Tag Archives: General Finishes java gel stain

Kitchen Cabinet Restaining…

12 May

I’m about all Java-gel stained out. Well, to be honest I finished back in October 2014, but I STARTED in May 2014. Took a bit of a hiatus while I settled into a new job over the summer, and feverishly worked in the fall in order to complete them by Eloise’s first birthday party. Task accomplished! But it wasn’t without some major burnout in the end.

This recap isn’t a how-to (you can find that here); it’s a before/after plethora of photos so you all can get a feel for what this technique can do for the look of your kitchen (since my bathroom redo is a much smaller space).

Here are a few before photos:



Notice the upper cabinets in the photo below – can you see how uneven the knobs are? Due to settling in our house (it’s over a half-century old), everything was a little crooked. I’ll address this issue toward the end of the post.


I just wasn’t into the honey-oak color, and honestly they were looking a little worse for wear over the past 60 years or so. I love white cabinets, but I didn’t want to paint them because I was afraid of chipping where the doors hit the cabinets, plus these are just so flat and smooth – not much margin of error for paint. Plus, I just like dark, especially with our light floors.

So, here are few “during” photos.

Getting started – there’s still life left in me. Dare I say it – I’m energetic about this project! The ol’ sock hand is back and rarin’ to go!


Just a reminder of the streaky ugliness of the first coat – this is normal.


Not a pretty picture of our kitchen while I did the lower cabinets.



This is me, in between complaints to my husband about how sick of this project I was.


But this story has a happy ending! As much as I complained about it, it was WORTH IT!




I used the same oil-rubbed bronze knobs from before. I wasn’t sure at first how the dark knobs would look against the dark stain, but I really think it turned out well.


We replaced all the hinges from the previous original copper-colored ones to these oil-rubbed bronze ones. They really blend in nicely since these old cabinets don’t use hidden hinges like most new cabinets.


I would be remiss if I did not mention the work that my husband, Ryan, put into these cabinets as well. If you recall that “before” photo from above – the uneven knobs – that issue would come to bite us in the behind at the end. We basically realized we’d have to refill the holes on the doors and the cabinets and rehang pretty much every single one of the 33 doors. Let’s just say I didn’t do it, so thank you Ryan, for rehanging the cabinet doors and for putting up with all my whining. Both were very challenging and annoying.

So, now that I’ve been officially done for 7 months, here are a few pros and cons for those of you thinking of doing this:


  • Beautiful! (If you like dark, rich cabinets. They’re not black – they’re dark brown.)
  • An easy, simple and pretty much foolproof process (here’s that link again)
  • Pretty durable so far. It’s gotten a couple knicks, but nothing I can’t touch up with a tiny paintbrush. And some of those knicks might have been due to the rehanging process.


  • Time-consuming when you’re working with a large area like this. I had a system down where I completed three coats of stain on one side, then turned them over to complete the other side. Be sure to put a towel down so the first side doesn’t get scratched while you’re doing the second side. Then repeat when you do the poly.
  • They’re a little shinier than I prefer (however, some of the photos look WAY shinier than they do in person). I used the General Finishes satin finish, and as far as I know they don’t offer any poly finishes that are less shiny than that. I wanted to use the General Finishes brand poly to match the gel stain (the guy I bought it from couldn’t guarantee how another poly would work with it), but I prefer a less-shiny finish. Maybe if I was doing a table or something small, I would try a different, more matte poly.
  • Fingerprints are more noticeable due to the finish and the dark color. I knew this going in and did it anyway because I didn’t care. I just wipe them around the knobs with a dishrag every now and again – it’s not that big of a deal. And it actually grosses me out to think about how dirty my cabinets were before I did this! 🙂

So, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Best of luck!