Oh, the Cabinets. {DIY Painting}

I tend to go into DIY projects with a ton of pep, energy and positivity.

Then 5 minutes into the project, I tend to tell pep, energy and positivity that they can bite me on their way out the building.

Several DIY home bloggers that are far more patient and talented than I am, have blogged about the new Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation kits. The small kit is about $80 plus tax at Home Depot or Lowes. If you Google to find information about the kit, you’ll find mixed reviews. My review is going to go into the BAD reviews in Google, and I’ll tell you why.


It sucked. Majorly.

At first, I was all pumped about the kit. I watched the nifty DVD that comes with it about 3 times- I felt confident I understood the techniques needed to get good results. Or so I thought. Step 1 is deglossing which essentially eliminates the need to whip out the sanding blocks or the electric sander. The kit comes with a HUGE bottle of deglosser and 2 scouring pads to scrub down all the cabinet frames, doors, etc. Easy enough. You scrub, wipe with a damp cloth and then dry with a lint-free cloth. Each door took me about 3-4 minutes, so it’s not super time intensive or anything. Easy. A minor annoyance is that they recommend you need gloves to do this, and yet they don’t include any. Seriously? For $80 they couldn’t include a pair of gloves? Minor, but nonetheless annoying. Make sure to scrub with the grain of the wood- super important!


Here’s how a deglossed door looks (very matte):


You let that dry for about an hour and then you can put on the first coat of paint (bond coat). The kit comes with 2 quarts of paint for the cabinet frames, drawers and doors. It doesn’t come with enough paint to paint the interior of the cabinets, but it does come with enough to do the backside of all the doors. I put on coat number 1 using the painting method they tell you which is basically like this- inner panel first, borders last, paint in the direction of the arrows:


I did coat number 1 and immediately, I hated it. Why? The brush strokes! I was using a Purdy brush, and they rock. They are fab. But, the DVD specifically say to NOT use rollers, so I kept on following their instructions using my paint brush. LUCKILY, you start with the back of the doors so you get used to the technique before you do the front. This will be my saving grace later, you’ll see why. But back to me hating it. I tweeted a bloggy friend who is familiar with the kit, and she told me to load up my brushes with more paint to avoid the brush strokes. I also tweeted at Rustoleum, who then told me this:


To which I thought, Why make the glaze OPTIONAL if the painting methods essentially assume you’re going to use the glaze?!

But did I stop painting? No! I even got on the 2nd coat on about 1/2 of the cabinet doors. Here’s what the doors look like after 1 coat and after 2 (2 coats on left, 1 on right):



And then my husband took Pee Wee to the vet, and I just about had a nervous breakdown. I called my mom and was telling her about how I was almost done with most of the cabinet doors (all on the back and 2 I had started on the front already), but I hated the brush strokes AND I hated the color. I chose frost because I wanted a crisp white color, and I was mortified when I noticed it had a slight blue tint to it. It’d be UBER helpful if Rustoleum had swatches at the paint counters (since you pick a color based on a picture on the kit and the paint department of Lowes/Home Depot mixes the paint for you) of what the colors looked like. Because frost did not equal the white I wanted. My cabinets are like the girl/guy you think looks really hot from across the room, and then you start waltzing over to them and you realize they are a HOT MESS. I am a perfectionist and wanted smooth, crisp white cabinets. So, I did what I usually do.

I went nuts.

I blame my mom for this because she was like, “Stop, don’t paint anymore if you hate it” but I heard “YOU SCREWED IT ALL UP! OHMYGOSHSTOP! Put down the brush! You’re killing all the kittens!”

I was freaking out about the money and time I had spent, oh the TIME, I spent on these cabinets only to stop and not finish. Luckily, the money wasn’t a huge issue since Rustoleum does have a money-back guarantee:


So, apparently there’s a check on its way to me to cover the entire cost of the kit. Which is cool. But, I can’t get my spring break back, obviously. I also then had to spend money on 4 packs of these:


And some money on paint stripper and lots MORE time using this:


To take all of these doors:


Back to something like this:


All so that I can do it the RIGHT way. You know, the old-fashioned way of sanding, priming, sanding, 2 coats of paint, a coat of poly, lots of curing time and then I’ll be done.

Would I use this kit again? NO. Not the light kit. I think using the light kit to take dark cabinets to lighter cabinets is a HUGE waste of money unless you plan on using the decorative glaze. If not, save your money and sanity and do it the right way. I would, however, totally use the dark kit to take oak cabinets to a dark espresso color. Furthermore, I am elated that the cabinets I am working on are in my dining room. If I would have screwed up my actual kitchen cabinets, I would have DIED. I was so upset about this mishap, that I think the stress of kitchen cabinets going wrong would have landed me in complete and utter despair. Even though it likely could be fixed.

