Monica Wants It: A Lifestyle Blog: Staining Oak Cabinets an Espresso Color {DIY Tutorial}

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Staining Oak Cabinets an Espresso Color {DIY Tutorial}

Ok. The moment you’ve all been waiting for… or the moment the 3 of you who have asked me about this specific tutorial this week have been waiting for.

Here we go.

Transforming builder grade honey oak cabinets into sultry, dark espresso cabinets is easy. It’s messy though. I’m going to walk you through it step by step as much as I can in this tutorial. I hope you’ll find it easy, non-intimidating and then recommend my blog to all your friends so my blog can grow and grow. Since I do this all for free out of the goodness of my little heart.

No pressure.

Tell your friends. Smile

No really. Did you?

Alright, let’s do this. You need some supplies first. They’re not pricey, but you do need all of them. If there’s an appropriate alternative, I’ll list it. Otherwise, plan to get exactly what I list to get the same results I did.

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Supplies:

-Sanding block (I bought an angled one for about $4 from my local hardware store. The angled sanding block helps when if you have beveled cabinets/doors/drawers.

-Lysol dual action wipes (or a sponge with soap/water)

-Gloves

-Masking tape AND painter’s tape (you could just use painter’s tape, I use masking tape because it’s cheap at Dollar Tree…so in other words, painter’s tape is expensive, so I only use it when I absolutely have to)

-General Finishes Java Gel Stain (YOU CANNOT SUBSTITUTE THIS! I had a ton of trouble finding it locally, so I bought it on Amazon and had it to my door in about 4 days.) If you’re doing a small vanity, order the 1/2 pint. If you’re doing a whole kitchen, order the quart. I ordered the quart since I am doing a vanity + a whole kitchen. A little of this goes a LONG way.

-General Finishes Satin Poly/topcoat or any other satin polycoat will do.

-Ziploc baggy to keep track of all the hardware + screws + hinges.

-Screwdriver to take off hardware/hinges.

-Tack cloth

-Men’s sock (yes, it has to be a men’s sock…more on this later)

-Gauze/rag/cheesecloth

-Foam brush (not pictured)

-Postal wrapping paper or drop cloths or tarp to protect floors. I bought the postal wrapping paper at Dollar Tree and it was so easy to cover up my floor.\

-Painters pyramids to use on cabinet doors so you can paint both sides at once

Total cost for all of the materials should be between $50-$100ish.

UPDATE: Due to insane amounts of traffic from Pinterest, there’s now a FAQ post about this very tutorial below. You can read it here.

Here’s what my vanity looked like before I got started.

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Step 1: Remove all hardware and put it in a ziploc baggy.

Simple enough.

Step 2: Prep your area.

This is probably the least fun step, but you must protect your floors, counters, walls, tiles, or any area that may get stain on it. And trust me, this stuff is oil based,  so it stains easily and quickly. Makes it great for cabinets, not great for anything else. Prep now to avoid lots of messy clean-up later. I used painters tape for walls/counters/inside of cabinets and I used masking tape to tape my paper down onto the floor.

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Step 3: Clean all cabinet frames/drawers/doors and remove them.

I used the Lysol dual action wipes because one side is scrubby and the other side is smooth. Basically you want to make sure to get any grime, dust, gooey stuff, dirt, etc. off the cabinets. Now, my vanity is obviously in a bathroom, so this step was quick and easy. If you’re prepping kitchen cabinets, you’ll like need to use a sponge and soapy water to get off years of grease and gunk. Once you’re done cleaning, make sure they’re dry and go ahead and remove all the drawers and doors. I stained my drawers/doors in the garage, so I moved all of that over there.

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Step 4: Lightly sand cabinets and remove dust with a tack cloth.

You should not spend a ton of time sanding. I would say 1 minute per door and 30 seconds per drawer. You’re just wanting to break up some of the shine on cabinets, not completely strip them. I used an angled sanding block with a fine (not medium or coarse) finish to get in the bevels. Once you sand, make sure to thoroughly wipe off all dust with a tack cloth. Do this twice.

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Step 5: Stain. Dry. Stain. Dry. Stain. Dry. Dry. Dry. Poly. Dry. Poly. Dry. Dry. Dry.

This step doesn’t have many pictures because I had to use one hand to stain and another to make sure I wasn’t getting gel stain all over the place…but bear with me.

You’ll put on a vinyl glove. I put it on my right hand since I am right handed. Then put your men’s sock over it. Why does it have to be a men’s sock? Well, generally men’s socks are white and tend to be LONG,  so it’ll protect your entire forearm from gel stain. The glove is meant to protect your hands from being stained an espresso color. You’ll leave your other hand free to wipe off any globs or stain that you might get in places you don’t want them.

I’ve read reports where people used a foam brush to apply the stain, but I prefer the sock method. It results in even, precise, brush stroke free application. And socks are easy to find. I now get excited when I have an orphan sock. Now, I did use the foam brush to get in tight places like near the counters or in beveled corners, but for 90% of the time I used the sock method.

Now, how much stain to use? I used about 1 tbsp per drawer and 1.5-2 tbsp per door. These aren’t exact figures, so don’t go whip out your measuring spoons, but my point is use a slightly generous amount, but do not go overboard. Also, unlike other staining methods, do not wipe it off. You want to put on a nice, thin coat. Make sure the stain doesn’t glob up on/in corners, that’s when cheesecloth/gauze is handy. Then you let coat 1 dry for 12 hours. Then you put the 2nd coat. Let it dry for 24 hours. Then put the last/third coat and let it dry for 5 days and then seal it with 2 coats of gel poly. Drying time is so important, do not rush this step or you will end up having to put on a billion coats of stain and it will not be good. Light, thin coats + ample drying time + topcoat= fantastic results.

