Monday, January 28, 2013

DIY Gel Stain Cabinet Makeover

 

I have been so envious of this project for the past few months.  I've seen tutorials and before/after photos floating around on the internet and kept thinking, "I'd love to do that!"  Finally, my husband and I decided to go for it.  We were thrilled with the results!

First... let's talk about some realistic expectations.
1.  This project will not be finished in one weekend.  It will take two weekends of your time.  While this is primarily drying time, don't expect to have your bathroom back in a few days.
2.  The costs do add up for this project.  Expecting that you don't have any of the materials, you will be spending about $75.00.
3.  You will need to order materials online.  The gel stain and polyacrylic I purchased are usually not available locally.  I purchased them for $30.00 (total) on Amazon.com {see link below}.  I do not recommend substituting these materials.  Their results are uniquely amazing.

Alright, now that we have those important details out of the way, let me say...
Do not be afraid of this project.  I cannot stress enough how easy it was to get these crazy great results.  Just have a little patience.

Now for the fun stuff....

Materials
General Finishes Java Gel Stain (pint)
General Finishes Polyacrylic Top Coat (pint)
Vinyl Gloves {10 pack... only $1.50 at Home Depot}
Men's Socks {2 pairs}
Foam Brushes {2 is good, three is better}
Floor Covering
Painter's Tape
Screw Driver
Sander and/or Sand Sponge {This CAN be done without an electric sander!}
Microfiber Cloth
Painter's Pyramids {Optional}
Washcloths

Gel Stain

Polyacrylic

Instructions
1.  Empty out your entire vanity.  Again, remember that you will be losing your bathroom for a little over a week, so make sure items are easily accessible.

2.  Take a moment to really clean out your drawers, counter tops and floor around the cabinets.  You will want to focus on eliminating any dust and hair in the area.  Check out that awesome purple eye shadow I found in my makeup drawer.  Sadly, it's from the previous owner... eeeewww.

3.  Lay down your floor covering and tape off your area.  You may chose to use craft paper.  I chose to use leftover, heavy-duty wrapping paper.  Take the time do this meticulously.  It will pay off in the end.

 4.  If your design allows, remove drawer fronts.  If it does not, use painter's tape to protect sides of drawers.  I recommend doing two rows of tape.  While staining, your fingers can go a little rouge and get stain everywhere.  Better safe than sorry.

 5.  Remove doors from hinges.

 6.  Sand down all your surfaces.  Again, this CAN be done without an electric sander - it will just take a little more time.
When sanding, don't go crazy.  You just need to buff up the surface, not sand all the way through.  Don't spend too much time on each piece, but don't forget the edges.  Every single square inch needs to be sanded - the gel stain will not adhere if you don't.
Again, take the time to do it right.  It will pay off in the end.

 7.  Wipe down all your sanded surfaces with a microfiber cloth.  Remove ALL dust!

8.  Time to gear up!   Vinyl glove first, followed by a men's sock.  Why a men's sock?  They are longer and will therefore protect your arm and stay on!  It's possible to use women's socks though.  We don't discriminate.

 9.  Set up your doors on painter's pyramids if you so choose.  This will allow you to do both sides at one time.  We used them for the first round and then never again.  It was just easier to have them on the ground, but it's entirely up to you.

 10.  Time to get going!!!  So exciting!!!  First things first, turn on the bathroom fan.  These fumes will getcha!
Now here's the deal... it doesn't take much gel stain to make a high impact.  When staining, just dip your sock in the stain.  You only need a small dollop per drawer and about a tablespoon or so per side of a door.
The trick is even, thin coats.  Avoid leaving clumps of gel anywhere.  Gently rub with the grain, make it even and take a deep breath.  It's not going to look like much at first, but it'll get there.  I promise.
 Now, this is what it looks like at Coat #1.  Take a deep breath.  This is normal.
 Let dry for 8 hours. I'm not kidding.  Give it 8 hours.   When you come back, you'll see why.

