What is Cabinet Refinishing?

cabinet refinishing santa barbara

Your kitchen cabinets are one of the most used items in your home.  We are constantly opening and closing doors and grabbing plates, class ware and all the essential items used on a daily basis.

Like any household item, they are also prone to wear and tear. You will begin to see scratches, gouges, and stains on your cabinet as time goes on. Being one of the largest items means these issues are some of the most difficult to hide.

So what do you do to address those issues? Well, people use cabinet refinishing to update and upgrade the look of their cabinets.

How Does Cabinet Refinishing Work

The process is quite a straightforward process. On the whole, this process will provide you with the exact look you desire for your cabinets. This involves covering and filling damages, cleaning out discoloration, painting or staining, and then adding a new protective layer on its surface.

While straightforward, it isn’t easy, but it is definitely much simpler than the alternative methods which can require replacing or removing different parts of your cabinet.

Some very experienced homeowners might be able to tackle a project of this magnitude, but we highly recommend leaving this to the professional painters.  If you only needed a room painted and wanted to do that yourself, you might do a great job. But your cabinets are a major focal point and very difficult to do correctly.

What is the Process of Cabinet Refinishing

Stripping the Cabinet Down

When starting this process, the professional Santa Barbara painters need as much space as you are able to provide. You will need to empty the cabinet of anything inside and store the items outside the kitchen. You will also want to remove anything that is on the countertops to make sure nothing gets dirty or broken. 

Once everything is cleaned out, all the cabinet hardware will need to be removed, cabinet parts like the fronts of the drawer and door fronts. 
This part of the process really requires a professional to handle since there is a good chance you can end up damaging your cabinet while doing this. Professionals know how to separate different components carefully and will be able to put everything back together perfectly.

If you’re attempting this yourself you will need to have a space prepared to do all the messy work. 

kitchen cabinet refinishing

Removing the Old Finishing

After removing the hardware the next step is to remove the existing coating on your cabinet for refinishing. What you need to do can depend on the shape of your current cabinets and what you want the finished product to look like. Some times a chemical mixture is needed to dissolve the old paint and finish on your cabinet.

The mixture can vary depending on the cabinet wood and how much finishing there is. That is why an expert is necessary to determine how many chemicals to use. Often times they only use moderate the amounts of chemicals you use. Too much can go beyond the finishing and damage the wood underneath. Unfortunately, many inexperienced cleaners make that mistake and cause irreparable damage.

Professional services also know how to switch it up such as using more potent mixtures for different problems. For example, they will use a potent chlorine mixture if there are stains or markings.

There are times when chemicals are not needed and sanding will be sufficient. The process takes a lot of effort, but this is one of the most important steps. For the cabinets to look brand new when they are finished, properly preparing the service is essential. 

During this process you will need to remind yourself that sometimes things need to get worse before they get better.  The cabinets might look beet up and ugly by sight, but when they are ready to be painted or stained they will start to feel perfect to the touch.

Fill Up Damaged Areas

Once the chemicals clear up and the finish is gone, you can begin working on repairing the damage. Santa Barbara professional painters make use of special wood fillers that fill up dents and gouges along the surface.  Mesa Painting experts know how to fill them up thoroughly without making a mess.

After finishing that, they can sand the areas again to smooth the surface. This process will clear up any leftover finish and filler. By the end, the wood should be smooth to the touch with no scratches.

When handling the process, expert professional santa barbara painters use sandpaper, you go from lowest to highest in terms of grit. Start with something like 80-100, then work up to higher grit levels. 220-320 grit is usually enough to smoothen most wood.

Stain or Paint the cabinets

Once all the damage is fixed and everything is smooth to the touch, it is now time to add the stain or paint. Whether Stain or paint is used will be based on the desired look you have for your space.  If you want a natural wood look you will choose stain.  If you would like a clean white look for your kitchen cabinet refinishing they will need to be painted.

For the best results a professional painter will use a spray gun. Paint sprayers have an obvious advantage: They can spread paint, stains, and clear finishes faster than any brush or roller, or rag. But just as important is their ability to apply an even coating to uneven surfaces.

