Did you know that the average cost to install new cabinets in a medium sized kitchen ranges from $3500 – $5000?
Are you looking for a frugal alternative that costs less than $200, but makes a huge impact? If so, updating your kitchen cabinets with gel stain is a fantastic way to enhance the look of your kitchen.
Back in 2014, I purchased a townhouse and knew right away that I wanted to make small, inexpensive tweaks to give an upgraded feel to my home without going through an expensive remodel.
Not knowing where to start, I searched Pinterest’s DIY boards (naturally). I came across a tutorial on how to gel stain cabinets and thought, “Hell, even I can do that.” So I did.
If you’ve ever looked at gel stain tutorial on blogs, virtually everyone has used General Finishes gel stain in Java. In almost every picture, it looked black, which was a bit too dark for my taste, so I decided to use General Finishes gel stain in Brown Mahogany instead. Also, there were a couple of methods suggested in other tutorials that just wouldn’t work for me, so I came up with an easier method.
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(I sold the white appliances that came with the house and bought new stainless steel appliances and granite countertops during the Lowe’s Black Friday sales. Total for both ran about $5k.)
So, let’s get right to it…
How to stain your kitchen cabinets
- Sanding Sponge, 3-Pack
- 15 piece foam brush set
- Painter’s tape
- Postal wrapping paper (Can also be found at Dollar Tree)
- Painter’s Pyramid
- General Finishes BP Gel Stain, 1 pint, Brown Mahogany or color of your choice
- I used 1 pint which was enough for my tiny kitchen. If you have a moderate to large sized kitchen, I’d suggest buying a quart.
- High-Performance Polyacrylic- Satin Pint- General Finishes *New Formula*
- Clorox Disinfectant Wipes
- Or soap and water…what you want that cleans stuff.
- Latex gloves
- So you don’t get stain on your hands
- New hardware for cabinets and drawers
- Rust-oleum Metallic Satin Nickel Spray Paint
- I used this to change my brass hinges to satin nickel so they’d match my new hardware
STEP 1: CLEAN DOORS
- I used Clorox Disinfectant Wipes to clean the doors to make sure there was no residual grease stuck to the doors prior to staining. I think I could’ve skipped this part since the cabinets were super clean, but probably a good idea to give them a quick wipe down just for good measure.
STEP 2: REMOVE DOORS AND HINGES
- If you plan on reusing your hardware, make sure to put them in a Ziploc bag keep them in a safe place so you don’t lose them. It might be a week or 2 before you’ll need them again.
- Spread out Postal wrapping paper on the floor & place the cabinet doors on paper before staining. (I did the staining in both my garage and my dining room floor because I didn’t have enough space. Hey, by any means necessary.)
STEP 3: SAND
- Take your sanding sponge and lightly sand your cabinet frames and doors.Keyword: lightly. You don’t need to remove the shiny coating, just rough it up a little so that the stain sticks to the cabinet. Gel stain coats the wood, unlike traditional stains which are absorbed into the wood.
STEP 4: STAIN, STAIN, STAIN … AND STAIN AGAIN!
- Prop your cabinet doors on the Painter’s Pyramids.
- Apply the stain in the direction of the grain. Make sure you get the sides of the cabinet too.
- There is a slight smell to the stain, but not overpowering by any means. It’s probably a good idea to crack the window if you’re worried about it. I kept my dog indoors as the stain was drying, and every day I came home from work and she was still alive, so I’d say that part was a success.
- You can do the back of the cabinet, but I’m lazy, and since no one will see the inside of my cabinet, I didn’t feel it was worth doing. Feel free to do both sides, you overachiever. 🙂
- Most blogs suggested letting the stain dry for 24 hours in between each coat…I did this most of the time…but sometimes I waited 12-14 hours. (Shhhhh. I’ve never been good at following the rules.)
Ok, so here’s where things differed for me compared to what I was seeing on other blogs.
- Prop your cabinet doors on the Painter’s Pyramids.
#1- Using a white sock to apply light coats of the stain. This did not work for me, at all. Many of the blogs said that the first coat would be streaky, but not to fret, the 3rd coat would look fabulous. Here’s a pic of my 1st coat (You can barely see the stain.)
By the 3rd coat, it wasn’t much darker, very streaky, and I was fretting. At this point, I did away with the white sock and started using a foam brush. If I could do it over, I would’ve started with the foam brush at the beginning and used heavier coats.
I’m thinking that since most of the bloggers were using Java, which is much darker, perhaps they only needed 3 coats to achieve the desired look. Brown Mahogany takes about 6 coats to get rid of the streaks.
Here’s the 5th coat (getting better, but still a bit streaky.)
It wasn’t until the 6th or 7th coat that I achieved the look I was going for.
STEP 5: APPLY THE CLEAR TOP COAT
- Apply 2 coats of the clear top coat to the doors and the cabinet frame. Other blogs said to wait 24 hours between coats, but the can says it dries in 3-4 hours in certain temperatures. I found that it dried in 4 hours or so, so I bypassed the 24 hour waiting period. Also, I’m impatient.
STEP 6: (OPTIONAL) USE RUST-OLEUM TO SPRAY PAINT YOUR HINGES TO MATCH YOUR HANDLES
STEP 7: HANG CABINETS ALONG WITH NEW HARDWARE
AND THE RESULT…
AND THAT’S IT!
For less than $200 and a little bit of your time, you can transform your kitchen to give it a more upscale appearance in a short amount of time. I love the results and for only spending approximately $150, my inner cheap ass…err…inner frugal goddess is highly satisfied. I’m sure you will be too!
This post was proofread by Grammarly
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