DIY Kitchen Cabinet Java Gel Stain

We.are.almost.done. I promised I would finally post a photo when our kitchen cabinets were done.

This was a labor of love/hate. If you look closely at these cabinets you might be able to see my tears, haha.

Here is our kitchen in the beginning (ignore the photo string it’s the only one I seem to have and it’s from my husband’s 30th.)

kitchen beginning 2kitchen beginning

Using the word hate here is fine. I hated these cabinets. I hate the color, I hate the style, I hate them.

I read blogs, watched a ton of videos: highly recommend this blog and this blog. The second option actually lists out what you’ll need.

For this project I ordered almost everything on Amazon, direct links below:

Java Gel Stain– don’t substitute this. Get General finishes.
Top Coat– Again don’t substitute the brand, finish is up to you.
Cabinet Cleaner– this is amazing. I’m glad I have it for future cleaning.
Sponges– to clean cabinets, you don’t need this many but now we have car washing sponges.
Gloves– a MUST. We went through SO MANY.
Sanders– For sanding off the shiny coat on the doors and surrounding area.
Foam brushes– I used these for the doors and eventually the surrounding cabinet area.
White tube socks- we got ours from Walmart.
Baggies- put all your hardware in baggies, easy to put it all back together.

We started by taking down all of our doors on our cabinets. I was the main stainer/stainee. Either or. I started by cleaning all of the doors with the TSP cleaner mixed with water. Just follow the directions on the box. I cleaned all the doors, let them dry, then sanded all of them.

I wiped them down again and gave them some drying time. The first coat of stain was terrifying, that walking to the edge of the cliff type feeling “am I really about to do this, there’s no turning back.”

Let me tell you, just do it. Put the foam brush in the gel stain and stain that bad boy. I definitely did a WAY too thick coat the first time because I straight up panicked. I should have trusted the videos and blogs, but I did it too thick.

I did not sand in between coats, some videos say to, and perhaps we’d have less streaky marks on our doors, but once you get started you do what works for you. Me, I just got more and more tired with each coat.

Once you’re done the first coat let it dry. I gave it 24 hours, but it was muggy and humid and still tacky (I also put the coat on way too thick.) Once everything was finally dry I did a second coat on all the doors.

2nd coat

I was starting to get excited. These doors were looking awesome.

I had somehow conveniently forgotten that we had to do the entire interior section that these doors go on…

While I did the doors with foam brush, we did the inside with socks for coats 1 and 2. WEAR A GLOVE UNDER THE SOCK. For the love of God. Do not put the sock on your hand and apply the stain without the glove on. Put glove on, THEN tube sock.
You’ve been warned 🙂

Also, this goes without saying, tape off your kitchen. Tape off any areas you don’t want stain. We should have put down a tarp on the floor, but found that magic erasers work wonders for removing stain.

Here we are after applying one coat to the interior and gearing up for our 2nd. We realized that it would take more than 3 coats with the sock application. Can you see the fear and sadness in our eyes?
1st coat

After our 2nd coat I think my husband lost it. He had had enough and I told him, “I got this.” I went at the interior with a foam brush and put it on thick. Way thicker than you’re supposed to, but was now determined to make the doors and interior match.

Here’s a few things that might make you panic:
Particle board– guess what..this doesn’t stain up like the real wood. We PAINTED on the stain. Just get it to your liking. Don’t freak, it’s fake, you have to paint it on.
Uneven Spots– it’s stain, this will happen. After 2 applications with the sock I moved onto a foam brush and applied that stuff THICK. Probably not the “recommended” method, but hey, ours turned out 🙂
Stain staining other parts of your kitchen:– repaint areas, or get that magic eraser out. No joke I cleaned up spots on my floor, makes me wonder what’s actually in magic erasers.

Here is the kitchen after the 3rd coat done with foam brush. Don’t mind the mess (it’s a super messy project, and puts your kitchen out of commission, so be prepared for that.)foam brush interior

Once you’re done all the staining, now it’s top coat time. I applied 2 coats with the sock method. We hung the doors so it would be easier to apply. Open the doors, apply on both sides and leave open. Apply one coat of top coat, let it dry. Apply a second. Some people do a third coat, I was cool with two.

Once the top coat fully dried we went to Lowe’s and got new hardware for the doors:
interior with hardware

Starting to look like a legit kitchen eh?

We had someone come in to paint above the cabinets (we suck at painting. We learned early there are things worth saving up for to pay someone else to do.)
cabinet 9

And here is our kitchen, everything done with the cabinets, we’re looking to install new counter tops later in the year. (Don’t mind the mess, we just finished our giant annual bbq!)
cabinet 10cabinet 11cabinet 12cabinet 13cabinet 14

We are super happy with the result! This was definitely an adventure, a super scary one but I would highly recommend if you want to change the look of your kitchen. It’s time consuming, it’s frustrating, but it’s worth it.

We spent about $150 in supplies for the actual staining, plus the hardware, plus the paint and painting, plus the new pieces I bought for above the cabinets. Still much cheaper than a total kitchen renovation.

If you have any questions just reach out! Here’s to enjoying our labor and this new amazing kitchen!

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