Your first coat may result in panic… Go have a shot of tequila and keep the faith. It will look streaky and odd and ugly.

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Another shot of how ugly coat 1 looks.

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After 3 coats of stain + 2 coats of poly + lots of drying time, you can put on your hardware again. And you’re done! Ta-dah!

My bathroom is super narrow, so it’s hard to get a straight on pic/shot of the drawers, so here are a few…

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DSC_0938

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Now, you’ll notice the doors aren’t back on yet, and that’s because I’ve only done 1 side and need to do the other. For now, this is all I got. I’ll update with a lovely photo once I have it all done. Promise.

Some quick tips:

-Don’t over think this project. It is quite easy.

-Please use General Finishes gel stain and poly. You won’t regret it.

-On cabinet doors, plan on doing the front and backs. I bought some painters pyramids to prop up my doors so I can knock out both sides at one time. These are $4/10 at Home Depot. I bought 2 packs so I could have a multiple of 4. Each door will need 4 pyramids to be stable.

-Light coats=success

-Drying time=the longer the better

-Each drawer should take about 1-2 minutes a coat. Each door should take 3-4 minutes. Do not over apply or over wipe. Check for globs when you’re done and smooth out with pinky finger.

-Socks rock for applying stain. Socks for applying poly. Simply wipe it on.

-If you’re intimated by this project, try it on the back of a cabinet door first or buy a spare cabinet door at REStore or Goodwill.

-This method does not work on bare wood.

-Touch up any streaks in the finish BEFORE applying the poly.

-You can do this! If you have a large kitchen, break it up into manageable chunks over a few weekends.

-Parts of my vanity were laminate and not wood. Treat it as if it was wood. It’ll all work out in the end.

I hope you all found this tutorial to be useful in trying to DIY your way from honey oak cabinets into a stunning espresso finish. Please leave me any adoring comments or questions below, or you can always tweet at me (@monicabenavidez) or e-mail me at monicawantsit{@}gmail.com

And for funsies! Before & After:

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photo (2)

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I love it…now onto my large kitchen.

The work never ends.

UPDATE: Due to insane amounts of traffic from Pinterest, there’s now a FAQ post about this very tutorial below. You can read it here.

441 comments:

  1. That looks great! My cabinets are already a dark color, but this is great to know just in case! Oh... and to tell all my friends. ;)

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  2. Looks great! I wonder if I could use the same steps but finish with paint. Would it be different? I think you've done some refinishing with paint too right?

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  3. Good Lord, woman! The planet's have guided me to you! I have a lovely home, but it was built 30 years ago and there is so so so much honey oak cabinetry. I'm getting ready to rip out the mauve-ish formica, strip the Southwest-y wallpaper and put in new sinks. I have spent many a sleepless night wondering just how hard it would be to stain my cabinets espresso. BTW both bathrooms also have the honey oak. As do the doors to all rooms, and the trim. It's a large house. Maybe I'll start with a bathroom and spend the next year on the project.

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  4. It looks amazing, Monica, you did a fabulous job! I did this in my kitchen and it has held up nicely, except in a couple of spots around the cabinet knobs that get a lot of use. For that reason I recommend buying some extra stain to have on hand over the years. I can no longer find the color of stain I used so I now I don't have any for touch-ups:( And I agree, drying/cure time is key!

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  5. So glad I found this today. I just started this project last night. I want to do my kitchen but decided to do a bathroom first. I am at the scary end of coat 1 Holy crap what have I done step. Glad to know the streaks and uneven-ness are part of the process. Whew! Thanks again!!

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  6. I just found your tutorial and it's exactly what I'm looking for! I'm sure this is an older post, so perhaps you can answer a question for me--how hardy are these. I run a crazy house with 3 little munchkins and I'm looking for something hardy--can these cabinets take a good hardy scrubbing, often? Can they hold up against a little girl who loves to put stickers on everything? And how easy is it to touch up spots when the boys take tools to the sides? Any experience with such mishaps?
    Thanks!

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  7. Hi Mike & Mindy,

    I don't have kiddos, but I would say that if you need it to hold up really well, I'd definitely spend a lot of time/energy on the poly topcoat to seal it in. In a bathroom, I'd say 2-3 coats and in a kitchen, I'd say 4. The topcoat will be key to having a fab finish that is durable. Hope that helps!

    -Monica

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  8. And re: touch-ups...it should be easy to do with a sponge brush should any finish be marred/damaged. That's the beauty of this method- it's easy to maintain should they get messed up at some point. :)

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  9. love the finish and am looking forward to seeing the whole cabinet redone..
    maureen

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  10. LOVE THIS!!!! I HATE oak, and the home we just bought has nasty honey oak everywhere! I was thinking about painting white in our kitchen, but with your blog, I may just go dark! It looks lovely! Thanks for posting this at all, and an extra thanks for all the tips! :)

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  11. I am sooo glad I stumbled on your blog (pinterest)! Your tutorial is just what I was needing! my husband and I are in love with deep dark cabinets and the house that we put an offer on has the nasty oak cabinets. Thank you for the step by step and price list! So inspiring and incredibly worth it!

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  12. So excited I found this! Pinterest *rocks*!! I hate my kitchen cabinets and I'm totally going to do this. I have black appliances, so I won't go so dark, but dark brown, for sure. Thank you Thank you Thank you!! *:D*

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  13. Is the java gel stain that you used the antique walnut color? I just want to make sure before we try it this weekend. Thanks! Ballroomqueen@hotmail.com

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  14. Can I ask what method you used to apply the poly top coat? Brush, cloth or sock? Thanks!

