We have some old kitchen cabinets in poor shape.

I think they are stained wood, but I'm not certain. I'm looking for an easy way to refinish these to make the kitchen look nicer.

Could they be cleaned and painted without being stripped to bare wood?

showing some damage


  • ...and another set of nice solid oak cabinets is lost to paint, which is basically never worth the work to get off the cabinets once they have been ruined with it. Ugh.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 21, 2020 at 0:00
  • Pretty simple, I want better looking cabinets, and I don't want to put in a lot of work or $$. Dec 21, 2020 at 0:49
  • From where you are now, refinishing clear or painting are similar work; once you paint them, they are way too much work to ever get back to wood.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 21, 2020 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


The word "refinish" and the word "easy" do not belong in the same sentence. Options:

  • If the doors, face frames, and boxes are real wood (as opposed to plasticized printed laminate) you could strip them, restain then, and varnish them. While not really "hard" per se, labor intensive when done correctly.
  • Sand and paint them. While not really "hard" per se, labor intensive when done correctly.
  • wash them, clean stuff like grease, dirt, and tape residue off, lightly sand with fine paper, re-varnish. While not really "hard" per se, labor intensive when done correctly.

What are my options for refinishing these cabinets?

You can refinish them any way you choose.

You can strip, sand, re-stain, re-varnish.

You can prep and paint.

The doors and the face frames appear to be solid wood, (a least the rails and styles) the side panel is thin ply or press-board with a very thin veneer on it. (sand very lightly if re-staining, test in an inconspicuous place inside the cabinet)

If you want to paint them then give them good washing. You will want to sand them so you get good paint adhesion, or alternatively you could use a good bonding primer.

Paint them with a good quality cabinet paint.

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