**You may consider setting up a small fan.  It helps with drying as well as ventilation.

 11.  Apply Coat #2.  Here's what our looked like afterwards.
 Let dry for 24 hours.

12.  Apply Coat #3.  This is the time for serious touch-up.  I used a foam brush to get into cracks and hard-to-reach places.  Pay special attention to doors, along the edges of those fake drawer fronts and along the wall.
 Let dry 12 hours.

13.  Finally, apply Coat #4.  Last chance for touch- up.  Is everything even?  Do you have any gaps?  Pay special attention to the edges of the doors and drawers.  Ours had really deep grains and need a little extra love.
 Let dry for 5 days.

14.  After 5 days, your gel stain will be really set.  Do one final look over for touch-ups.  Ready?  Grab pair of socks #2, suit up and dig in.  Apply the polyacrylic using the same method as the stain.  You will notice you need much less to cover your pieces because it is water based.  Apply a thin, even coat and avoid leaving any clumps.  These are easily identified as the area will be cloudy instead of clear.
 Allow to dry for 6 hours.  After fully dry, repeat.  Two coats should do it!

Wow!  Check out those beauties!!!

Give it a shot and definitely let me know how it goes!


64 comments:

  1. Nice job! Will be doing this tomorrow...reading different blogs to make sure I do it right!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Best of luck to you! We loved the results - hope you do too!

      If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me either here or by email!

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    2. Did you use synthetic steel wool between your top coats?

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  2. They look wonderful. I'm in the process of doing this now, but the second coat has me freaked out! Did you wipe each coat as you went, or did you pull on an even coat and let it dry?

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    Replies
    1. With gel stain, it is okay to spread on thinly with a foam brush and NOT wipe away excess (just make sure you do not leave globs). This may increase your dry time between coats, but you will have to do fewer coats. And make sure to give it at least 5 days between the gel stain and the gel topcoat to make sure the stain has dried all the way through (although if you use the gel topcoat, it's much more forgiving than other sealers).

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  3. Glad you're giving it a shot! The separate coats can be a little...concerning but stick with it. Apply thin, even coats and let them dry completely before moving forward. This is the Ugly Duckling of DIY - after you get through the coats it will be beautiful.

    Let me know if you have any further questions.

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    Replies
    1. The third coat is looking pretty good, but some streaks. I don't mind them, but my husband thinks they should be gone, so I'll do a 4th coat and then put on the poly. They will look solid and like paint rather than a stain, I think, but this is a practice run for doing the kitchen raised panels only on my maple cabinets so I don't have all that yellowy color to look at. Anyone else who has done just parts of the cabinet?

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  4. Jen,
    Hi! Just wondering the type of wood of your cabinets? I am redoing old oak cabinets and want a fresh new look, but I don't want the wood grain to show through. I read another blog that did paint on oak and it did not show the heavy wood grain. But I have worked with the gel stain in the past and really like the finished product. Let me know what you think.
    Thanks! C

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    Replies
    1. Hi C - Our cabinets were the builder's grade oak. After four coats of the gel stain, a little of the wood grain did show through. The grain was more visible as ridges than as color high/lows (or variations). In other words, the color was consistent across the cabinets, but you could see the ridges of the grain. Does that help?

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  5. We did this in our kitchen and it looks great. Question... We have a few spills and since the top coat is water based... What do you use to clean spots and spills without taking off the clear coat or stain?

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    Replies
    1. Oh no! According to the company, it really depends on what was spilled. To be safe, wipe down with a damp cloth and a mild cleaning agent. Avoid products that are alcohol or ammonia based or contain silicon oils.

      Hopefully that helps - let me know how it goes!
      Jen

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  6. We used this process in our bathroom and although the cabinets turned out beautifully, we are having issues with chipping. Have you had any issues with chipping? I just finished the last coat of gel stain on my kitchen and I am in the waiting 5 days step. I am concerned about using the water based poly over the oil based gel. I am in CA so I can not buy the oil based poly. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Jannee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jannee - I'm so sorry you're having issues! I have not experienced any chipping and am I unsure what would cause it. What kind of chipping are you experiences? Is it on the edges or in the middle of the panels?