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  15. I used the JAVA gel stain and I used a men's sock for everything- no paintbrush strokes for me...they drive me nuts.

    Happy staining!

    -Monica

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  16. This is beautiful and i wish i would have found your blog last summer! After refinishing 2 of our bathrooms with honey oak cabinets, and unsussessful with the espresso stain color i was hoping for, i wimped out and painted our kitchen cabinets an espresso shade. I like the results, but your method is stunning. I just may give the bathrooms another shot.

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  17. So glad I found your project on Pinterest! I needed to turn a rustic natural colored pine sleigh bed into a dark cherry colored bed to match some dressers we already had. Low and behold this gel stain works wonders on already-finished furniture too! Oh yeah, and I'll be going back for the java color next weekend to start swapping out my orangish gold colored kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Thanks for the tips!!

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  18. OMG, this is so much easier than the using paint and not to mention prettier! Thanks so much for the tutorial, I'm going to follow your footsteps and start with my bathrooms then tackle my kitchen.

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  19. Project Java Gel Stain Bathroom Vanity: Success I found it locally here in Sandy Utah at Woodcraft only place that carries it! First coat on and I am seriously giddy about how much better it looks already! The drawers super easy, used a tiny paint brush to get in to the corners/edges of the doors where my sock paw couldnt. The sock technique IS brillant! I HATE brush strokes too. I find myself walking around my house finding all things needing a shot of java expresso, thinking 'bout my blonde oak fugly barstools! Thank you SO much for the wonderful tutorial! Going to tackle the second coat now :)

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  20. Thanks so much for the great tutorial!

    Quick question.... I'm a bit sensitive to strong odors. How bad are these (the stain and the topcoat)? I'm trying to gauge if I should dive in & have a major supply of migraine medication on hand or if by any chance the might be "low odor" (which I know is unlikely).

    Thanks again... great tutorial!

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  21. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. My 'test drawer' is drying as I type!! Oh happy day to see my oak cabinets gone!!

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  22. I LOVE this! We are in the middle of the 5 day drying process of the 3rd coat in the master bathroom and we are loving it. How long do we wait in between each of the top coats? I'll probably do quite a few coats since I have 3 little kids running around the house. Thanks SO much for your detailed tutorial. It saved us a ton of time and money...now onto the kitchen!

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  23. Thank you SO much!! We just purchased a house that has all oak cabinets!! I hate it and I'm coming from a house with dark woodwork so it was killing me. I just happened upon your post via pinterest, showed it to hubby, and now as soon as we are in, we are doing this.

    Do you think this would work on woodwork trim as well?? Ha! Can you tell I hate light oak?

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  24. I linked back from my project to yours! Thanks for a great tutorial, and a much-appreciated introduction to a fabulous product! http://redhenhome.blogspot.com/2012/04/zacks-room-oak-to-espresso.html

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  25. Found you through Red Hen Home, oh how I wish I would have found you sooner (long story) anyway,mthanks so much for the awesome tutorial.

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  26. We're looking into buying our first home and this has me MUCH more relaxed about probably having to move into a house with light wood! Thank you!

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  27. Monica, I already emailed you a thank you, but to let everyone else know. I've started doing this and it ROCKS!! It couldn't be easier. I had found celticmoon's tutorial before and had tried it and I never truly READ the tutorial but read the back of the can. I thought to myself "OHHH I can do this!!" not so fast missy!!.. do NOT wipe the stain off!! that's the clincher to this. Its inherent to want to WIPE the extra stain of to 'stain' the cabinets. Do NOT wipe the stain off. Once I READ Monica's tutorial and really adhered to it, my problems were solved and now I can't wait to turn my entire honey oak house into gorgeous espresso. Thank you so much!!

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  28. please help me out!! What do you do if the wood has scratches? Do you have to fill it or does the gel fill it too? I want to stain my coffee table like this.. please help me!

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    1. Hi! I replied to your question on my FB page! Hope that helps. :)

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  29. Deep breath....and...go. I'm starting this tomorrow on my home. EEEK!!! 5 days drying time! If you say so, I will do it! How long do I go inbetween poly coats?

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    1. Hi Sarah! I waited 24 hrs between poly coats since they're fairly thin coats. Good luck, you can do it!

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  30. I love this! One question though. I want to do this but have the fake wood panelling on the side of mine. Did you just put the stain on the panel? Or is your real wood? Can it be done on fake wood? Thanks!!

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  31. Hi J&J,

    "Parts of my vanity were laminate and not wood. Treat it as if it was wood. It’ll all work out in the end."

    Thanks!

    -Monica

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  32. Great tutorial! I may give this a go in my bathroom and see how it turns out.

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  33. I have all but clicked "check out" on Amazon to buy everything I need, but before I do, do you remember what grit you used for the sanding block? I don't want to use one that is too coarse/fine. I will be doing this ASAP! LOVE it!

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  34. @Nancy- I used a fine grit sanding block. Coarse will strip the varnish, medium will cause lots of scratches, so I went with fine grit. Hope that helps! :)

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  35. This is awesome. I was just about to paint my cabinets in espresso but now I'm going with your method. Question: which top coat did you use and is it a satin finish? It sounded like the same brand as stain but I wasn't sure. And if there are different ones like satin or gloss finish. Thank you, you are so my people. I am a big DIY'er and watch these shows all the time. Have put in laminate floor and back splash all by myself. :)

    Pam

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  36. Monica- I am looking to redo a whole kitchen and two bath vanities...do I need 2 quarts of stain + 2 quarts of the clear topcoat?

