Unfinished Oak Cabinets….Paint or Stain?

Unfinished Oak Cabinets
Unfinished Oak Cabinets

After purchasing two different stains at our local Sherwin Williams, I decided that for this project, stain wasn’t for me.  The lighter shades weren’t light enough and the color that we tried was entirely wrong when it was applied to a sample piece.  My first choice was the darkest stain they offered but with a small kitchen space, I thought dark cabinets might close in the space with the dark laminate floors we had chosen to reduce seeing dirt at the entrance.  This kitchen will eventually be the laundry room/mud room when the renovation is done so I was also trying to keep that in mind with material selection.

I went with Anne Sloan Chalk Paint for a more distinctive look.  I figure that I am going to spend a large portion of my life in the laundry room since I have two very active boys so I wanted to love the space when it transformed from kitchen to laundry room.   My preference with wood is the darker the better and if given a choice, I would rather not see the grain.  I know, then why go with wood to begin with?  Well, in this case, it was a fast and cheap fix to a dilemma of having a functioning kitchen or not during a major renovation.

5 Things I learned about painting unfinished oak cabinets……

1.  You have to paint unfinished oak cabinets with shellac first.  Yep, this is an extra step I didn’t figure on in the timing of this project.  There were times I was second guessing my choice.  With stain, you would not have had this step.

2.  For best results, have adequate space for your painted doors to dry.  I did not think this one entirely through.  This project had 30 doors.  During a full renovation and move, it was difficult to find a space for the doors to dry that was not in the way of some other project going on.  We had doors and drawers everywhere.  It was a tad humorous.

3.  When it was all said and done, five coats were needed to do this project as I envisioned. 1 coat of shellac, 2 coats of chalk paint, 1 coat of clear wax, and lastly 1 coat of dark wax to give it an antique look.  I totally skipped the last coat of dark wax.  After four coats on 30 doors, I was ready to have this beast done.  I also wasn’t sure if I could apply the dark wax consistently.  I am thinking that next time I envision a 5 step paint process, maybe it should be a smaller project or one with significant less doors.

4.  When using chalk paint, it specifically says on the paint can, don’t use around surfaces that will get wet often.  Whoops!  I need to do a back splash by the sink but other than that the chalk paint is just the look I was going for in this space.

5.  I selected two colors of chalk paint to give the doors some dimension.  I used Old Ochre as the bottom coat and Country Grey as the top coat.  They are in the same color family and the final product has received many compliments.  For the walls, I used Sherwin Williams HGTV paint in Escape Gray.  I find it interesting that “gray” is in the color scheme yet it pulls a beautiful shade of green.  Moral of the story,don’t get hung up on the name of the color samples.

All in all I am very glad that this project is complete.  It is time to move on to other DIY projects and hopefully ones that are a tad less time consuming.



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