Painting or staining your cabinets can bring new life to your kitchen while adding value to your home.

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Q: My kitchen is a little on the dated side. Is there a way to update it without breaking the bank?

A: Refinishing your cabinets could be a cost-effective way of making your old kitchen shine like new. According to RE/MAX Northwest realtor Tara Fuller, it might also add to your home’s resale potential as dated kitchens are often deal-breakers for prospective buyers.

To help you decide if refinishing is right for you, we picked the brains of some local professionals about every facet of refinishing, including staining versus painting, trending colors, and whether glazing is worth the extra cost. Fuller said there are lots of DIY resources to help you take on the project yourself, but “the most important thing is that it looks professional.”

Before you begin, ask yourself: paint or stain? According to Abbas Rachaman, design consultant for Neil Kelly Co., it depends on the style you want.

“I’m typically going with painted for a traditional classic look,” he said, but “staining could lend itself to classic, modern or contemporary” styles. He said that both approaches will hold up well if the quality is high.

Next, you will need to pick a suitable color. Navy, greige and light wood tones like rift-cut white oak are very popular, but Rachaman points out that a classic white is still the go-to color for timeless style. As for wall paint, “light colors are always a good idea because a kitchen should not feel like a cave.”

Once you’ve picked your color, you are ready to refinish. Follow these steps to achieve “lasting and flawless” results:

  • Mask around the work area to avoid getting paint or stain where it doesn’t belong.
  • Remove all hardware and cabinet doors as well as grease from cabinets and face frame.
  • Sand all cabinets before applying a coat of primer with a paint sprayer.
  • Fix any scratches and dents with filler on doors and face frame.
  • Apply another coat of primer.
  • Sand doors and face frame.
  • Clean up all areas with a vacuum and caulk any gaps on cabinet doors.
  • If painting, use a paint sprayer to apply two coats of paint. Alternatively, you can use a roller and brush to paint, but the finish will not be as smooth. If staining, apply one coat of stain, and leave to dry for 24 hours. Depending on the wood type, you may also need to apply a wood conditioner like Daly’s Benite before staining to avoid splotching.
  • If staining, apply three coats of lacquer.

If you decide to hire a professional to paint your cabinets, you can expect to pay $2,500 to $8,000 depending on the kitchen size, number of cabinets and the quality of the materials. If you want your stained cabinets painted, it could cost anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 because the process is more complicated.

Homeowners seeking a period-style kitchen often add glaze for an antique country effect.

“Glazing adds an extra top coat, usually semi-transparent, on the cabinet surface and falls into the profile lines of a cabinet that has already been painted or stained,” Rachaman said. But glazing will set you back an additional $2,000 to $5,000 on average depending on the size of the kitchen and the number of cabinets. According to Rachaman, glazing is “only worth the extra buck if you are trying to commit to a period-style kitchen.”

Whether you decide live in your home or list it, refinishing kitchen cabinets is a DIY remodel project that will add beauty, value and a personal touch to your home.


Elmer Gonzalez is the owner of 4 Seasons Painting and Pressure Washing and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to