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  37. Love, love, love the cabinet! What a great job you did! I know now I can do it since you made it look so easy. Thank you for your written tutorial and pics....:)

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  38. Gorgeous! Thank you for the step by step instructions. Our kitchen cabinets are so UGLY so I think I can do this. Definitely pinning.

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  39. I can't wait to do this! The stain arrived today and I bought all the supplies. I do have two questions

    1 did you use that bathroom (ie the shower) as you were doing this?
    2. Did you rescues the same sock for each coat or did you use a new sock each time?

    Thanks!!

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  40. Nice job!! I've been wanting to re-finish my kitchen cabinets for about 4 years now..and still have yet to do them! Your blog gives me hope. Do you think a different "color" stain would work? I'm not sure I want to do a java stain. It may be too dark for my kitchen.

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  41. Just bought all the supplies! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I can't wait to try this. Thanks for taking the time to post this!

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  42. I just received my stain from Amazon and am excited to start staining!! Thank you so much for your tutorial and q&a!!! You have inspired me to do 2 dressers!!!

    Lisa K

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  43. What if your cabinets aren't REAL wood - think this technique would still work? I have been wanting to darken up my oak-colored cabinets since we moved into our house 5 year ago!!! I would LOVE to try this!!!!!! Thanks for all your help!

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  44. Looks great! You are going to be giddy when your kitchen is completed...well worth your efforts I'm sure. Thanks for sharing
    Maureen

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  45. As the kids say today OMG girl! I love your project & the results are Stunning! Thank you from the bottom of my essentially Scottish heart!! I can do this!! I'm jumping up & down inside with excitement!!

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  46. I found your blog via pintrest! I am in LOVE and can't wait to try this with my own cabinets. Just a quick question Where did you get the new hardware from? I'm loving those drawer pulls!

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  47. @Lauren, the pulls are from eBay. Just search for "chrome bin pulls". Usually they're about $2-$3 each. :)

    Thanks everyone for the awesome, sweet comments! :)

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  48. Wow! These look awesome. And thanks for the detailed tutorial. I'm moving to a new place in a little over a month *yay* and something definitely needs to be done to the kitchen cabinets! You can bet I'll be referring back to your tutorial :) Found you on pinterest - and I'm a new follower. I'm off to stalk you blog now and see what I've been missing :)

    Brie @ Breezy Pink Daisies

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  49. Thanks for the step by step tutorial. I am going to give this a shot this weekend.

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  50. THANK YOU for this tutorial! My house is on the market with lots of maple cabinetry and no contrasting counters or floors. If it doesn't sell soon, I'm going to try this before re-listing in the spring. Fingers crossed!

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  51. You did a good job here! Thank you for this tutorial, Perfect timeing to redo my bathroom this coming holiday!

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  52. Amazing! I am looking at buying a house but I hate all the oak cabinets. Thank you for posting this!!

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  53. Wow, this looks awesome! We have white cabinets now, but I'll keep this in mind if our future home(s) have a wood tone I don't like. I *HATE* sanding, so this may be the perfect project for me.

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  54. I just found this on Pinterest, it elevated my guest bath to the top of my priority list. I am SO excited to try this - thank you!!

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  55. Excited I found your tutorial on pinterest! Was planning on painting bathroom cabinets but going to use your method now!

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  56. I just ordered the General Finishes stain and topcoat so I can do this in my bathroom! Way cheaper than buying a whole new vanity!

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  57. That looks amazing!! I can't wait to try it out on my cabinets. Thanks for the tutorial!

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  58. I have oak cabinets but they are not builders grade. They are real wood and some of the stain/gloss finish has worn off. Do you think this method would work for me?

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  59. Thanks for making the time to post this. Probably took almost as much time as the project itself. I found this via pinterest. I hope to try this soon! It will be added to the "to-do" list.

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  60. Love your cabinets!! Dear Hubby and I are in the process of home-building/buying. Your tutorial is going to be very handy. So .. Thank you!!

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  61. Great tutorial, and beautiful job on the cabinets!

    Can you explain why you're so married to this particular brand of stain and poly? I would like to try this, but I live in Canada and I've never seen this brand, and Amazon won't ship it here. Is it because it's a gel?

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  62. Your voice is so real! Thank you! I plan to try your tips this Summer in my kitchen. (shiver) I hope I'll have gorgeous photos to share! Thank you! (P.S. Found you from Pinterest)

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  63. Oh I'm so glad I found this! Had a disaster of a time staining a table using water-based minwax. Was about to give up and just paint over it all, but Im ready to try using this gel stain!
    Wonderful tutorial, thank you!

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  64. Hi :) wow your bathroom came out beautiful. so glad i found your blog. I went out and bought the supplies last night. I can't wait to start this. thank you so much for your step by step directions. your awesome.

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  65. I found this on Pinterest. We are in the process of buying a new (to us) house, and I plan on doing this in the bathrooms. Thanks so much! I will try to remember to comment again after I am done. Your cabinet looks really good! Thank you so much for this. :)
    Vanessa

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  66. I just pinned this to Pinterest because you did such a great job! Perfect explanations and wonderful pics. Thanks again for the inspiration!!

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  67. Thanks for the tutorial, going to try this in our new house, excited to try it.

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  68. Love this! Now I want to restain every cabinet in my house...

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  69. LOVE IT!!

    Getting ready to redo our bathroom and this is a perfect idea.

    Tutorial was great and easy to follow. Thank you so much!

    So excited, can't wait to get started!!

