Staining kitchen cabinets

Staining cabinets is one of the easiest and most rewarding home do-it-yourself projects.

It beautifies and protects the cabinets while requiring very modest effort. In no time, homeowners can have great looking cabinets.

As with painting walls, the first step to staining cabinets is to select the material.

Stains fall roughly into one of three categories: wood-toned or transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque, depending on the degree to which they cover up and protect.

Wood-tones allow the natural grain and texture to show clearly, giving only a slight (or even no) tint. Semi-transparent allows grain to show clearly, but gives a darker finish and covers up more blemishes. It provides increased protection from sunlight, too. Solid colors are not paint - they're made of different compounds. But they do cover thoroughly, allowing little or no grain to show. They give strong protection from UV and other influences.

The next step is simple, though some effort is required. Preparing the surface for stain requires removing anything that would prevent it from seeping well into the wood. Surface stain doesn't last. That entails getting rid of any greasy handprints, old paint or lacquer, or latex stain. In short, anything between the new stain and the absorbent wood fibers.

Depending on the state of the cabinets that can be easy or difficult. Old paint has to be scraped and sanded away. Greasy handprints are simple to remove.

Once you have a clean, fresh surface the rest is easy. It just takes a bit of care.

It's not necessary to remove cabinet doors. But the job will go easier if any handles are removed. Any stain that ends up on hinges or other hardware is easy to wipe off before it dries. For an extra margin of safety, you can apply some masking tape over any screw heads that will prevent easy wiping with a rag.

Apply the stain to a portion of the wood on the interior, to test for color. Allow it to dry before continuing. Stain will change color slightly (often drying lighter) after it's been on the surface for some time.

Depending on the type of stain that may take only a few minutes, or it can take all day. NGR alcohol stains dry very fast, though they're not very UV resistant. Oil-based stains take a while, but they provide lasting protection.