      In regards to the water-based poly, I used water-based on these cabinets and they have held up great! The key to working with the oil-based gel is to make sure it dries all the way through. Once you are SURE it's dry, the water-based polyacrylic will do its job beautifully.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions!
      Best of luck!
      Jen

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    2. Jannee, you needed to use the wipe-on urethane topcoat called "General Finishes Gel Topcoat" on top of the gel stain. You may can sand off the polyacrylic to get rid of as much of the loose product as possible, apply another coat of gel stain, then follow with the gel topcoat. Generally, you do not apply any water-based products on top of oil-based (at least I've never seen a situation where that has held up to wear).

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    3. Nope. Don't use the wipe-on urethane topcoat. It's not meant for projects like this with 4 coats of gel stain. I used it and it wiped off some of my stain and my cabinets uneven, I have to go over it again with the original gel stain. Use the water based poly and you will be fine. I called GF and confirmed this.

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  7. The Polyacrylic that was used here is generally a brush-on product. The wipe-on sealer that you want to apply on top of the gel stain is General Finishes Gel Topcoat Wipe-On Urethane (only comes in satin finish).

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  8. I am just starting this project and was wondering how much sanding you did on the drawers and doors. I am not using an electric sander and I have sanded quite a bit but they still look the same as when I had started?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello - You only need to do enough sanding to scuff up the surface. As long as you're breaking through the top coat a little bit, you're good to go! No need to work all the top coat off or change the color.

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  9. This looks beautiful!! I think I want to try it in my kitchen. Quick question though, if I may... You appear to have light grey walls. How do these look against the grey in person? Are they very obviously dark brown? Or do they read as black? I'm tired of brown. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Leigh - We had "Cathedral Gray" by Behr paint on the walls. The cabinets do read as a dark brown - not black. General Finishes does offer a black stain, but it is a water based traditional stain (not gel). Hope that helps!

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    2. It does, thank you so much for your reply! I emailed the company too, and they said universal tint can be added to the gel stains. Think I'll give that a whirl. Your after looks so great I probably won't mind too much even if I can't get it black. :)

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  10. Hi Jen, this is by far the best tutorial out there on gel staining.. thank you very much :) I started staining my kitchen cabinets last week, and was getting nervous because I had to apply four coats and it was still a little streaky.. I guess I wasn't using enough stain with each application.. will try again.. thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! Don't get discouraged - keep applying until you're happy but remember to let it dry in between. You'll get there! Hope it turns out beautifully!

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  11. Hello! It looks great! I have a question: do you lightly sand in between coats? I think I read some where to do this. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hello - No, I didn't sand in between coats. With the gel stain sanding between coats is not necessary.

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  12. Nice.It was so helpful. I am on stage three of gel staining. The waiting is a killer. I talked to the guy at our wood refinishing store here at Boise, and he said you don't have to use the top coat if you don't want the shine. I'm lucky its sold locally I bought black to add to the Java because I wanted mine almost black.

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  13. Did you sand between coats of the polyacrylic topcoat? The can says to but I tried it on the back of one of the cabinet doors and it scuffed up the finish.

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    Replies
    1. Hello - No, I did not sand in between any coats of any of the material. I had heard that it doesn't give you the finish that most people desire on the cabinets. Hope this helps!

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  14. Really nice job dear, I am looking for some bathroom cabinets.

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  15. DIY Gel Stain Cabinets are really nice and strong more then others.

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  16. This is an excellent tutorial, thank you. I am getting ready to do my kitchen and gathering final procedures and buying the products. Thought I could buy it at a local store but they don't carry the GF gel stain. Also getting ready to not have a kitchen for two week, ugh!

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    Replies
    1. OH! Good luck! The hardest part is not having access to a part of your house! Definitely let me know if you have any issues or questions!