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  70. I'm so excited to try this! I was so excited I actually got ahead of myself. Took all the cabinet off and the drawers out BEFORE I got the stain. I was thinking I'd have all that done and then go to the hardware store and get the stain. Ummm bad idea. I couldn't find it anywhere so then I went to Amazon and they were even out of the poly coat. I ended up ordering from www.woodcraft.com, but it could take up to 10 days to get to me. So until then I'm living in disarray in my bathroom. In my defense this is my first DIY home project so I completely let my excitement cloud my judgement. My first lesson learned is to "make sure you have all of your supplies BEFORE you start taking things apart!" lol. Oh and I also forgot to take my "before" pic before I took all the cabinets and drawers out. haha! I'm on a roll. This could end up being disastrous, but I figure it's better to try to salvage something first before just ripping it out and buying new things. Thanks for the great tutorial. Here's to hoping I can pull it off.

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  71. I am so excited to try this! I have wanted to attempt gel staining my cabinets but have been too intimidated. Thanks for these very clear & easy instructions!

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  72. Found you from Pinterest and have bookmarked your blog for future! Thank you so much for your detailed post. We close on our new house this Friday and I've been dying to find a tutorial as clear as yours!

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  73. I just found you on Pinterest, too! This project ROCKS! I will do this in master bath... At least. Thanks!!

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  74. Saw your before and after pics on Pinterest and was super excited to find your tutorial. All my cabinets are the light oak, and I really, really want a change. This is the perfect option since my hubby doesn't want them painted! I'm hoping he likes this idea as much as I do!!

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  75. This looks cool! I have stripped furniture before and said never again! I have a project in mind now....

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  76. I love this! I'm so making this part of my summer bathroom project! Thanks!!!

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  77. thanks for the inspiration! gonna try this method on an old/ugly furniture piece!
    keep blogging!!!

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  78. Thank you, Thank You, Thank you!!!! People like me NEED people like you. Can't wait to try this:)

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  79. I popped over here from Pinterest. Thanks for such a great tutorial! I'm excited to tackle this project. I've sent my sister the link because she wants to do this too.

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  80. Looks fabulous! I will gave to add this to my to do list!
    Kindest regards,
    Jennifer

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  81. Hey There! I found this on Pinterest and I am in LOVE with this! Can't wait to try it on my bathroom, then maybe my kitchen! -- I have a small kitchen though, I'm worried the dark stain would make it seem smaller :/ We'll see! I am a new follower and can't wait to see what else you have in store! Also, I am pinning this as well!
    Thanks!

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  82. here via pinterest and trying to get up the nerve to attempt this in my kitchen. thanks for the tutorial!

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  83. I love the look of your cabinets! Just one question, is the name of the stain "espresso" because when I hit the amazon link, the can that came up was "antique walnut"?

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  84. I love this! I can't wait to try it in my bathroom. Hopefully my kitchen too! Thanks so much for the tutorial.

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  85. Thanks for the great tutorial. I hope to do this in my bathrooms soon. I will link back when I do!

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  86. I love this!! I have a honey oak end table in my living room (hand-me-down from my hubby's grandparents), and we love the end table, it just does not go with my color scheme-- I am so going to do this!!

    Also-- how do you think this would work on all laminate kitchen cupboards??

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  87. I am in the middle of an overhaul of my house. I have wood laminate floors everywhere that were once a beautiful color and now are so dated. I just tore out some of the laminate in the master bath floor and I'm going to experiment with this to see what would happen if I took on the floors. By working on some that is already in the garbage heap I can test the possibilities. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  88. This is an amazing DIY! Inventive, clear, seems simple and fantastic results! I loved your approach to writting as well. Your personality shows through making it a delight to read. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  89. I think I have the very same vanity in my bathroom and have wanted to do "something" with it for a while. Love this and will be doing it before the end of summer! Thank you for sharing!

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  90. I think I have the very same vanity in my bathroom and have wanted to do "something" with it for a while. Love this and will be doing it before the end of summer! Thank you for sharing!

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  91. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've been wanting to the very same thing in our master bathroom but was worried about how the gel stain would work out. You've taken the guess work out of it for me! Greatly appreciated and will be pinned/recommended. :)

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  92. Oh my gosh - I wish I would have met you before I spent $$$$$$$ on new cabinets!! But my bro just bought a house that has ugly cabinets. He doesn't know it yet but we are so doing this! Thank you!

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  93. I found this on pinterest and am super excited to try it!! I'm planning on doing my kitchen. It is overwhelming to think of doing it all. At first I wanted to paint them white. But after seeing this I think this is the way to go. It won't show nearly as much gunk and will still work well with the hardware I have! Thanks for sharing!

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  94. Hello! i saw your cabinet staining tutorial on Pinterest & im excited to try this! i do have a question though, when the staining is complete & you ready to apply the gel poly, what is the drying time on that? I just to make sure my cabinets took as good as yours! Thank You for the tutorial, its looks easy & kinda fun =)

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  95. Hi, just found your blog thru Pinterest and am so excited about this tutorial on staining cabinets. This is exactly what I have been looking for. I have 4 bathrooms and a kitchen that are in dire need of updating. I hope there will be more coming on your blog, I will be watching and waiting. So far it looks like this is the last entry and was a while ago so I'm not even sure you will see this comment but if you do you will know that you have a new follower. Great job on your blog.

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  96. Oh how I want to do this, but my cabinets are not wood :( Well, part of them are, but they are covered in this... I'm not even sure what to call it. Laminate? (Ex: if you put tape on the side of the pantry and take the tape off, it rips the laminate off.) I will be saving this post for my next house though!!

