Repaint your kitchen cabinets without stripping or sanding, with hiqh-quality adhesion and great looks — for $150 or less

kitchen cabinet repainting without sanding

Disclosure: Rust-Oleum paid for my transportation, lodging and food to attend this special event in New Orleans, where I could test this new product and hear directly from their company experts. There was no promise of news coverage. Opinions are my own.

Repainting your kitchen cabinets has historically been one of the most thankless home renovation projects. I say “thankless,” because in my experience, even after cleaning, sanding (argh), priming, then repainting — the doors still get chippy and the cabinets can still look kind of chalky and blah. It’s a lot of work with iffy results. Now, though, it seems like the folks at Rustoleum have come up with a new DIY painting system — Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations — that promises at least four major benefits: (1) No stripping, sanding or priming required, (2) excellent paint adhesion, (3) high-quality looks, and (4) a price tag less than $150. With this product, the company seems to be making a major move on today’s kitchen renovation market — which, in the wake of the Great Recession, is about working with what we have — especially what we have is existing, functional cabinetry. Of course, people still want an updated look, and Rustoleum is aiming to deliver it — in this cabinet-painting kit. My prediction: This product has all the makings of a huge hit.

Last week, I was one of 10 home renovation and design bloggers invited by Rustoleum to see and experience this new product.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting

Another benefit of Rustoleum’s new system is that everything you need comes in one kit, except for brushes and gloves. Before you start, remove and number the doors and set them up “assembly line” fashion for efficiency. If you’re going to change your cabinet pulls, this is also the time to drill new holes and fill the old.

5 steps to repaint your kitchen cabinets

Step #1  is to use their special solution to clean the cabinets. Their cleaner is formulated to remove grease and grime and to bring up the “tooth” of the wood, so that you don’t need sanding. Oh, and let me properly introduce you to Ashley Lehrmann, pictured throughout playing the role of DIY painter. She is Senior Brand Manager, Rustoleum — and this product has been her baby for the past two years.

painting kitchen cabinets use two coats

Steps #2 and #3 — Paint the kitchen cabinets using the tinted “bond coat” paint provided. Two coats, dry between according to instructions. I’ll talk more about colors in a moment. No noxious fumes (read more on the website), in fact, they tell you to close all your windows while painting to avoid dust and such from ruining the finish.

glazing kitchen cabinets

Step #4 — Optional — Add glaze, also provided. You apply the glaze… then wipe it off to get the effect you like. For example, you can only do the beaded areas for slight antiquing. The glaze helps emphasize the wood grain. But, you can leave the glaze off altogether for a solid color look.

Step #5 — Apply clear top coat (oopsy, no photo)…. and you’re done and ready to reinstall your doors. You’ll be painting both sides of the doors. And, you’re also going to paint the inside of the cabinet (no glaze, typically.) Of course: Read all the instructions on the box — and be sure to check out the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations website, which should win an award for its presentation and thoroughness in today’s digital age. Nicely done.

Where to buy Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations

Pricing:

  • $79.99 for the small kit — enough to cover 100 s.f.
  • $149.99 for the large kit — for 200 s.f.

Where to buy:

  • Check the website… but retailers include big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Menards… and there are smaller, more localized retailers, too.

Etc:

  • Good on laminate and melamine, too.
  • And yes: It will work on metal cabinets, too. Although you will get a satin finish, not a high-gloss enamel. Plus they said scuff up the metal and prime it, too. (Precautionary Pam reminds: Test for lead paint, consult with pro’s re proper safety and environmental precautions.) That said — they offered to talk to me further about other potential DIY solutions for our beloved steel cabinets. Stay tuned.

kitchen cabinets painted with rustoleum cabinet transformations

If you are super duper cost conscious, I think that you *could* do this project for less money, by using the “tried and trued” tools of sandpaper, primer and paint. But, I was convinced this $80-$150 expenditure looked well worth it, for a number of reasons:

  • Rustoleum is a company that is all about “surfaces.” From their presentation it certainly seemed that they recognized the need for a paint system that combined excellent adhesion with professional quality looks. You DON’T want your painted kitchen cabinets to chip! I guess, like a 10-year-old car, we’ll see if their reassurances hold up, but from the look of the finish in person, I’d tend to think it will.
  • In the same vein, the quality of the finish appeared to be excellent — the cabinets were beautiful. The two coats of color went on like liquid butter — there was both opacity and smooth flow. No lumps, nothing like that. I’ve spent many hours poking around kitchen stores looking at kitchen doors, and these looked like ringers to high-end painted-glazed kitchen doors to me.
  • They had me at “no sanding.”

Retro kitchen cabinet colors

So now, let’s talk colors — vintage, retro, mid-century colors. There are 35 kitchen cabinet colors in the Transformations line right now, add glaze and they offer 70 looks in all.

In terms of the solid colors offered, I thought that a few — including a yellow, some of the blues, some of the whites, and even a Brady Bunch orange — had potential for our mid century kitchens. Except for the whites, the blue above, and the avocado green, though, none of them were what I’d call “retro”. Alas.

They also had a bundle of wood tones. I believe we were told that the Kona was selling like hotcakes. Again, though, nothing jumped out at me a “perfect” retro woodtone. In fact, I thought lots of the colors had a strange orange cast. I believe Rustoleum when they said they had consulted with professional color marketers and forecasters. I admit, I am out of touch with what’s popular “today” — I need to get me to a kitchen store to prowl around. To be sure, Rustoleum is aiming for the heart and soul of the mainstream, and that ain’t us, I guess… although, I certainly see “Retro” as an revival trend right now. Ummm, they had Greige, of course.

Yes, alas, no aquamarine, and wouldn’t it be fabulous to have, say, Mamie pink, sunbeam yellow, maybe a Ming green.  The good news, though, is that the paint in the kit is tinted at the store when you buy it. So, it’s not an impossible thought that new color formulations could be developed — and they certainly know that Retro Renovation wants retro colors. I’ll keep in touch with Rustoleum about it… Meanwhile, if you are really hot to trot to freshen your cabinets, I’d for sure to out at look at the options available with this system.

On the use of glazes for mid century kitchen cabinets: Yes, I have seen marketing materials that indicated glazes were used on wood cabinets back in the day:

For example, these 1959 Fashionwood cabinets, above. Okay, maybe this is not “glaze over paint” — this may be a stain — but I think you can get the same basic look with the Rustoleum Transformations. The “avocado” color I mentioned before is achieved with a glaze.

As a reference for midcentury woodtones, here is another post I did about wood stain colors for television cabinetry from 1956.

kitchen cabinet colors recommended in 1953And, here is another reference post — color combinations for wood kitchen cabinets from 1953. Of course, we have a gazillion more images all over the site and in the Galleries that show vintage kitchens with their original finishes.

More stories about mid century paint colors and kitchen cabinets

Point is, I have a number of resource references for retro kitchen cabinet colors on the blog:

Many thanks to the team from Rustoleum, along with their media agency, Empower MediaMarketing, for the excellent preview event. Tomorrow: Photos of some of the fun.

Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Newsletter-sign-up-2NMAS

Comments

  1. Debbie Scire says

    My husband and I bought the “light” color kit. We have deglossed and are ready to put on the bond coat. How do you tint it? There was no tint in the kit.

    • pam kueber says

      Debbie, I will also let RustOleum respond officially, but it’s my understanding that you get it tinted where you bought it.

    • Connie Irvine says

      Debbie,

      I was probably one of the first customers who bought and used Cabinet Transformations here in the Palm Springs area, and I wound up having WAY too little glaze. Pam took up my cause with Rustoleum and now there are two cans of glaze in every kit. Anyway, Pam is correct. You do have to get your base coat tinted at the store. Just take the kit back to the store and they’ll tint it for you. That’s included in the price. By the way, I used Cabinet Transformations on every cabinet in my house over a year ago and they still look great! Good luck with your project.