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  17. I am on the third coat of my master bath cabinets and the drawers look great but the doors are very streaky and do not look "grainy" like the drawers. Do i need to sand all the doors down and start over?

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  18. Jen -

    When you say no need to go crazy on sanding, how much is enough for the gel stain to hold onto the current finish?

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  19. nice job! I am a bit confuse here .Some blogs rub the gel away after painting on, did you ever rub them away even for the 2nd or 3rd coat? If not, will they be smooth and even?
    Also, after cleaning the surface with the lysol wipe, how long did you wait for it to dry?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello - You shouldn't have to wipe away any gel. If you do, you're using too much. The trick is thin, even coats. Globbing it on extends dry time and makes your surface uneven.
      For cleaning, whatever cleaning method you use, wait until surface is completely dry. This means your surface should not be cool or damp to the touch. Dry time will vary by environment.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

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  20. Hey the poly top coat u used is not water based, it's oil based

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    Replies
    1. Hi There - There are two kinds. If you follow the links I provided above, it will take you to the water-based top coat. :)

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  21. Hi Jen! I've been reading tutorials for the past few months and we're finally getting started on our staining project this weekend (our kitchen)! I have a stupid question - we are going to stain on the ground (one side at a time) and I was wondering if it's best to do one coat on one side, let it dry, and then do the first coat on the next side (and so on) or if it's best to do all of the coats on one side before starting on the next side. I'm leaning toward going back and forth, but was wondering what you would suggest. Thanks in advance!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kristin,

      There are no stupid questions! I definitely recommend doing one side at a time - flipping back and forth. Remember your drying times, because flipping too soon can scratch or smudge your work.

      Best of luck to you!

      Delete
  22. I am in the final coats of polyacrylic and it is extremely shiny and you can see "sock brush strokes" which i feel are excentuated by the shine on the cabinets how can i fix this?

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    Replies
    1. Did you ever find a solution to this? I just did a 2nd coat and am having the same problem.

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  23. What a transformation! You really put a lot of effort into this and it turned out great!

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  24. I'm curious to know - how has this held up, 2 years later? I'm getting ready to do this in the master bath, and considering the kitchen. Thanks for your tutorial!

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  25. My finish is chipping, and I believe it's because I didn't allow enough time between coats (I didn't see this until after I did my project, unfortunately). Is there anything I can do at this point now that the project is all done to prevent further chipping??

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  26. WOW! You did a fantastic job! So much work but so worth the effort. I kind want to go buy a file cabinet and do my own colors, lol. Great job!

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  27. Nice pics. To get more relevant information visit here Kitchen remodeling Austin

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  29. Thank you so much for giving us such kind of handy content which will be most useful to me as well as others.
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  30. Is it necessary to clean the cabinets with anything other than a damp cloth before staining?

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  31. Thanks for sharing this post! It inspired me to do my bathroom vanity and all of my kitchen cabinets. Love the way they turned out! I posted about it on my blog - http://www.justmeasuringup.com/blog/kitchen-cabinet-makeover. The kitchen was a huge project, but now that it's done, I couldn't be happier with it. Thanks again!

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  32. Thanks for sharing this post! It inspired me to do my bathroom vanity and all of my kitchen cabinets. Love the way they turned out! I posted about it on my blog - http://www.justmeasuringup.com/blog/kitchen-cabinet-makeover. The kitchen was a huge project, but now that it's done, I couldn't be happier with it. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I should have mentioned I love this Post. I used the Polyacrylic and Gel stain on the lower kitchen cabinets and it looks Fantastic!!!

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. You’ve made some good points there. It’s a good idea! Please visit https://goo.gl/2VNh2G

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  36. Great Tutorial! Thanks so much. What grit of sandpaper did you use?

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  38. Great post! This would definitely work in the bathroom cabinets!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thank you so much for posting this. I do love all the design of your kitchen cabinets. thanks for sharing with us

    ReplyDelete
  40. I love these. I have used some in my mom's kitchen and they are wonderful.

    ReplyDelete

 
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