How To Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

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Refinishing kitchen cabinets without stripping is a daunting task that people might be afraid of.

Refinishing your cabinets doesn't have to be a hassle anymore. Follow the steps found in this article and you'll be amazed at how easy it can be. You won't believe how beautiful your cabinets will look after just one day, and you'll save hundreds of dollars by doing the job yourself.

Let's get right into it.

How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping – Step By Step

When it’s time to refinish your kitchen cabinets, here is the step by step to follow without stripping them.

It's so much easier than you think and will leave you smiling from ear to ear when you're finished.

Step #1 Remove the Kitchen Cabinets

Removing the cabinets from the walls is the most difficult and time-consuming part of refinishing kitchen cabinets without stripping them. If you aren't comfortable removing your cabinets, then you will want to hire someone to do it for you. Removing the cabinets from your kitchen is a simple task if you follow these steps:

  1. If needed, measure how much length needs to be cut off each side of the cabinet. This will ensure that they fit back into place after they have been refinished.
  2. Take everything out of your cupboards and remove as many drawers as possible. You'll want to make sure every inch of space can be used when storing items after the cabinets have been refinished.
  3. You may want to remove cabinet doors as well. This will give you more room to work and make it easier to get your hand inside of corners or sides that are hard to reach. It can be tricky getting your paintbrush in between the frames, but this is an important step.
remove kitchen cabinet
Image Credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Step #2 Clean, Clean, Clean

Starting your work on a clean surface is one of the most important parts of how to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping them. If you leave dirt on your cabinets or don't allow yourself enough time to sand down every surface, you will have a very difficult time applying new paint later on.

Clean out any crevices with a small brush and some soap and water. This step often gets overlooked, but it is one of the easiest steps to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping them. Take your time here and make sure everything is clean.

Step #3 Sanding

Next, decide which areas require you to lightly sand the surfaces that need to be refinished. Lightly sand each surface using medium grit sandpaper (150 to 220). 

Step #4 Time to Stain the Kitchen Cabinets

Staining the kitchen cabinets involves applying a dark stain to the surface of each cabinet. After staining, you will need to apply several coats of polyurethane.

Stain your cabinets with a rag or a brush for an even coat of stain on all surfaces. The most important step here is allowing the stain plenty of time to dry before applying another coat.

Letting it sit for 24 hours should be enough time, but if not give it as much time as possible and longer if needed.

staining kitchen cabinets

Step #5 Apply Polyurethane

Applying polyurethane over the stained surface is the easiest part when it comes to refinishing kitchen cabinets without stripping them. 

Apply one coat, allow it time to dry, and apply another coat. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the results. Two or three coats will give you a beautiful finish.

Step #6 Replace the Kitchen Cabinets into Place

When you're happy with your work it's time to replace your kitchen cabinets. Put everything back in place, and fit the new cabinet doors if you decide to replace those as well, or replace the hardware to give the whole cabinet a fresher look.

Drink a cold glass of lemonade – because all that hard work is done.

Can I restain my kitchen cabinets without sanding?

This is a common question that is asked when it comes to this topic. The answer is yes.

Everyone has a different style, but restaining your cabinets  and antiquing wood will give them an antique look that you may like better than the newer-looking finish that comes with sanding down all of your cabinet wood.

What if I don't have the time?

You'll need at least 24 hours for your polyurethane to dry before replacing your kitchen cabinets after you have refinished them using plain paint or stain.

If you don't have that kind of time available and need to replace them before then, I recommend giving Polycrylic a try. It is a water-resistant polyurethane that dries within 4 hours.

What is the best way to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping them?

The best way to learn how to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping them is through practice.

It's a skill that will take time but you'll be amazed at your results when you see what can be done with just one coat of paint or using stain.

Is it better to strip or sand kitchen cabinets?

When it comes to the better choice, you need to decide what you're looking for. 

Sanding down the old paint or varnish can give a very rustic look that you may like, but if you want cabinets that look brand new it will take more time and effort.


How does sanding kitchen cabinets without stripping them help with cleaning efficiency?

Sanding your kitchen cabinets leaves a smoother surface that is also easier to clean.

This means fewer cleaning products being used over time – which equals better cleaning efficiency.

Final thoughts on how to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping

In conclusion, you will need to decide what style you're going for before starting work on your kitchen cabinets if you want to do so without stripping them. If you have patience and love working with wood, this is an enjoyable home improvement project. You can also read cost of painting kitchen cabinets vs refacing.

Choose a color that compliments your home's current decor, or goes with the new one if you're planning on giving your kitchen a fresh look.

It takes time but it can be done by those who stay motivated and work at getting the job done right.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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