Luckily, in our kitchen we’d be going from blonde/normal oak to a dark espresso color…essentially opposite of what I was trying to accomplish in the dining room. Rustoleum has awesome products, I just feel like this one is new and might need some tweaks to be great. If you do purchase the kit, make sure to read the box to see what other materials/supplies you will need.

I also thought about taking the easy way out and just staining the cabinets…but they ended up looking exactly the same, so that is not an option. I want white cabinets so I can make this picture come to life in my home:


There’s my dining room makeover update. I essentially wasted hours upon hours of time, and am now worse off then when I started. I have to sand all the doors and do it all over again- the right way.

This leads me to think…when do I have another week off?

Hopefully they’ll be done by Christmas.

Have any painting tips for me to get the gorgeous cabinets I am lusting over? Wanna send me some tequila?



  1. Carolyn
    March 23, 2011 / 4:04 am

    I wish I could find the time to get some home improvement projects going on here at my house. Between blogging and kids, I'm kind of tapped out. Been thinking of just ripping out my kitchen cabinets and figuring out what to do later. I hate them that much.

  2. Jennifer
    March 23, 2011 / 1:42 pm

    I love rustoleum for spray paint. I don't know if I've ever used their other stuff. Can't wait to see how you fix it. I'm sure in the end they'll look great. Even for Christmas.

  3. GoAgainstTheGrain
    March 23, 2011 / 1:42 pm

    awe. so sorry the kit didn't work out for you. Just work on it on the weekends. And think of how great your arms will look! Sexy!

  4. Brooke
    March 23, 2011 / 5:24 pm

    you're a far more patience than i am! good luck with round 2!

  5. Centsational Girl
    April 3, 2011 / 2:20 am

    So interesting to hear your experience!! I am always wanting to know how this product is working out for everyone, so glad you shared this !xoKate

  6. Delena
    April 5, 2011 / 12:31 pm

    I admire your do it yourself attitude but we took our tax refund last year and paid someone to repaint our cabinets and he used his professional sprayer and they look so good, it was expensive but worth it because we learned after our DIY project of the floor some things are better left to pros.

  7. Anonymous
    April 6, 2011 / 1:52 am

    Oh man, I have been there. We just redid our cabinets last summer and it was a GRUELING process. BUT! They look fabulous now so it was totally worth it! 🙂

  8. The Amusing Redhead
    January 4, 2012 / 12:45 am

    Thank you for your opinion of this product. You saved me a lot of time.

  9. Letta
    January 23, 2012 / 4:08 pm

    I also had a terrible experience with this but with what I feel were even worse results. Rustoleum will not sell you more of ANY parts of the kit. I bought the large kit in "Porcelain". I painted the inside of one of my cabinet doors and it just wasn't right with the rest of the kitchen (tile, wall color, etc.). I called Rustoleum and BEGGED them to sell me (SELL me, mind you, not give me for free) another can of the base and they WOULD NOT do it. They said that it was my mistake and that I would have to buy an entire whole kit which costs $150.00. Further, the representative would not let me speak to anyone else or transfer me to anyone else in the company!!?? Sorry, but that is really poor customer service. The kit is very expensive in the first place, but their inflexibility to help you out is absurd. Even if I could afford another $150.00 kit (which I can't) I would never buy anything from them again. "Satisfaction Guaranteed" my foot…..

  10. Kelly
    July 6, 2012 / 9:34 am

    I also tried the frost color and also hated it. I got a refund but have been too lazy to fix it. Sigh.

  11. Mrs.Canuck
    July 24, 2012 / 1:31 am

    Thank you SO much for blogging about this! We also have the horrid oak cabinets, and I want to change them to white. I was going to buy the kit and do exactly what you did- I didn't want to do the "optional" glaze either! I've been looking around for some reviews, and this one helped alot. Maybe it would be easier for us to go espresso!

