Hi All! I’m excited to share my latest DIY. I just finished (finally) refinishing an old formica cabinet at my parents house (that I had left hanging for a little while). First, I apologize for the quality of the before pictures. I started this project in February, before I started blogging — yes, it’s only been a little over 2 months since I started the site — so I wasn’t planning on anyone seeing the pictures but me, so the photos were taken with my crappy cell phone. But you definitely get the idea how horribly ugly that cabinet was; another remnant of the 80’s. These are the same cabinets that are currently in the kitchen (ugh!) only this single one is on the other side of the kitchen wall and sits in the dining room. I was planning on ripping it out, but then I got the idea to give it a makeover. I wasn’t quite sure the best way to refinish formica. I googled it, but didn’t find any really good ideas. So I came up with my own plan. I didn’t know if it would work or how it would turn out, but I figured if it didn’t turn out well, I could still rip the cabinet out later. Well, now the plan is to keep my DIY refinished formica cabinet and Mom & Dad have a new cabinet to store their china. So, with no further ado, on with the tutorial.
There are three things I did to refinish the ugly formica cabinet: 1) paint, 2) add trim to the doors, and 3) add crown molding.
Let’s start with the paint. For my paint, I needed something that was going to really stick. I had read about how chalk paint can be used on any surface so I thought I’d try that. Then I saw the price: $40 per quart!!!! That’s the equivalent of $160 for a gallon!! Notice all the exclamation points!!!!! I could never get myself to spend that kind of money on paint. It’s paint for goodness sake. So I decided to DIY the chalk paint and I ended up creating my very own unique chalk paint formula. What makes my recipe unique is that it includes Floetrol Paint Conditioner. Of course, I’d like everyone to think this was a brilliant move on my part, but the truth is I used a leftover can of paint that I had from painting some doors and trim and I had added the Floetrol to the entire gallon. So what is Floetrol? It’s a paint additive/conditioner (add about 1 cup per gallon) that helps eliminate brush marks (it does this really well!) and extend drying time so the paint has more time to self level. I never paint anything anymore without adding it to my paint. Really makes a difference. So my recipe contains Floetrol and I’m really glad it does. So with that said, here is my paint recipe…
Jenise’s Chalk Paint Recipe:
2 TBSP unsanded grout
~ 1-2 TBSP water
1 cup latex paint with Floetrol mixed in at a ratio of 1 cup Floetrol per gallon of paint
Dissolve the unsanded grout in about a tablespoon of water. Once dissolved, mix the grout mixture into 1 cup of paint. The paint will start to thicken to an almost pudding consistency. If you prefer working with a thinner formula, mix in additional water a tablespoon at a time to preferred consistency.
Before you start painting, make sure to thoroughly clean your cabinet. I used soap and water, but if your cabinet is in the kitchen, I’d recommend using a degreaser too. Next, I removed the doors and using a foam brush, gave the doors and cabinet three coats of my homemade chalk paint. I had planned on using a roller, but the paint was too thick for the roller, so I went for the foam brushed. In between coats, I gave everything a very light sanding. This helps even out any unevenness or brush marks (which I didn’t really have) from the painting.
The paint I used was semigloss, but adding the unsanded grout ends up dulling it down to a more flat finish. The finish looked fine, but I wanted something with more sheen. So I did a fourth coat with the pure paint (with Floetrol the mixed in, of course).
For the new trim, I used small wooden planks that I purchased from the craft wood section at Home Depot. I cut these down to the length of the cabinet doors, which was 27.5″, and the door width minus the 3-inches (1.5″ for each length-wise piece). This turned out to be 9.5 inches.
The trim and crown molding was painted prior to installation. Again, I did three coats of the chalk paint mixture and a final coat with the semi-gloss. And here’s a really helpful tip. Some of the paint seemed to get on the bottom side of the trim pieces. I didn’t realize this until I was all finished painting them. This prevented the trim pieces from laying completely flat on the doors, so I had to sand off the paint that got underneath. You can avoid this by simply wiping off the bottom of the trim pieces before they dry. Lesson learned.
Once the trim and the doors were completely dry, I adhered the trim to the doors simply using wood glue. I layed out each door on the floor, adhered the trim pieces and placed every heavy object I could find on top to make sure they adhered well. And here’s another tip. Since the paint was only about 24 hours dry, I was concerned about it still sticking to the heavy books I layer on top. So I put a sheet of wax paper between the doors with adhered trim and the heavy stuff. Had no sticking problems.
Next, I moved on to the crown molding. I borrowed my brother’s miter for this. I had mitered quarter round molding quite a few years ago for my first home and it was a piece of cake. Crown molding, on the other hand, has some challenges. When you miter crown molding, you need to turn the molding upside down so that the cut is made to the correct length. It was a little confusing to me at first, but I worked it out. With the miter, I cut each end of the front piece 30 inches at a 45 degree angle. On the side pieces, only one side is cut at 45 degrees. The other side is 90 degrees.
When cutting molding on a miter, make sure to press the edges firmly to the back and bottom of your guides (careful with your fingers) and remember you are cutting upside down.
To install the crown molding, first apply a bead of wood glue along the length of the molding, then attach with nails. I don’t have a nail gun, so I had to install the crown molding the old fashioned way, with a hammer. It was a bit challenging to get it straight, but I had a friend help hold it in place while I hammered. Remember to use a level to make sure it’s straight.
I did end up having a problem where the corners meet.
I couldn’t get the corners to lay completely flush. All the home improvement videos make it look so easy, but it didn’t turn out that way for me. So I MacGyvered a solution. I applied wood glue to the corners and clamped them. I didn’t have real clamps. So I used a brand new cable jumper that I had in my car trunk. I padded the corners with pretty thick paper towels so the clamps didn’t dent the wood.
It worked like a charm. My corners were aligned. Next, I filled the gaps with joint compound, just using my fingers. Here’s a tip: wet your finger before smoothing the compound. You’ll get a really clean line. I also used the joint compound to cover the nail holes.
I did have to sand down the joint compound from the corners because I made a bit of a mess.
After sanding and touch up with paint, the corners looked beautiful. Turned out PERFECT! Here’s the before and after…
I did not use any protective finish on this cabinet simply because it rarely gets any use. But when I do the kitchen cabinets, I will be sure to use one.
Once again, here are the before and afters…
Quite a difference. And now that I know what I’m doing, my plan is to refinish all the kitchen cabinets like this. I’ll keep you posted on that project.
Along with refinishing your cabinets, you can also save tons of $ by refinishing your kitchen counter tops for only $30…
And check out my Shabby Chic Furniture Makeover Using Krylon Looking Glass Paint.
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