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  97. Does this method work on wood that has been varnished or oiled but not stained? I know you said it won't work on bare wood, but I wasn't sure if that meant stain-free or varnish-free and oil-free too.

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  98. I saw this post and my hubby and I decided to buy a large L-Shaped oak desk off Craig's list for his future office and I'm just refinishing it to the dark wood. Nervous and excited as this will be his home office!! Here goes nothing!!

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  99. Found you on pinterest, pinned you myself, and decided I should post a huge THANK YOU for sharing this! I'm bad about pinning and never commenting (which I hear is frustrating for bloggers)...but this tutorial may just save my sanity and wallet! Thanks again for sharing!

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  100. Beautiful!! I'm going to stain my friend's kitchen cabinets for her so this really took some of the worry out of it. Thank you!

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  101. I hate my oak cabinets. I'd love to do this to my island and see how it looks. I dream of dark island and white cabinets and think this would be the perfect start to achieving that. Thanks for sharing! Now to convince my husband :)

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  102. This looks AWESOME!!! I just got done telling my husband that I HATE our oak cabinets. I am so excited to do this! I think I am going to do what you did and tackle the bathroom first! :)

    Thanks for the post!!!

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  103. Wonderful. And so glad you're good at documenting DYI. . .And answering people's questions. Generous soul! I have a bathroom in desperate need. You have answered that need. This is a godsend.

    If I ever met you I'm sure I bow before you and say, "I'm not worthy."

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  104. Just started this tonight! I'm so excited! The first coat actually looks good. Thanks so much for sharing the info.

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  105. Love your tutorial! Thanks for sharing! I hate our 10yo oak cabinets!

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  106. Great tutorial! I really would like to try this. You make it look so easy. Thanks for sharing this (I found it on Pinterest)

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  107. Just started this project today and already sooooo excited! It was easy and the stain doesn't even smell! (being 34 weeks pregnant this is a very good thing!).... Hoping it works as well as yours and that I can move onto my kitchens! Thanks again!

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  108. I pinned you too. Love how they came out, really appreciate all the tips you included!

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  109. I love this, can't wait to try it in my bathroom and possibly my kitchen, too!

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  110. Found your tutorial on Pinterest, and I love it! I plan to do this on all my bathroom vanities - if it works well, maybe the kitchen, too! Looks great.

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  111. Tip from a former house keeper: If cabinets are uber grimy, such as over kitchen stove use a solution of hot hot water mixedwith oxy-clean. Dissolves grease and build up almost instantly and without too much elbow grease. If your not painting or refinishing wipe down with orange oil to renew shine and protect the wood.

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  112. Just the tutorial I've been looking for. Thank you!

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  113. Wow!! Looks great! I wish I had found this at the beginning of summer vacation ;)

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  114. I'm excited to try this. Thanks for making the tutorial easy to understand and a hoot to read. Entertaining. Gonna try this on end tables, actually. Can't wait.

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  115. You have totally infused me with courage to do this! I've had builder grade honey oak for 20 years and I'm beyond over it! Thank you so much for taking the time to document what you did for the rest of us! I will take before and after pics and show you...
    Lanée Willardsen in Denver

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  116. Almost painted our ugly honey oak/oak veneer bedroom set until I found this blog... I was doubtful about painting over the veneer (on top of particle board) and maintaining a consistent look so I tried it out first on an end table. The Java Gel worked fantastic! I used a rotary sander with 120 grit and went over the veneer surface 3-4 times to rough it up - just be careful not to sand completely through the veneer! Socks worked great - and I found it to be absolutely crucial that you not over apply and keep the coats thin. FYI, if you live in LA like me you can't buy the Gel Poly here (EPA laws).

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  117. do you think it would work with my banister, or would all the hands on the rail cause it to wear away?

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  118. Hi, can you use a lighter color to make a maple color? Do you have any advice on this?

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  119. I'm excited to try this. Thank you for sharing.

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  120. Uh oh.. amazon doesn't sell the Poly Topcoat anymore. Any other suggestions on what to use instead?

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  121. Oh my word! Beautiful!!! I am pinning htis and am so excited to try this. I just told my husband that I love our new home but I am not a fan of all the oak cabinets.

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  122. I just finished doing the first coat on my bathroom cabinets! Will let it dry overnight and add the second in the morning. Thanks so much for the advice and instructions, not a hard or expensive project, but really transforms the room!

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  123. Thanks for the post! I'm doing my bathroom right now thanks to you! It's turning out great so far. Thanks!

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  124. I cannot wait to try this!! I have been wondering what to do about my bathroom cabinets and saw this pin at the absolute perfect moment!

    P.S. I noticed the Circle E Candle in your bathroom and I knew you had to be from Texas!!

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  125. Thanks for this tutorial. We are planning to have my dad build us some built-in shelves that we would like finished this way. I know you said NOT to do it on plain wood. Do you think it could it be done if the wood was primed first, before starting the rest of the process? Or do you happen to know what would work on plain wood to achieve this look? Thanks so much!

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  126. AMAZING tutorial!!!! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm so inspired to go tackle my yellowy-golden oak cabinets!

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  127. Ordering the gel stain from Amazon right now. Starting with the guest bathroom before tackling the kitchen.

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  128. This looks great and surprisingly like even I could do it. Do you think it would work on my oak bedroom suite? I would love to stain it darker.

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  129. This looks Awesome! I'm putting my home on the market soon so this is a great idea for the bathroom cabinets... I'll be starting this project this weekend....
    Thank you for putting this project online...

