarts in total for both projects and 2 quarts of the General Finishes Polyurethane. (To read about how I used this gel stain on the bathroom vanity, including the tutorial and gel stain tips, click here.)
I did three coats total (plus a little touching up here and there); in hindsight, I wished I had done four.
My primary focus was getting the cabinet frames finished and the kitchen properly aired out.
My secondary focus was the doors and drawer fronts because I could do those in the garage in batches.
Preparing the Kitchen
We covered the appliances and the floor with plastic too.
Working on the Cabinet Frames
After two coats of stain, the cabinet frames were looking good!
As you can see, we ventilated the room really well, strategically placing the fans so the fumes could exhaust efficiently.
After three coats of stain, the cabinet frames were looking awesome! The dark brown was a big improvement.
I should also mention this was the point in the project where I wasn’t sure if I liked it.
It happens to me with every project. After I put in a lot of work, but I can’t yet see the final result, I start thinking, “Oh no, what did I start?!”
Rest assured, once the cabinet doors and drawers were back, the new appliances came, and the backsplash was installed, I knew all the hard work paid off.
Sidenote: On the left of the above photo, you can see the difference in the kitchen wall paint colors since I didn’t bother to paint above the countertops due to the upcoming backsplash. Therefore, you can see the old tan compared to the light ivory. The lighter color made the room appear bigger and was less matchy-matchy with the countertops. Sometimes when you try to match too much, the end result isn’t the best.
Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinet Doors and Drawers
After I was finished staining the kitchen cabinet frames, the instructions called for 5 days of dry time before the polyurethane.
During this time, I started on the doors and drawers out in the garage. The weather was still pretty mild, which was great for drying.
I worked on the doors and drawers in batches of six – which took me about 45 min per session.
As soon as I got the last coat of stain completely on one batch, I moved onto the next batch.
This way while one batch was amidst its drying cycle, I was able to keep the project moving forward.
The below structure is something Ash made so that I could stain both sides of the doors during the same session.
He used two sawhorses and two 2 x 6s to make this makeshift staining station, threading wire through the hinge holes to let them hang dry.
I did most of the staining with the doors flipped up on the wood, and then I got to the hard-to-reach places while it was hanging.
Updating Hardware and Hinges
Here’s Ash putting the doors back on with their new hardware and hinges.
He doesn’t look too thrilled, but trust me, he was!
We were over the moon to have a functional kitchen again.
Time & Cost of Gel Staining the Kitchen
From start to finish, our kitchen was down for about 6 weeks; however, it was functional after 8 days – there just weren’t any drawers or doors yet 🙂
Coincidentally, I decided to stop eating gluten around the time we undertook this project – so instead of ordering pizza night after night (which we definitely would have done otherwise), we saved a bunch of money chomping on fruits, veggies, and frozen meals that we made ahead of time.
As far as cost, we spent about $150 on the gel stain and polyurethane and about another $20 on foam brushes and chemical-resistant gloves.
The kitchen cabinet pulls worked out to be around $200, making the total cost just under $400.
Now, it was a big time commitment, but if you dislike your kitchen cabinets that much, it’s 100% worth it!
Here is an after picture – with the refaced cabinets, new appliances, and the tile backsplash Ash did right after we put the cabinet doors and drawers back.
Here is another look at before and after and the difference that gel staining kitchen cabinets made.
We also replaced the gold chandelier with this modern one from Overstock.
While our kitchen looked 10 years younger, it was far from complete. Next on the list was:
- Painting the window trim
- Updated lighting
- Six panel door for the pantry
- Updated pantry – more space!
- Crown molding on top of the cabinets
- Finish converting desk area to cabinet
- Replace baseboard on cabinet base
Look for future posts regarding the rest of the list! Thanks for reading!