      Connie

  2. says

    I want to do my bathroom cabinets that are now oak. I would like a high-gloss finish. Would I just be able to use a high-gloss paint for this effect and would it look as good as a semi-gloss finish. I plan to paint them light grey.
    Thank You.

  3. Amy says

    How long do you need to let glaze set on one side of doors before flipping them over and glazing the other side?

    • pam kueber says

      jessica, you have to have the avocado done as a custom color — you CAN do this with the Cabinet Transformations, you just have to get a mixer who’s willing to play along

  4. Lori says

    I am interested in this product. Would I be able to turn deep chocolate brown (already painted) wood cabinets into white cabinets using this system?

  5. Lauri says

    My cabinets have been painted. Can I use this product on painted cabinets without having to strip the paint?

  6. KL says

    I would like to know if I can use this product over high gloss oil painted cabinets or do I have to strip them down first?

    • pam kueber says

      KL, Rust-Oleum seems to have good customer service, I recommend you check in with them. Good luck.

  7. Connie Irvine says

    Hello, KL…Pam featured my Rustoleum cabinet project in one of her first articles about it, after she visited the factory. About the oil-based enamel, I would advise you to give it a good scrubbing with TSP before you use the deglosser provided in the kit. Then just follow the rest of the directions exactly. I had thick, awful white latex paint on my cabinets, which was easy to degloss with the Rustoleum product. I didn’t realize that the paint underneath the white was oil-based enamel until the latex paint layer started peeling off in strips! I had to completely peel a couple of cabinets and then degloss them. TSP has always been the answer for applying water-based paints over enamel. Good luck!

  8. says

    We just finished the final step of the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Kit & have been happy with everything except the top coat. It is really difficult to get it on evenly & without little tiny bubbles. As it is drying, we are seeing areas that look like we missed with the top coat, but I know that we did not. I’m thinking the wood is just dryer in those areas & absorbed the paint differently. My question is whether I can use Liquid Gold on these cabinets like I do on my other cabinets? We live in the AZ desert where our climate is very dry, so I use Liquid Gold on my cabinets & wood furniture to add moisture. Will that harm the cabinets that I just used your product on?

    Thank you,
    Carol

  9. Connie Irvine says

    Hello, Carol – I was wondering if you shook the can of top coat, instead of stirring it. Shaking it will cause bubbles – you have to stir it very gently. I also missed a couple of small areas with the top coat. I don’t know if that was my fault or if the top coat was at fault. At any rate, it was easy to touch up. I’m not sure about how well Liquid Gold would work on this finish. It seems to me that the top coat might prevent the wood from absorbing the oil, but I really doubt whether it would harm the finish. I used Cabinet Transformations on every cabinet in my house, and they still look great. I live in the desert, too – Palm Springs area, so my climate is just like yours. Hope this helps….Connie

  10. Pete says

    If we have older oak cabinets will this be thick enough to cover up the grain of the wood if we choose to go with a white color?

  11. Patty says

    I love the look of glazed cabinets, but mine have no molding on them so it wouldn’t look as well. Does the paint hold up well. I mean no chipping after awhile?

  12. Tracy says

    I would like to do my bathroom cabinets that are oak and paint them black as my summer project. Does this come in black?

  13. Peggie says

    My cabinets are glossy white and I believe they are laminate, want to do an antique destress cream, but some of the cabinets have been water loged and some are so warn at the bottom and especially around the stove will this process work and would I need to sand the rough edges?

  14. kathy says

    I have cabinets that have undergone several paint jobs and they continue to wear and chip. The examples I see are cabinets that are just stained. What is the prep for cabinets that are already sanded?