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  130. Seriously... WHY do they use so much honey oak stain? this is lovely - thanks!

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  131. How long should you each coat of the topcoat dry?

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  132. What did you use to put on the poly coat? The sock or a foam brush? Please let me know. Started last night and waiting for it to dry.

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  133. Does this stain only work on oak? I have a piano I would like to refinish and would love it if it would be this easy.

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  134. I did it! Here is my post about the process. I gave you a couple shout outs, too :) THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

    http://dontworrybehappykeeplearning.blogspot.com/2012/08/bathroom-redo.html#

    angelaldeak@gmail.com

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  135. I love this, Monica! Do you have current photos of the finished project and your kitchen??

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  136. hi!! just wondering if you sanded between the stain coats?!?

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  137. Just want to say thanks so much for this blog! I followed the instructions exactly and I just love how it looks! Staining the vanity, changing the faucet, light fixture, hardware and a fresh coat of paint - it looks incredible! Couldn't have done it without this!

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  138. So inspired...so excited. I can't wait to start on my butt ugly oak cabinets. I already have the tequila in stock.

    I have two questions. You're adamant that we should use General Finishes products. I've ordered the gel stain from Amazon, but the Satin Gel Poly topcoat is unavailable and Googling hasn't helped me find it anywhere. Any suggestions on how I can substitute. Also, I saw the schedule for drying the stain. (Very detailed...thanks for that!) How long did you let each coat of your topcoat dry?

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    1. Oops...never mind. After yesterday's Google fail and not thinking to look in your comments, I just discovered that one of your readers mentioned woodcraft.com and they have it!

      Still need to understand the drying schedule for the topcoat though. I really, REALLY can't wait to get started! And after reading more comments, I may gamble on doing this with some cheapo oak finished book shelves.

      You mention that this will NOT work on unfinished wood. Any suggestions on where to start with that? I'd like to have a similar finish on the molding we use to frame our super huge bathroom mirror.

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  139. Looks great!!!! Thanks for sharing:)
    I have dark 70's wood vanity in my bathroom and was thinking about jut getting new countertop at this point but do you think this would work for dated darker wood cabinets I am trying to do this ASAP .

    Thanks for your time

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  140. What a great job you did! I love the look. I wish my cabinets could be refinished this way (I painted them years ago). Thank you for sharing.

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  141. oh wow. I'm excited! Thank you for a great tutorial.... I can't wait to try this.

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  142. I just KNEW there had to be a way to do this without completely removing the finish...but I didn't know what product to use. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. It may take a while before I can get to it, but I WILL get to it.

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  143. What an inspiration.....I have a little coffee table that I would love to stain ..thanks ur tutorial isvery useful

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  144. just one question, are the sides of your cabinets wood or are they particle board with faux wood finish? I'm concerned that the stain won't take on the fax finish sides (BTW, they show most on either side of the sink- the spot that would drive me outta my mind)

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  145. So excited to find this via pinterest! Thank you so much. Looking to buy a house that I'm sure will have the ugliest cabinetry in it, this will help me to overlook that and see it as a totally fixable feature! Love it. Thank you for taking the time.

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  146. Just started this today on a bookcase in my daughters room, I am on the second coat now and it looks fantastic already. Iam so excited, the wheels are turning about all the other ways and places I can use this

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  147. The vanity turned out beautifully!! Will these sames products and methods work on white lamintate? Please respond to asolazzo@hotmail.com.
    Thank you!!

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  148. I just stumbled on this tutorial on pinterest and am so happy I did!!! I've been wanting to do this to my coffee table but been totally uncertain of how to go about it. Thanks for the simple steps, even a ding dong like me should be able to handle this project :)

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  149. Thank you, thank you!! Can't wait to get started! Always wanted to do this, but seemed so overwhelming.

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  150. Great nice info for me,to how sevice product for my coustemer, ihope you see you again
    thank,s

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  151. Thank you SO much!!!! It took me awhile to bite the bullet, but I wanted to share my results! (see pic below) Next up -- new countertop and floors. With this trick, I'll be able to redo my kitchen for under $1500!!! I am so happy I found your post, and have been sharing it with everyone!!


    http://i47.tinypic.com/63r9ll.jpg

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  152. This is seriously gorgeous! I hope this post is still here in a few years because I'm sure I'll need it when I get my own house. :)

    But actually, from reading a couple comments above, I got inspired to try it on a desk that I have. I think it'll still be a few months, but I can't want to try it! Thanks so much for the inspiration and tutorial!

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  153. Thank you, Thank you and THANK YOU! What a simple project. I am NOT a "do-it your-self-er," but I tried your project and it looks AWESOME! On to the next bathroom...

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  154. I did not read through all your comments, so I hope this is not repetitive. Do you think this would work on a darker oak? I hate the dark oak in my home. It is not light like yours. Anyone you know tried it on a dark oak?

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    1. TLW...check out my picture a few posts up. My cabinets were darker to start and it works just fine!

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    2. Oh Yay! Thank you! They do look great!

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  155. Best project I have done in awhile. The tutorial is perfect and I freakin love my new cabinets. Thank you!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!

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  156. I just started this on my kitchen cabinets this weekend. They are the cheesy washed oak - really cheap and really ugly. I've already done the 6+ foot long vanity in the bathroom and it came out AMAZING!!! It really is as easy as she says (just messy), and the results are unbelievable! Thank you for the detailed directions!!

