I'm looking to redo my kitchen cabinets, which currently look like this this.

Everything I've read (even the products such as this) which claim no priming or prepping and no taking the doors off even, seem to suggest in the fine print that this is only true if they are already painted or primed. My cabinets clearly don't fit this requirement so need to be prepped, traditionally, right? That's my first question.

My second question would be whether any of the steps can be reduced if I choose to stain rather than paint them? I'm a little nervous about painting because I've heard it's very difficult to get a good finish and it can be hard to touch-up if they get knicked.

  • 1
    Prepping is the most important job for a good long lasting job, paint or stain. Any product does says no prepping needed is hoping you are stupid enough to buy their product again in a year. Take the time to do the job well or pay someone else to do it well. You will get a good finish that lasts years. Prepping is usually a very good cleaning and maybe some sanding if loose paint. Taking doors off will give you space to work where pets/kids don't leave their grubby paw/hand prints all over the new paint/stain.
    – crip659
    Jun 8 at 20:18
  • 3
    the wood you are showing is not suited for Stain.
    – Ruskes
    Jun 8 at 20:27
  • Dupe of diy.stackexchange.com/q/98725/25178?
    – gnicko
    Jun 8 at 22:17
  • 1
    From the picture, I can't tell if that door is real oak or some kind of composite skinned to look like oak. I think I can see some damage along the top edge that suggests that it's the latter, but the edge photo looks like plywood. Depending on the answer to that question, your refinishing options will vary. If they're real oak, you should be able to sand them to bare wood and can paint or stain as needed. If the doors are fake oak you're pretty much stuck with paint. Either way, it isn't too hard to get a descent finish, but the steps are different in each case. Can you say if it's real wood?
    – gnicko
    Jun 8 at 22:51
  • @gnicko that was kind of my question. It's not completely solid wood as evidenced by the side view. I think it's plywood or some sort of composite, but like a heavier and better version than most of the types of boxed up furniture that you put together that you can buy these days.
    – NathanLite
    Jun 9 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


What you have there looks like oak plywood.

Stain is meant to be applied to bare wood. If the wood is already clear-coated, the stain won't be able to soak into the surface. So you'd have to sand it thoroughly first to take off the existing finish. But the problem with sanding plywood is that the veneer is usually very thin, so there's a high risk that you'll go through the veneer completely if you sand too much. So, I would recommend paint, not stain.

If anybody claims that there's no surface prep required, then you know they're a goddamn liar. Prepping the surface is the most important part of any painting project. At the very least, you'll need to scrub the doors with soap or degreaser to remove the airborne kitchen funk that's been accumulating over the years. If there are any chips or holes, fill them with wood filler, then sand the filler flat (sand by hand, and don't overdo it - see previous paragraph). Then lightly sand the whole surface to scuff up the finish, this helps the paint adhere. Plan on doing one coat of primer, two coats of paint.

Lastly, don't buy paint from Amazon - go to a local paint store or hardware store. They'll be able to mix custom colors for you, and offer technical advice.

  • Any recommendations on final grit for the sandpaper? What about recommendations for primer or paint? Does it need to be specialty primer/paint or any good quality product will do?
    – NathanLite
    Jun 9 at 16:50
  • Oh, and brush or roller?
    – NathanLite
    Jun 9 at 16:50
  • I won't talk about brands of paint, because this site discourages it, and because I don't know what's available in your area. Jun 9 at 20:04
  • You want glossy paint, since it's in an area that tends to get dirty, so it should be easy to clean. Jun 9 at 20:05
  • Rollers are for large areas like walls. For this, brush would be better. Jun 9 at 20:06

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