  15. Andrew says

    Oak Cabinets,

    Good afternoon, my name is Andrew and I am currently participating in a complete home remodel. We bought an REO property that fits all our needs and wants, however NEEDS work! We are going through the process now, but one thing we decided to keep was the oak cabinets. They are in great shape, but my wife and I hate oak, it screams 80’s! We want a white or off white transformation. I just left Lowe’s and believe I was reading the label on this product, but it stated in a disclaimer that this product does not change colors but only enhances. I guess I am looking for a clarification, can this product turn my cabinets into the updated white look that I have been searching for?!?!?!? If not, maybe a suggestion would be great!

    Thanks again,

    Andrew

  16. Elyse says

    Hi, very helpful website.

    Do you know if this works on pressboard?
    I thought my cabinet doors were laminate until the some of the cabinet door started to peel of (adhesive). So the doors are a pressed wood (or maybe its called particle wood). The frame is wood.

    Thanks for any info!

  17. sara says

    Nice article! I have ugly fake wood laminate cabinets that I would love to paint, however, I’ve read through some comments regarding using this on laminate and I can’t seem to find an answer. Has anyone tried the Rust-Oleum kit on laminate? pictures, advice, etc.? Thanks!!!

    • pam kueber says

      sara, you should contact Rust-Oleum directly with this question. As I recall, yes, this can be used on laminate cabinets, but there are different steps. Good luck.

  18. Renny says

    Can you use this on wood trim? I have two large pantry doors (which match my cabinets that I want to paint also) but the wood trim matches the doors, fruitwood color.
    Also wood trim inside around windows.

  19. Tiffany says

    I used the white kit on my honey oak cabinets over the weekend. The “bond coat” streaked with a brush, bubbled with a roller, and dripped and ran with a sprayer. To top it off the clear coat dried with a yellowish tint! So much for a clean white finish. I’ll be spending weeks stripping, sanding, and refinishing my cabinets and hope they are not ruined. Don’t use this kit as a shortcut… it could end up making your project much longer and more expensive!!! Sand, prime, paint, laquer, it’s worked forever and I wish i’d done it this time.

  20. Nancy says

    I used the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit on mid-century (1947) cabinets of birch. They were functional but u***. I sanded the cabinet doors to get them smooth and remove food and oily stains. I think the color I used was River Birch, a beige neutral. The glaze settles in the brush strokes on a smooth grained wood like birch. Running short on glaze, I used a water-based wood stain over paint on my oak wood trim in the room for a similar look. I have since found the glaze for sale by itself in my hardware stores, so plan to use it to repaint door frames. I reused the original chrome hinges on the cabinets, and invested in pull-out inside drawers to make my old cabinets more functional. I put wallpaper on the wall inside the cabinets to give them an updated look. Glaze looks different on oak cabinets, as it settles in the open grain of the wood. The effect of the glaze is different on a closed grain like birch or maple, with the glaze highlighting your paint brushmarks.

    • Nancy says

      I did use the clear Rustoleum top coat from the kit on my transformed cabinets. It is water based, like the paint base coat, as I recall. I found the finish dried very quickly on the brush, so one must work quickly and not rest between coating pieces, or else wash the brush and start over with a clean brush, or the finish will have clumps. I believe Varathane also makes a nice clear top coat that is water based. I used it on a stair rail with a light stain, and it still looks new, after several years of use. I think water based clear coat is less likely to yellow than an oil based, and it does not seem to attract handprints either. And of course, cleanup is easier.

  21. Jackie Workman says

    I bought the Espresso to redo the base cabinets in both bathrooms of the 1960’s house I just bought. The first bathroom cabinet turned out “alright” but I obviously applied too much top coat because when it dried I had big drip marks that I had to scrape off and touch up…so that one obviously isn’t perfect but still looks much better than it did. The second bathroom cabinet is much better because I now know what I did wrong the first time. So far, I would absolutely recommend this product–I would just recommend trying it out on a scrap piece of wood or furniture first to get the hang of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *