When it comes to updating cabinetry in your home for a reasonable price, the first step is to come to terms with the fact that you aren’t going to be able to get custom cabinets built without spending a pretty penny. But not to worry! DIY to the rescue!
There are tons of wonderful DIY options out there. My new favorite that I recommend to homeowners wanting to refresh their space without a full renovation is, gel staining!
Gel staining is amazing because it doesn’t require you to strip and sand your old cabinets before staining, but you still get that beautiful wood-stained look. Plus- it’s much less work!
Below you'll find the supply list and step-by-step process I used to gel stain the vanity cabinets in my guest bathroom and powder room.
Step 1: After removing your cabinet doors and drawer faces, lightly rough them up with the 220 grit sandpaper. When I say lightly, I mean lightly. It just roughs the previous stain up a little bit to make the gel stain “stick” more effectively. If I’m I'm being honest, I may have forgot to sand one side of the cabinet doors the first time I did this, and they still turned out just fine! So, not to worry! Also -sand the actual vanity. And after sanding, wipe the dust off with a damp (not wet) cloth and let the wood dry for a few minutes before moving to Step 2.
Step 2: Apply the Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Slather it all over the vanity, doors, and drawers. Don’t leave globs, but you don’t have to be super careful with this. When you’re done, wash out the brush really well so you can use it for the finish later on! Let this all dry for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: Next, apply your first coat of gel stain! Now, the gel stain is truly gel. It’s thick and I was so confused the first time I tried it. I attempted to wipe it on with a cloth like I did normal stain, but I didn’t care for the way I could see the wipe strokes in it, and it would have taken about a million coats to get as dark as I wanted. I switched to my trusty bristle brush and was SO happy with how much easier it went on. It doesn’t take much to cover a decent area, and getting too much will leave globs behind anyways. A quart will go a LONG ways and last you multiple projects. My first time I just let the first coat dry for the day, but it really needs to dry over night before applying the second coat. It may seem dry after a while, but if it’s still sticky at all, it needs more time to dry.
Step 4: After letting it dry over night, apply the second coat. This second coat will cover up any brush strokes that you may be able to see from the first coat and really give you a clean finish. I only needed two coats using the above, 'Dark Roast' stain, but you may need more with a lighter stain, depending on the look you are going for. Once again, let it dry overnight,
Step 5: Using your previously used but clean brush, apply the Polycrylic Finish! The great thing about the gel stain is that it isn’t going to chip and show damage like painted cabinets often do. However, applying the protective finish is still a great idea. The stain is pretty shiny as it is, but applying your preferred Polycrylic Finish will give it the final look you want! Let it dry overnight.
Step 6: Put your drawer faces and cabinet doors back on, and step back and admire your beautiful new vanity!
My friends were incredibly impressed with my gel stain project and considered how easy it was, I considered making some changes to my kitchen. Though, I’m still partial to my white painted kitchen cabinets, so maybe later. I love our guest bathrooms now, and can’t wait to work on adding counters, a new sink, and knobs and pulls next!