How to Refinish Maple Cabinets

If you discover faded maple kitchen cabinets during a remodel or find the color no longer matches your decor, you don't have to replace the cabinets. A refinish job will give them an updated look without your having to go to the hassle of replacement.

Luckily, maple is easy to refinish, since it reacts well to sanding, paint, or staining. You should be able to refinish maple cabinets yourself. Follow these tips to refinish maple cabinets.

Prepare to Work

For this project you will need:

  • work gloves
  • safety goggles
  • plastic zipper bags
  • drop cloths or plastic covering
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • putty knife, tack cloth
  • 20-grit and 180-grit sandpaper
  • bristle brush
  • foam paint brush
  • wax-based chemical stripper
  • wood stain or paint
  • wood conditioner
  • sealer such as polyurethane

Open the windows or run exhaust fans to ventilate the work space. Cover the floors and countertops with drop cloths or plastic covers.

Use the screwdriver to detach the hinges, removable shelves, doors, and knobs. Lay the doors and shelves on a flat work surface. Store the hardware in plastic bags.

Strip the Original Stain or Paint

Wax-based stripper won't splatter as bad as other strippers. Use a bristle brush to apply a generous coat of stripper to the inside of the cabinets, doors, and shelves. Let the stripper set based on directions.

Occasionally, poke the stripper with a putty knife to determine if it has become soft. Apply another coat of stripper if the first coat hasn't softened, and let it set for half the suggested time. Scrape the stripper away with the putty knife.

Apply the New Stain or Paint

Sand the cabinets, doors, and shelves with 120-grit sandpaper, working in the path of the grain to enhance the unique maple-wood pattern. Use the tack cloth to clean dust. Sand the cabinet again using the 180-grit sandpaper.

If you are going to stain the cabinets, apply a wood conditioner to all cabinet parts and the inside of the cabinet with a foam brush and let the conditioner dry. This helps the wood absorb the stain better. Brush on a coat of stain or paint following the grain direction, then let the area dry.

Add a second coat of paint or stain, and let the coat dry. You may add additional coats, but extra coats will make the grain less noticeable. You may use any kind of sealer, but many sealers, paints, and stains aren't compatible, so check the label. Apply the sealer to protect the finish.

Reinstall cabinet doors and shelves. To further update the look, replace the hardware, if desired.

Your maple cabinets will stand out with a new finish. If you don't trust your skill or think it's time for a complete kitchen update, contact a remodeling contractor such as Sierra Remodeling & Home Builders Inc.