This step is where it is very obvious why professional Santa Barbara painting contractors are essential.  If you don’t use a paint sprayer it will never look correct.  If you are not experienced with using a paint sprayer you will quickly find out that it is not as easy as the professionals make it look. 

Apply a sealer

After the paint or stain is fully dried it is time for the last step before putting all the hardware on and putting everything back together.  Your cabinets will look great at this time, but if you want to keep them looking great for many years to come, you will need to seal them.

To prolong the lifespan of your cabinet once they have been painted or stained, it is important to finish the job by sealing your cabinets with a transparent top-coat. These sealing options include varnishes composed of polyurethane, polycrylic, spar urethane, nitrocellulose, waterborne acrylic, and more.

Hiring a professional for cabinet refinishing will be able to choose the correct option.

Difference Between Cabinet Refinishing, Refacing and Replacing

Although refinishing is one of the most popular methods of repairing a cabinet, it is not the only one. If your cabinet is suffering from damage, people can use other methods like refacing or replacing it to fix it. What exactly are these methods, though?

We already explained cabinet refinishing, so refacing is an upgrade over refinishing. You can use these two methods together to improve your results further.

You should know that wood refinishing is less drastic since it only makes minor changes to improve appearance. It is also significantly cheaper since you need less work and expertise.

If the damage to your cabinet is too severe, you might need a different treatment to repair it fully.


After the refinishing process, you and the repair team have the option of doing more. You can follow it up by adding an extra layer to improve it further.

Doing this can modify the appearance and shape of the cabinet without having to change the rest of the kitchen. There are different options for performing this process on a cabinet, and one option is to laminate, giving the cabinet a smoother and glossier appearance.

However, laminates have their issues. They can make the texture feel fake, and many agree its quality is not as good as traditional wood. They also don’t last long because they are susceptible to wear and tear. Laminate is typical to warp from heat, rip, and wear out.

The advantage of this method is the process is much cheaper and easier to perform.

Another method is replacing it by changing the wood of your cabinets. You can do this on wooden doors since they are easier to change, which means you can expect these changes to last longer.

However, the quality depends on the material and how well they attach it. Not placing the new doors correctly can cause them to wear out faster.

Additionally, if it doesn’t match the appearance of the rest of the cabinet, it can lead to a mismatched appearance. Even if it looks good now, some woods are known to discolor or change appearance over time.

Lastly, higher-end replacements are more expensive, and they will generally cost well over $10,000.


Replacing a cabinet is one of the simplest but most expensive methods to deal with cabinet damages. As the name suggests, this involves removing your old cabinets and replacing them entirely. It sounds pretty simple, but it is also the process that requires the most investment.

For one, it is the most expensive since you were paying for a new setup instead of just making small changes. It requires more work to get rid of the whole thing and find a replacement, so you have to cover that too.

Aside from the costs, it will significantly change the room. With these methods, you are only replacing parts of a cabinet or adding extra layers, and they won’t alter the size or shape of the cabinet.

By buying a new cabinet, you have to consider these size differences. The first is trying to find a cabinet that matches your old ones’ proportions, so you won’t have to change the layout. The problem is it limits your options and means you won’t have as much freedom to redecorate.

On the other hand, you can try to get a new cabinet with different proportions. Doing that gives you more options for your wants, but it means adjusting your current setup. If it is too big, you might need to alter the room’s layout to make room for it.

Cabinet Refinishing Summary

Although your cabinets may seem like they can last a lifetime, it’s surprising how quickly they can wear out. Before you realize it, your cabinet can be full of dings and scratches. However, just as problems suddenly appear, addressing them can be a breeze as long as you know your options.

Knowing how to perform a cabinet refinishing can help your cabinet remain clean and new. At the same time, knowing these other methods can give you options that can hopefully save you, someone, on big repairs.

It’s time to upgrade your space
Mesa Painting has been providing professional painting services in Santa Barbara county for over 10 years. Schedule your estimate, by calling or filling out our form. We’re excited to speak to you about upgrading your space.  We can help with Interior painting, exterior painting, epoxy garage floor coating, deck finishing, pressure washing, commercial painting and we’ll provide the best option that fits the goals of your space and your budget.


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