Our Step-by-Step Guide to Beautiful Stained Wood Cabinets

The heart of the home shouldn't be outdated. Give your kitchen a makeover with freshly stained cabinets.

Wood Cabinets
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Nothing dates your kitchen more than cabinet finishes. (We're looking at you, avocado green and honey oak.) So when it's time for a kitchen makeover, give your cabinets a timeless look with wood stain. Compared to painting cabinets, staining is the classic choice that looks great in almost any style. Follow our steps below to learn how to strip and finish stained wood cabinets. You'll be cooking dinner in a five-star-worthy kitchen in no time.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Drop cloth
  • 1 Sawhorses
  • 1 Screwdriver
  • 1 Rubber gloves
  • 1 Respirator mask
  • 1 Paintbrush
  • 1 Paint scraper
  • 1 Palm sander
  • 1 Soft rag
  • 1 220-grit sanding block


  • 1 Chemical stripper
  • 1 100-grit sandpaper
  • 1 Stain
  • 1 Pre-stain wood conditioner
  • 1 Semigloss clear polyurethane


  1. Apply Stripper

    diy cabinet stripping paint

    Before starting, remove all hinges and hardware and lay a cabinet door on sawhorses with a drop cloth underneath. Be sure to label each piece of hardware to remember where they should return.

    Using rubber gloves and wearing a respirator mask, dip a paintbrush into the chemical stripper and apply to cabinet door. Be sure to read and follow all safety precautions on the packaging while working with a chemical stripper. Work quickly and in a well-ventilated area (don't forget a respirator mask) to avoid harmful vapors.

  2. Scrape Paint

    stripping paint diy cabinet

    Wait 15 minutes, then use a paint scraper to remove the paint finish, going with the wood grain. Work from the center of the door outward in both directions, allowing the old paint to drop off the ends of the door. Paint scrapers work best to reach those hard-to-get spots like corners and bevels. Allow surface to dry for at least an hour after stripping.

  3. Sand Surface

    sanding bathroom diy cabinet

    Sand the surface lightly in the grain direction using a 100-grit palm sander, ensuring all paint has been removed, and the surface is smooth. Palm sanders work best, but you can also use a sanding block if desired. Wipe off any sanding dust from the surface with a clean rag.

  4. Apply Pre-Stain

    prepping wood diy cabinet

    To ensure acceptance of stain color, apply a pre-stain wood conditioner with a paintbrush. Think of this step as similar to priming a wall for paint. Let dry according to manufacturer's instructions.

  5. Apply Stain

    cabinet diy finish

    Apply stain with a foam paintbrush. Allow the stain to penetrate 5-15 minutes to the desired color for your stained wood cabinets. The longer the stain sits, the darker and richer the color will become. Wipe off any excess stain with a soft rag in the grain direction. You can apply a second coat in 4-6 hours if you want a darker color.

  6. Finish and Reattach

    painting cabinet diy

    Apply a thin coat of clear polyurethane with a paintbrush. Let dry 2 hours, and then sand using a 220-grit sanding block to ensure an even finish and proper adhesion of a second coat. Apply a second coat, and let dry at least 3 hours before reattaching hardware.

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