Cabinet Finishing Techniques

cabinet finishes

The right type of finish can add warmth and depth to your cabinets and bring your kitchen or bathroom to life. There are a variety of cabinet finishing techniques to choose from, each providing a different appearance. The proper finish will give your wooden cabinets a beautiful look and help to protect them for years to come. Here are a few of the most popular cabinet finishing techniques.

Glaze– A glaze is a semi-transparent color that is applied over a stain. The glaze is applied to the wood and then wiped off by hand. It then settles into the grain and gives a nice, even wash of color and detail. This cabinet finishing technique adds depth, dimension and a slight sheen to your cabinets. When applied to the corners, glaze accentuates the carved details of the door for an artistic look. You can also control the amount of glaze applied depending on what look you are going for. An even and consistent coverage produces a more subtle appearance, while a heavier and more varied appearance gives a dramatic look. Since glazes come in a variety of tinted colors, it’s important to take the natural wood color into consideration when choosing a glaze to apply on top of it.

Stain– A stain is an easy way to enhance the natural beauty and grain of the wood. It gives a transparent color for a more natural look. Before applying a stain, the cabinet’s surface must be sanded so that the stain can absorb evenly. After applying a stain, you’ll notice that the wood’s natural characteristics-such as streaks, knots and the grain- become more prominent and create lighter and darker spots of color on the cabinets. The color of the stain also can vary across different parts of the door due to the grain.

Distressing– This technique gives a rustic finish with natural imperfections, such as dents, wear marks and scratches. This gives a sense of age and can resemble an antique piece. Distressing is more visible with glazed finishes, so take that into consideration when choosing the finish.

Heirlooming– This finishing technique recreates the natural process of wear for an authentic, aged finish. First, selective sanding will expose the underlying wood to give an impression of the natural wear process. Then the corners and edges are softened and the surface is distressed. Finally, the glaze is applied. This process is very hand-detailed, which helps give the cabinets a beautiful, artistic look.

Burnishing– Burnishing creates the warm, traditional look of furniture that many homeowners are looking for. To begin this technique, the wood is randomly distressed and over sanded. Then a stain is applied for a burnished effect. Lastly, a glaze is added to high-wear areas to provide a softened appearance.

The Re-imagining of an Old Dresser

As my kids are becoming teenagers, I have had to start refreshing their bedrooms. The clothes are bursting out of their little dressers and the overall color schemes and fun happy kiddy designs are looking a bit out of place. In taking this redesign on, I have to keep a few things in mind. They have input because I do want them to like their spaces, but also they will be going off to college in a few years. Being super practical, I would like furniture pieces to be able to function now and either go with them as they grow up or be incorporated into the guest rooms that their bedrooms will become.
Before addressing the furniture, I started with the walls. Painting a room is relatively easy and inexpensive and can easily be repainted in a few years. I know many people plan the walls to match the furniture, but in the case of my teenage daughters this gives them a big say in the final look of the room. I guided each of them a bit, but let them make their own choices. Each girl went with a fairly white trim color, one chose blue walls and the other chose teal.

Painting makes such a difference and this informed my next step. A relative was cleaning out their house and offered me a couple 1950’s French Provincial dressers, beat up and very dated looking, but structurally sound.

I took them and shoved them in my basement while I tried to figure out to do with them.  Wandering through shops in my town, I stumbled on a little place that re-imagines old furniture called Vintage Chic. I spoke with the owner about her process and if she would be willing to repaint these old dressers and what it would cost and left determined to take the project on myself. Next, I read peoples blogs about their experiences repainting furniture and came up with my plan.

Weekend one: Sanding. I used flexible sanding pads (medium grit) and sanding blocks to break the surface of the old paint and to smooth out areas that had small chips.

Weekend two: I used spray primer, a nice light first coat, followed by a light sanding with a fine grit paper and repeated the process once.

Weekend three: Painting. I ended up deciding to use leftover wall paint because I have a multitude of colors and I hate to waste it. In order to use this paint I needed to add paint thinner. I chose Floetrol latex paint additive and mixed a little at a time until I found a consistency that I thought would work. It can’t be too thin or else it will drip but thin enough to not leave brush marks. I used a good paint brush and applied two coats with a light sanding in between.

Final Step: Hardware. The style of the drawer pulls certainly impact the final look and Custom Service Hardware has a great selection.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished product and my daughter loves them.