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Properly Prep for Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets

by Jessica Santina

The biggest contributor to the success of any cabinet refinishing job is quality surface prep. Whether you plan to veneer, stain and lacquer, or repaint the cabinets, you need to make sure the surface is sufficiently prepared to adhere to the new materials and to recapture its original luster (the whole reason for refinishing your kitchen cabinets in the first place).

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Kitchen Cabinets: To Strip or Not to Strip?

Experts differ on whether you need to fully strip your cabinets or simply clean them. Here's a good rule of thumb: If your cabinets have already been painted, and you plan to repaint them, just clean them with a good household cleaner or trisodium phosphate (TSP), then rinse thoroughly. This and a good sanding should do the trick.

However, if the existing surface is not paint, is heavily varnished, or if you plan to stain or veneer the cabinets, you should strip them down to the bare wood, which ensures the best adhesion of the new surface.

If you've opted to strip the cabinets, this involves the use of chemical stripper, followed by the use of a 150-180 grit sandpaper to smooth out and dull the finish, as well as to remove any stubborn spots of old finish.

Make sure that for ANY chemical stripper or cleaner you use, you follow the safety instructions. This generally includes protective eyewear and rubber gloves.

Now all that's left is to clean up any nicks or dings on the surface. Just use non-shrinking putty, removing as much excess as possible before it dries, since the putty is very hard once dried. Then, once it's completely dry, sand the entire surface down to ensure that it's completely smooth.

Congratulations, you're ready to begin refinishing your kitchen cabinets!

About the Author

Jessica Santina is a freelance writer and editor with 11 years' experience in media, marketing, and publishing, and 8 years' experience as a college writing instructor.

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