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  157. Great tutorial. Trying this SOON in the bathroom! Just wanted to drop a THANK YOU. :)

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  158. So happy to have found this! Have been wanting to do my cabinets for a long time but have been super intimidated by it. After reading your post I'm feeling more confident I can accomplish this! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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  159. I just got a steal on a "fixer-uper" as my first home. My parents are helping with the repairs and I'm trying to allocate $ where its needed most ie : furnace, water heater, windows...so this totally psych's me up for a way to save my ugly awful 1970's cabinets until I can install new! You my friend are a goddess and have I mentioned I <3 pinterest!!!!!!

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  160. I just got a steal on a "fixer-uper" as my first home. My parents are helping with the repairs and I'm trying to allocate $ where its needed most ie : furnace, water heater, windows...so this totally psych's me up for a way to save my ugly awful 1970's cabinets until I can install new! You my friend are a goddess and have I mentioned I <3 pinterest!!!!!!

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  161. I just got a steal on a "fixer-uper" as my first home. My parents are helping with the repairs and I'm trying to allocate $ where its needed most ie : furnace, water heater, windows...so this totally psych's me up for a way to save my ugly awful 1970's cabinets until I can install new! You my friend are a goddess and have I mentioned I <3 pinterest!!!!!!

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  162. I just got a steal on a "fixer-uper" as my first home. My parents are helping with the repairs and I'm trying to allocate $ where its needed most ie : furnace, water heater, windows...so this totally psych's me up for a way to save my ugly awful 1970's cabinets until I can install new! You my friend are a goddess and have I mentioned I <3 pinterest!!!!!!

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  163. I was just wondering if doing your bathroom again would you do this method or use the rustoleum kit. You mentioned you wouldn't use dark to light but light to espresso would work. Thank you in advance for your opinion!

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  164. I think I am going to try this on my dinning room table and chairs - wish me luck!! I HAVE used this stain (same brand - different color) for staining the trim, doors, etc in our basement when we were finishing it. I was applying to bare wood and LOVED THE RESULTS!!! (one coat of stain and 2 poly's were it for those surfaces - I didn't use a guys sock - fresh out:0 but I did use a square of an old cotton undershirt that worked great (maybe less streaky too b/c the weave of the fabric is closer together)) I am a bit more scared to try it on a previously finished/varnished surface, but you've given me hope!!

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  165. Again....Come do my house! Exactly what I will be doing in two weeks! Thanks!

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  166. Love it - can't wait to give this a shot! Nice job!

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  167. I LOVE this idea! I was trying to think of what I could do in my bathroom cause the cabinets are ugly....this has made my day (and it looks pretty easy)....WAHOOOOO!!!

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  168. This is great - do you think it would work on the laminate wood flooring - in the same lovely shade of oak? Thoughts?

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  169. Is there any reason I couldn't use Minwax brand of gel stain? Is there something special about General Finishes? It looks like it's the same stuff, but I don't want to use something that won't be as good.

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  170. I am thrilled to have found this tutorial!! My husband and I were just talking the other day about what we'd like to do to our kitchen (that has honey oak cabinets. We both agreed that we'd like the cabinets darker, but were afraid we'd have to totally strip the old cabinets. This tutorial took that worry away. Your vanity looks awesome!! I intend to order this stain and start ASAP.

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  171. I'm so excited to find this!! My husband and I just bought a house, and I hate the oak cabinets.. I hope that mine turns out as wonderful as yours did!!

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  172. Okay, you convinced me! I'm doing it, man! Great tutorial and photos. I really like the idea of getting a castoff cabinet door from Restore and testing! Duh! Sometimes as a DIY'er, I tend to over think things - glad you did the thinking for me this time! Thanks for sharing. On my way to pinning now!

    Jaye @ Just Tryin' to Make Cents of it All!

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  173. Thanks for this! I am so excited to get started! I just ordered the stain.

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  174. I just bought a home with the standard medium oak kitchen cabinets. Thanks to this blog I am transforming my kitchen into my dream! I only used one coat of stain, rubbed it in very well though (no streaks). It took me about 10 hours of labor to remove the doors and hardware and apply the stain, on to the first application of poly today. This project was a lot to take on by myself. I would recommend having a good helper to help the process. I am SO SORE! Lots of work left but very happy I have the color I wanted!!! Thank you so much Monica! Note to others: I am not creative and a typical DIYer and I did this. You can too!

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  175. I just wanted to say Thank You so very much for this post, even though you have some blogging frustrations, you have really helped me be happier in my home. What a gift! I just finished our bathroom and love the results! Everyone says it looks professional! Next week I plan to start the kitchen, even though it is a small kitchen, it feels like a monumental task. First time I have ever been grateful for a tiny kitchen. Anyways, thank you so very much!!

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  176. I just checked my local stores in Phoenix that sell these products. They are in stock with all the other stains and colors EXCEPT the specific ones that you suggest. You are changing the world sister! To repeat: I live in Phoenix, it is huge, but the stores that sell this are all out of stock of your recommendations. So many people have been doing this!! I can't wait to start my own three bathrooms!

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  177. Thank you! I started this project last night and am so excited not to look at all of the hideous oak in our bathroom anymore. Great tutorial!

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  178. Can you do this same process on painted cabinets?

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  179. Love the advice thanks! Definitely going to pin this for future!

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  180. Great tutorial and keep up your blog! I might just be refinishing my cabinets like this next year. Can't wait to try your technique

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  181. Thank you so much for the tutorial! I am soooo tired of our cabinets, but painting seemed too hard. You have saved me!!

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  182. LOVE this look. Still mustering up the courage to take on my white painted cabinets (which I HATE). Thank you SO much for such a great tutorial. I hope I can bring myself to try it!!

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  183. Thanks for such good details! I'm inspired to not be such a fraidycat and do some DIY!

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