We have lived in this cute little brick ranch for 12 years now.
I love our home.
But I love my hometown more.
Remember being 18? When you friggin knew everything and couldn’t wait to leave and explore and do bad things and never ever ever ever return home, except for holidays?
Yeah, me too.
Then life happens, you have kids, and all you want is to trade drama for stability.
Wild parties for backyard BBQs.
Bright city lights for quiet hometown streets.
If I could transplant this sweet home to my hometown, I certainly would.
But I can’t. And I want to move back to my hometown before my oldest child starts high school.
So I called my realtor, Josh Ember, who is also one of my dear friends.
Josh did a walk thru of our home, and he told me exactly what I already knew.
It needed A LOT of work.
The years of penny-pinching and paying for autism-related expenses for Zion had certainly not been kind on the home improvement budget.
Josh knew this.
So he told me the three things that needed focus to sell my home:
- Upgrade the kitchen.
- Upgrade the bathrooms.
- Upgrade the curb appeal/landscaping.
I sighed, mournfully.
I knew what a monumental task this would be…but I knew I could do it.
I decided to start on the kitchen first.
I researched. And read. I talked to interior designers. I asked for quotes on kitchen cabinets, flooring, and maybe a new farm sink.
The cabinets I wanted for dramatic effect were an antiqued cream, and those can cost anywhere from $5,000-8,000 to replace. And that’s actually on the cheap side.
So I decided to refinish what I have.
Our home was built in 1961, and the cabinets are a basic construction-grade, all wood cabinet. So I knew with some elbow grease, I could sand them down and paint them. Here is what they looked like the day I started this project:
They were in great condition, just grossly outdated.
I removed all of the doors, and all of the hinges. I put all of the hinges and screws in separate Ziploc bags, and marked them to coincide with the doors I removed them from. This insured that the correct hinges went back on the doors from whence they came.
Tee hee. I love speaking in old world English.
Once the hinges were off, I degreased the doors with a contractor-grade degreaser I bought at Lowe’s.
This step cannot be skipped.
Kitchen cabinets that have been up on the wall for decades, have 50 years of greasy and meaty love etched onto them, and it literally has to be scrubbed off. If you skip this step, when you begin to sand, it will create a “balled-up” surface, which will only be worsened by paint.
I used almost a gallon of degreaser, and about 2 dozen steel wool pads, and roughly 8-10 hours of scrubbing. Once the doors were scrubbed clean and washed off, I set them out to dry for 24 hours.
The next step was sanding the doors down. I used a $36 palm sander, also purchased at Lowe’s. (I already owned this, so it is not included in materials cost.) I used a 100 grit sandpaper, which is quite course and creates some lines in the wood grain, but it also helped to create the antiqued look I was going for:
Yes, I had to use some regular sheets of sandpaper, by hand, to get down into those cracks. It is important to take the time to do this, because this is where the antiquing glaze will settle in and really make the cabinet doors pop. (Sorry, it is extra work. But worth it.)
I recommend wearing cloth work gloves to avoid blisters and chafe.
The palm sander is absolutely excellent for the wall unit. The unit does NOT need to be removed to be sanded and painted.
Here is a photo of my sweet mother helping me sand the cabinet doors.
Sing it with me….go Nonny, it’s your birthday…
Note: thus far the only thing I have spent is $12 on degreaser and steel wool, and $9 on sandpaper.
Plus sore muscles and 3 days.
Running total: $21.
Next, I wiped down all the doors with a clean, wet cloth, to remove any residue from sanding.
Now it’s time to paint!
I chose a $42 Valspar wood cabinet paint, satin enamel, in the color Churchill Hotel Vanilla.
We live on Churchill Court, so this made me giggle.
What can I say? I’m easy to entertain.
I rolled the flat surfaces to apply the bulk of the paint, and then got into the cracks and went back over the surface with a high quality 2″ brush. This does leave brush marks, but when you’re antiquing, that’s a good thing.
Once painted on the first side, I waited until the next day to paint the other side. If you’re in a hurry, you can flip and paint in about 4 hours. But I wanted the paint to be completely cured, so I waited.
Note: This is not a weekend project, unless you have minions.
Working a few hours each day, this took us about 2 weeks.
I have now purchased 1 gallon of cabinet paint for $42, 2 ultra-smooth 4-inch paint rollers for $8, and 4 high quality 2-inch paint brushes for $14.
Good brushes are worth the investment, otherwise the bristles come off in the paint strokes.
No one wants hairy cabinet doors.
Running total: $85.
Here is a comparison shot of the painted door up next to the original door:
The next step is to antique the painted door.
