Lucy – You’ve Got Some Staining to Do!*

15 Mar

(*Quote by Ryan Rixen during this project – he thinks he’s so funny.)

Greetings! I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, but it’s for good reason – 1. We went on vacation to Mexico, and 2. I have been busy with a new project!

I’m so excited to show you all my brand, spankin’ new cabinets in our upstairs bathroom. I guess I shouldn’t say new – they’re refreshed. These cabinets are original to the house, which is maybe between  50 and 60 years old and were looking a bit worse for wear. The finish was coming off in spots, and one way or another they needed to be redone.



This one is closest to the shower, and you can see how the finish is really bad from years of water droplets.


These cabinets are behind the door of the bathroom. I love all the storage in here! But they were in dire need of an update.

IMG_0860 IMG_0861

A year or two ago when I had been toying with the idea of refinishing the cabinets, I had resigned myself to the fact that I probably was going to have to sand them down and stain them the old fashioned way. That seemed like so much work. Luckily, I ran across a tutorial on Pinterest on how to update honey oak cabinets like ours and tucked it away for the future when I had some time on my hands. I thought about doing this for a long time and did more research (I’m a big research girl), then decided this was it – I was going to do it! Oh nothing beats the feeling of dreaming of what my next project will turn out like. 🙂

I followed Monica’s tutorial to a T – if it worked for her, I thought it would probably work for me. Ryan was on board with it. He agree that they needed to be redone, and if this didn’t work, we’d just paint them white. I really didn’t want to paint them white, so I was crossing my fingers that this would work!

The first thing I did was purchase the stain – General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

Monica said that if you use this stain, it won’t require heavy sanding and that’s what I was looking for – a technique that used minimal sanding. Apparently this technique works best using the espresso stain, and I was okay with having dark cabinets. The only place in town that I found this stain was a locally owned store called Simply Wood Furniture in Mandan. Otherwise, you can find it on Amazon but it means you’ll have to pay for shipping. I also purchased the General Finishes Polyacrylic in satin.

Here’s a rundown of what I did to start this project:

1. Wiped down all the drawers and doors with a bucket of warm water with dish soap and vinegar.

2. Removed the doors, drawers, and all hardware (including knobs and hinges).

3. Lightly sanded the drawers and doors. I used 220 grit sandpaper and just sanded enough to break up the sheen of the varnish.

4. Wiped down the doors and drawers again to get rid of the sanding dust.

5. Bought a roll of brown mailing paper from the dollar store and taped it down. This stain is oil-based so you don’t want to drip anywhere.

I was ready to start staining! Truth be told, the prep work was the worst part of the project. But it had to be done because I didn’t want to cut any corners with this project – I wanted a nice, durable, beautiful finish. Here’s what our bathroom looked like for a couple of weeks, not to mention the fact that our hallway was lined with the contents of the 11 bathroom drawers. My husband is a sport. 🙂



Again, I did exactly as Monica instructed, which was to use rubber gloves and apply the stain with an old (washed) sock. This stain is about the consistency of pudding and doesn’t smell too bad!


Here’s coat one – streaky and fairly light. This is normal:




Coat 2 – looking a bit darker but still seeing streaks:



Me and my perpetual sock hand (with a kitty trying to make the big jump in the background):


Three coats did the trick; however I did put one extra on for good measure to take away any lingering streaks. I finished everything up with at least four coats of the polyacrylic, just to make everything nice and durable. Honestly, the project was pretty easy, and each coat took less than an hour. But adding everything up did take some time, and the whole things took me a couple weekends and random evenings. But for $50 – it was SO worth it in the end.


I still have to paint the door white:


I also made sure to stain the medicine cabinet (sorry for the yellowy photo).


I’m telling you, we LOVE how these turned out. However, if you’re thinking of doing this yourself, there are a few things I learned:

1. This stain is dark and pretty opaque. The main thing preventing it from looking like paint is that it retains the wood texture (paint will be more likely to settle in).

2. Dry time – I waited at least 24 hours between each coat of stain, but only about 2-3 between each coat of poly (as instructed on the cans).

3. This stain stains! (no pun intended) Be sure to put the drop paper down (drop cloths can shift).

4. You can use it on laminate. The sides of our medicine cabinet are laminate. I just stained like I would wood, and it turned out great.

Here’s more before/after eye candy:

IMG_0852 IMG_1050

I love how rich and luxurious it looks! I’m toying with the idea of doing it in our kitchen (same cabinets in there), but it will be awhile. I need a break! Thanks for reading, as always. What do you think – would you consider a deep, dark stain for any of your cabinets?


9 Responses to “Lucy – You’ve Got Some Staining to Do!*”

  1. Paula Redmann March 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    LOVELY! You do good work. Of course I’m reading your words, looking at pics, and looking for kitties. ☺


    • Sarah Rixen March 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      Thanks Paula! I always make sure to get kitties in there somewhere because I know how much you love them. 🙂 – Sarah

  2. Stevie Hardi March 18, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    Wow Sarah this looks so nice! I’m inspired! -Stevie

    • Sarah Rixen March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks Stevie! You should do it if you have an opportunity – it is a very easy project. I have a coffee table I might do sometime. 🙂 – Sarah

  3. ML May 28, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    Do you think this would work on off-white cabinets? I love the espresso color!

    • Sarah Rixen May 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      According to Monica’s FAQ’s page (I used her tutorial) at, she says that it SHOULD work but you likely wouldn’t see much wood grain. Now, my cabinets didn’t have any textural wood grain (only visual – they are very smooth) so I would presume that yours would be similar! She also said it may take more coats, but that would really be personal preference as far as how opaque you would want it. Best of luck to you! – Sarah

  4. ismael July 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    How well did it work on laminate. I want to do my kitchen cabinets but they r laminate

    • Sarah Rixen July 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      The only area that I used this stain on laminate was on the sides of our medicine cabinet. It appeared to turn out the same as the rest (minus any texture), but it’s such a small area so it’s hard to say how it would look over a large area. I will say this, though – my cabinets do not have a wood texture to it (at least you can’t feel it), so ours are pretty smooth – could potentially be the same as yours. Monica says it would work on laminate. I would recommend finding a piece of laminate (maybe you can buy a small piece of wood or even a piece of trim), putting on three layers of the stain and seeing whether you like it or not. I actually tested the stain on the inside of one of our cabinets before embarking on the whole project – it made me feel better. Good luck!

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