  12. Laura Pierson
    August 15, 2012 / 4:21 pm

    Thank you! you probably saved me from having a nervous breakdown. hehe. we bought our first home and its 1800 sq. feet of ugly ORANGISH trim and cabinets. the woodwork itself is beautiful but the COLOR makes me want to gag. but. i love the house and know i can change the wood work. so ive been plotting and planning and freaking becuase i cant decide which is the best way to change the color. i want it to look great without brush strokes yet cheap. i know i ask for too much. i almost bought this rustoleum kit. now im super glad i didnt. even though i am wanting to go espresso i still think ill do it the good ol fashion way

  13. Mamma Mia
    August 27, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    I too have cried over the lost time and effort of using this product. Unlike you though, I used the dark kit in Kona, and LOVE the color. However, it is coming off my table like you would not believe. I have a family of 9, and honestly DREAD having to take the time and effort to redo the table AGAIN. Not to mention being without our table, again. I think they should refund pain and suffering too, LOL! Plus I know that this time, it is going to take even longer to refinish. I am contemplating using the paint from the kit, and the deglosser, and maybe coating it this time with some poly, instead of the stuff they give you in the kit. Maybe it might save some time. I was really impressed with how well the deglosser worked actually. If it wasn't for your post, I would have never known about the money back guarantee. So THANK YOU for that!

  14. The Gatherers
    September 10, 2012 / 2:33 am

    I used a small foam roller to paint a dresser I re-did and it was beautiful! just use a brush in the corners first.Painting furniture/cabinets is such a pain so sad it didn't work out the first time!

  15. Anonymous
    October 1, 2012 / 4:58 am

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing, I too was about to do the exact same color in my kitchen! Only we're sprucing our house up to sell, so fixing it isn't an option. I guess we'll just leave them as is and let the next owner decide whether they want builder-grade oak or something else.

  16. sperlonga
    November 10, 2012 / 4:36 pm

    When we bought our circa 1977 house in 1999 the kitchen cabinets were stained dark espresso with many of the doors showing wear. Since the kitchen is in the middle of the house with no windows I wanted to lighten it up. I took all the doors off, sanded them down and primed two coats with regular Kilz primer,WITH A ROLLER. By experimenting I found that the roller made all the difference!!Then I did two coats of a high quality paint. They looked fabulous. Everyone was so impressed with the result. The total paint cost was less than $60. Eight years later we remodeled the kitchen completely.

  17. Sonali Sodhi - Sharma
    December 4, 2012 / 10:49 pm

    Sorry to hear you had a tough time with this one. I used the dark kit in my kitchen and actually used the small sponge rollers and they came out great.

  18. Zippy
    January 7, 2013 / 5:01 am

    Oh my! That is horrible! Feeling so bad for you. Would love to send you some tequila. <3

  19. Sandra
    January 12, 2013 / 2:01 am

    We also used this product on our kitchen cabinets. The kit did not cover 1/2 what is said it would. I contacted Rustoleum and they sent two large kits to cover a small kitchen, in which one small kit should have covered. I also wanted white cabinets so I did not use the glaze. Six months later my cabinets are turning yellow, from the top coat. I will never purchase a Rustoleum product again, nor recommend it to anyone!

    • Lori Culver Sherk
      March 15, 2016 / 4:50 pm

      1 year later the top coat has yellowed and customer service states they have not heard of this happening??????????????? agrivated to say the least

    • Laura
      September 17, 2016 / 7:10 pm

      It's happening to mine too! Only 3 months have passed and already our cabinets are turning yellow. They told me the same thing. The top coat is not yellowing. My foot! I have the picture to prove it. Very dissappointed in this product.

  20. Heather
    March 7, 2013 / 6:05 am

    Did you ever get your money back? I asked for a refund for my kit and they said the product had to be defective in order to get a refund!

  21. ash
    August 24, 2013 / 1:29 am

    Hi. I am trying to decide between cloaking our honey oak in gel stain or going with a dark color (castle) of the Rustoleum product. If you wanted to go dark, would you just use the gel stain instead?

    • Letta
      August 27, 2013 / 10:38 pm

      I really like the look of the gel stain versus the paint because you can still see some of the woodgrain. With the gel stain my cabinets look brand new. They formerly didn't have any hardware and I added satin nickel hardware which looks great and is a totally updated look. I bought my gel stain at a woodworking store and they were very helpful. I brought in one of the false panels from under the sink and we tested several of the selections on the back of the piece. You don't get that kind of service at a big box home center. I spent half the amount of money and it looks SO much better than paint!

  22. Jamie Garcia
    December 29, 2014 / 3:25 am

    Well my dreams are shattered of getting our kitchen cabinets painted "easily" with this kit. I'm on a baby #4 deadline of June 2015. im seeing my kitchen w/o cabinet doors for another year…yikes.(Thanks for your input btw)

  23. Hannah
    June 12, 2016 / 7:28 am

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon the blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing the blog posts