I wanted an antique brown tone to the cabinets, so I bought a quart of Rust-oleum decorative glaze in Java Brown, for $14.
This stuff goes a LONG way.
Glaze is different from stain. Stain is for bare wood. Glaze is made to apply over paint:
I purchased a bag of lintless rags from Lowe’s for about $5, and bought a giant bag of disposable rubber gloves for $6.
I invested in two more $7 brushes, and after gloving up, I brushed the glaze on over the painted door.
Once the glaze was applied, I took a lintless rag and simply wiped the glaze off. This takes some practice, and is quite messy. You will need to rotate the rag once a spot gets saturated in glaze, to make sure you are really getting the glaze wiped off.
Take your time with this technique.
You get to decide how this will end up looking.
It is best to wipe from top to bottom, in clean and straight-line strokes, to achieve the desired antiqued effect. You can wipe off as much or as little as you wish, just do so within about 15 minutes of applying the glaze, before it starts to get too dry.
Here is an example of a plainly painted door (on the left), next to a lightly antiqued door. (on the right):
You can see how the antiquing gets down into the detailed lines of the door, as well as bringing out the natural grain in the wood.
The door in this photo has a bit heavier glazing:
You decide what you like and do that.
It is all a matter of preference.
It is highly recommended that the same person does the antiquing on all cabinetry, to achieve balance. We learned this from experience. My mom suggested this, and I ignored her. And I had to go back and redo over half of the doors, because she antiqued more heavily than I desired.
Note: listen to your mother, even when you are 43 years old.
Running total: $117.
Next, I started to shop for cabinet pulls. The doors had no decorative hardware on them before this project, and I felt as though they needed a lift.
I found literally thousands of them online, and settled on an antique pumpkin knob I found on Amazon.
I was so absolutely thrilled!
I could not wait to get them and put them on.
Then they arrived.
And I suddenly I felt as though I was designing a kitchen for Hello Kitty:
One very important thing to mention is that in a remodeling project, you have to be willing to be patient to achieve your vision.
Do not settle.
Be willing to return things.
If you paint and stick with the wrong color or afix the wrong knobs because it is more convenient and already on hand, sure the project will get done faster.
But then every time you walk past those cabinets, you are going to curse them a little in your mind.
And this is way too big of a project to just settle.
So I put the Hello Kitty knobs aside for a rainy day project, perhaps a dresser or a coat-hook style wall hanging to sell, and kept shopping.
Eventually, I stumbled upon these:
I found them on Amazon for $4.42 per 2-pack, making them $2.21 each. I bought twelve 2-packs, totaling $53.
Running total: $170.
I decided to salvage the old hinges by degreasing them, and then spray-painting them a matte black.
Cost of Rust-oleum black matte spray paint: $6.
Running total: $176.
Next, I purchased a gallon of Minwax Helsman Spar Urethane clear satin varnish for $47 to protect my newly antiqued cabinets, as well as 2 spray cans of the same product for $10 each. (You will not need a gallon of varnish for just a kitchen project, but I was also using mine for an outdoor board and batten shutter project, so I needed a ton. A quart would do it for a kitchen project.)
I wanted to paint the varnish on the wall unit, and then spray the varnish on the doors.
Sidebar: It is not a good idea to spray any varnish product inside of your home. It will get on everything. Save the spraying for outdoors, and if you’re varnishing inside, paint it on. Additional sidebar, STIR the liquid varnish. The shine settles to the top, and if not stirred, your cabinet wall unit will look like you varnished it with really shiny snot.
I may or may not know this from experience.
Running total: $243.
Once the varnish was good and cured, (about 24 hours) I drilled the doors, fastened the new hardware, refastened the original but now black spray-painted hinges, and rehung all the doors:
Total cost: $243.
Total time: about 2 weeks, of a few very long days, and several days of just 2-3 hours. This was a lot of live and learn. You can learn from my mistakes and likely do this in a lot less time.
Total savings: thousands.
There is so much beautiful satisfaction in doing a job like this on your own. Please let me know in the comments if you have questions about products or processes, and also feel free to leave advice for future projectors.
And best of luck to you.
100 grit sandpaper, in full sheets and sheets to fit a palm sander
Good quality paint brushes (generally $7 and up)
Ultra-fine rollers (to avoid leaving texture and bumps)
Valspar (or other high quality) wood cabinet paint, in your color of choice, 1 gallon
Rust-oleum decorative glaze in java brown, 1 quart
Minwax indoor/outdoor varnish, 1 quart
Rust-oleum black matte spray paint
Steel Wool pads
Painters tape (to protect walls and ceilings)