How to Refinish Cabinets with Gel Stain and Transform a Room #DIY

Staining cabinets is an easy way to give a room a whole new look. It's way more affordable than replacing old cabinets. Staining wood can be a messy project, but with Java Gel Stain from General Finishes it's nearly mess-free.
When we bought our empty nest home in 2014, there were many things I intended to change and we've accomplished many of our DIY renovations already. You can read more about those HERE. I wanted to share the process I used to make over the cabinets using Java Gel Stain in the two bathrooms and the kitchen.
First, remove all the cabinet doors and drawers. I stained my doors and cabinets on a table in the garage. I left the cabinet bases in their respective rooms for staining. If there are knobs or handles on your cabinets, remove them. I didn't have any, but added them after I refinished the cabinets to update their look even more. Gather all the supplies you're going to need.

(the links are to the products on Amazon and if you purchase through my link, I'll earn a few pennies)
General Finishes Java Gel Stain (other colors available)      
General Finishes Polyacrylic Satin Topcoat
    *Note: One can of stain and topcoat was enough for all these cabinets.
Foam brushes
Blue painter's tape
Sanding Block
When staining a cabinet base in a room, tape off walls, floors, and appliances with blue painter's tape for a clean stain line next to walls and floors, and to protect appliances from accidental bumps with the brush. Be sure to open a window or door slightly to allow fumes to escape the room. This gel stain has only a slight odor, so it doesn't smell up the entire house if you're working inside. Lightly sand the cabinets with a sanding block, and honestly don't spend too much time doing this and don't worry too much about the inner corners. You just want to soften the wood a bit so it grabs the stain. The sanding also removes dirt from the surface. I set some old 2x4 pieces under my cabinet doors on the table so I could stain the edges of the door without staining the tables.
This stain can be used in two ways, you can either spread it on and let it dry, or spread it on and wipe it down with a soft cloth. I just spread it on with a foam brush and let it dry, because not wiping it with a cloth means I'm saving time. The first coat isn't very impressive. There will be lots of streaks and bare-looking spots. Let it dry at least 24 hours before applying a second coat of stain. If it's really humid, wait 48 hours. Then apply a second coat and wait again until it's dry. I only stained the outside parts of the cabinets, not the inside parts. It's time consuming, but I found it to be very enjoyable. The gel stain isn't runny, rather it's more like a pudding, so it's a pretty clean project. I did throw a towel on the floor under where I was working in the rooms to make sure I didn't cause any disasters if I accidentally tipped over the can of gel stain.
After the second coat of gel stain dries, apply two coats of topcoat, allowing the first coat to dry completely before applying the second. When the topcoat is completely dry, you can reinstall the cabinet doors and drawers, then add knobs or handles. You will be amazed at what you just accomplished and your room will look like it's been remodeled by a pro!

Here's the Guest Bathroom after I refinished the cabinet.
See the entire remodel HERE.

Here's the Master Bathroom after I refinished the cabinet.
See the entire remodel HERE.

Here's the Kitchen after I refinished the cabinets.
See the entire remodel HERE.

See all of my DIY Home Projects HERE.

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  1. WOW. You are really getting good at this remodeling stuff! Can't wait to see it all in THREE weeks!

  2. Your cabinets turned out so great! Good job!

  3. I love the transformation! I think I have the exact same bathrooms! I need to try this in my half bath to update the look. Thanks for sharing, the process looks very doable!

    1. Thank you Jay! I'm so happy I gave it a try!


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