Sam has a great experience with powder coating her vintage steel kitchen cabinets

vintage steel kitchen cabinetssamThree days before closing, a pipe burst in Sam’s soon-to-be 1950s brick ranch house — making a gut remodel of the kitchen Job #1. Sam wanted to reuse the original Geneva steel kitchen cabinets, so she found a local powder coating company. They did a great job, and she’s thrilled with her modern-meets-retro kitchen remodel.

vintage steel kitchen cabinets

Sam writes (edited):

We’re in the early stages of a complete renovation of a 1950 brick ranch. I can’t tell you enough how much of a help your site has been. A little back story on the original kitchen pictures: A pipe burst and flooded the house 3 days before we closed on it.  Since no one was living there, the plumber estimated the water ran for 5-6 days.  That’s why everything is pulled out from the walls and there are fans and cords everywhere.  We were planning on gutting the house anyway, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  And the flood did reveal asbestos flooring, so the house also had to be asbestos abated. At least it was under the seller’s home owner’s insurance and not ours!

vintage steel kitchen cabinets

We had the home’s original steel cabinets powder coated, and I’ve learned more about the door warping issues some people have had from powder coating.

The warping was most likely not caused by the powder coating, but by the paint removal process. Some coaters prefer to “burn” off the existing finish using a burn oven. Burn oven temps start at 750 degree and can go over 1,000. In comparison, powder coating “bakes” at 390 degrees. Media blasting is a safer way to remove paint for hollow steel doors.

The bottom line is to talk to your coater, and make sure you’re dealing with an experienced professional. Our coater has done steel cabinets before and has been a great help. They also have fabrication capabilities to repair severely rusted cabinets.

Editor Pam notes: Thanks, Sam, for sharing what you learned about the powder coating process —  and also for echoing my longstanding cry to ensure you’re working with properly licensed professionals to get their guidance when you are dealing with/working with old materials — Be Safe / Renovate Safe. READERS: I am not an expert on this issue, so am not formally weighing in one way or another on what Sam learned. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH on this issue, with your own properly licensed professionals. That said, I think this is a good conversation and consistent with some of the chatter I have heard over the years, that:  Yes, we’ve had readers who have said their doors warped.

vintage steel kitchen cabinets

For all of the cabinets pictured, media blasting and powder coating was $2,500. The lowers cabinets are vintage turquoise in high gloss.  The uppers are high gloss white.It would have been cheaper had we gone with an in-stock color instead of the turquoise, since that had to be custom ordered. But the turquoise was worth it.

If anyone in the Kansas City area is looking, I highly recommend Liquid & Powdercoat Finishes. I can’t say enough good things about our powder coaters. They did an absolutely fantastic job.

vintage steel kitchen cabinetsvintage steel kitchen cabinetsvintage steel kitchen cabinetsvintage steel kitchen cabinetsvintage steel kitchen cabinets

The cabinets turned out beautifully! I lucked out on the back plates.  I found a guy (through Retro Renovation) who was selling back plates and pulls that were basically in pristine condition.  I was able to replace all of mine that were severely cracked or chipped and have a few extra for future replacements.  The upper hardware was in good condition, and none needed to be replaced.

vintage steel kitchen cabinets

The countertops are concrete and the new cabinets are walnut.  All of the new cabinet pulls are similar shape to the original pulls to keep similar lines.

Sam, the finished kitchen looks fantastic. You did a really nice job melding the vintage cabinets with several more modern elements, including the concrete countertops, subway tile backsplash (yes, we’ll call that a modern revival in this use) and the flooring. Selecting the walnut for the pantry cabinet also worked really well. You also get extra double brownie points given you had so little time to work with! Glad the resources here could help — and thank you for sharing all your results and experience right back with the community!


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  1. 52PostnBeam says

    I love the paneling, btw, and would love a bit more info – what kind of wood, and was it a DIY or something custom ordered and stained and installed by a cabinet maker or just a regular contractor? I’m doing “panel accent walls” in small areas of my kitchen as well. Your entire project turned out lovely — it’s really worth making the effort for a great kitchen, considering how much time we all spend in there.

    • says

      It is all walnut veneer plywood. Our contractor also builds cabinets and furniture. He has a guy who specializes in matched grain woodwork. We could afford the walnut because of how much we saved on reusing the cabinets.

      • Val says

        Do you know what they actually used to blast down your cabinets.
        We are restoring our Lyon cabinets and I have spoken with nearly every powder coater in our state and am about to lose my mind. Some want to dip them in chemicals (I think this is a bad idea given the deadening material) and some have said sand blasting but we tried one door and got warping. I have also discussed soda, glass, walnut etc. and was just wondering what you ended up having success with?
        BTW your kitchen is gorgeous!

        • Karen says

          We just had our Lyon cabinets stripped and powder coated. I believe they used chemicals for the stripper and it didn’t seem to harm them in any way. And they look beautiful after the baked on color. I can’t wait to get them reinstalled.

  2. Michele DeGroat says

    My vision for my kitchen! I have Genevas circa 1962 and want to do the same but I live on Long Island, NY, and the MCM trend has not caught on (the fools). sooo alone with this lusting for a kitchen like this. Am ready to do it but have no idea where to get the best POWDER COATER who is within travelling distance. Does anyone out have one they could recommend in the NYC suburbs?? Obviously, the cabinets need to be done offsite, right. Can anybody help with a referral? Would post a picture of kitchen as it exists but embarrassingly don’t know how to upload. This above kitchen is soooo chic!!

    • pam kueber says

      use Search box to get to Susan’s kitchen – as I recall she had someone in NJ, although they may have been auto body style, not powder coating

  3. says

    What a beautiful kitchen, Sam! Love the color of the lower cabinets (looks like the color of my wedding dress) and I think you did a gorgeous job mixing elements. Such lovely, clean lines too. (And your photo is adorable…you and your baby!)

  4. Carol says

    This has to be one of the best kitchens I have ever seen. Perfect mix of materials and contrast. So light and airy and stylish. Perfect nod to several eras, and very timeless. I’m craving a bowl of ice cream? Pam’s kitchen makes me want to bake. Maybe I don’t need turquoise cabinets, they make me hungry. hehe.

  5. Tina says

    I’m in the process of doing my kitchen over in a 40’s style. We are redoing the cabinets ourselves. To give the effect of steel cabinets we are going to do high gloss white paint does anyone have any other suggestions?

  6. Patty says

    Anybody recommend someone in St. Louis to powder coat?

    I have awnings, original finish I believe, and I would like to have them repainted.

  7. Kathy says

    The bookend matched walnut veneer is the perfect accent and so period perfect, along with the light fixtures. Purists would like to have seen 4×4″ white wall tile, but the subway looks fantastic, especially since you used white grout to match. I like the large porcelain tile too–meshes well with the wood and not too busy or draws too much attention to itself, and probably doesn’t show the dirt. I agree with Pam, a beautifully balanced and practical merger of old and new.

  8. Paul says

    How did the powder coater handle the plastic wheels on the drawers. My Geneva cabinets have wheels on the drawers which are pop riveted on so not removable. Did the wheels to into the oven? Or did you replace them with something newer?

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