Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Review, How To, Tricks and Alternatives

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Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Review, How To, Tricks and Alternatives...

Faux: Burnish and Glaze Cabinet Door

Its really easy to take your tired looking cabinet doors and make them look like a million bucks. It is also really easy to screw up your entire kitchen if you don't know what your doing. Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations has a kit with how to instructions and a mix of pre-selected products to help you do this. However the kit from Rustoleum is around a hundred dollars for a little bit of paint and sub par combinations of sundries. The techniques they show in the instructions is also dated.

One of the down falls with the kit is that if you need even a little bit more paint you have to purchase the entire kit all over again. The finish is also not to my liking. Also the kit gives you a multitude of sub par sundries to help you struggle through the job.

There is also a nasty flaw with the kit that no one will tell you about. If you don't like the color that you picked out your up the creek with a hundred dollars worth of useless stuff. I have found numerous boxes of this product as resource centers. The colors were already mixed up and ready to go. The person that bought the product and got it home must not have liked the look of the color and donated the product to the resource store. 

The finish on the product is also lacking. I mean to say that the sheen of the product leaves me wanting more. I topped the Rustoleum product with another clear coat of water based product while I was experimenting with there product. The Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations paint leaves a dull mat finish on the cabinets. I don't like this finish and most cabinet companies offer a higher level of sheen on cabinets when using custom finishes. So rather than dating your cabinets with a finish that looks like the 70's why not make it look 21 century.

A lot of fluff in the box of Cabinet Transformations!

I feel that the mix of products inside the box is weak. The second I laid my eyes on the cheese cloth I knew I was in for some trouble. And wooden stir sticks drive me crazy. We are in the past when we use these. I prefer to use plastic stir sticks to avoid any contamination in the pain. I have found chucks of wood and sawdust in my airless sprayer filter. This is something that could ruin your finish. The cleaning chemical is week. I don't trust it. I went for a mechanical solution of scuffing the cabinets and a chemical solution of Krud Cutter to clean the cabinet door. You could add up the individual contents and find a surprise if you bought them separately. Its cheaper!!

This is the paint that I use for any surface that needs to be extremely wear resistant and look like a zillion dollars. It is from Diamond Vogel and is called Nu-Cling. It costs around $20 a quart and is well worth it. This paint aggressively clings to any surface and levels very nicely. Hence the name Nu-Cling. 

I chose two colors from the top of the box. If you don't have access to Diamond Vogel just go to Sherwin Williams and let them know what your trying to do. There are similar products on the market to achieve this finish. I ripped the lid off the box and took it into the Professional paint store to have it matched. If you don't have the top of a box just print off the color chart from Rustoleum and have the store match the color. Most of the time the burnish and glazing will be either Black, Burnt Umber or Raw Umber. Don't smash your head against the wall trying to recreate the colors just come close. They will not match the top of the box any ways. There are too variables involved that are out of your control. ie lighting, sheen, and the photographer that took the pictures of the samples. 

Although this product levels nicely I still recommend that you spray the paint through an HVLP sprayer or something similar. That is one thing that Rustoleum fails to mention is the importance of applicators. Telling customers that they can achieve a high quality finish similar to professionally finished high end cabinets is miss leading. Even the highest quality brush and roller can not give you the finish that looks like glass. That is achieved by spraying any product. 

I spray this paint through a Wagner HVLP Multi-Pattern Control Sprayer. I have a turbine that I can use but this is easier and lighter to haul around than a turbine, hose, and gun. Titan and Wagner are the same company so there is professional technology just made from plastic parts so that it is affordable on the consumer market. These units are generally around $80 dollars or so. One word of caution though: WASH THIS THING OUT AS SOON AS YOUR DONE! This unit bleeds air so the constant flow of warm air will dry out your paint on the valve and it will not stop coming out. This is the only reason I don't bring this unit into customers homes because I can screw up something badly and not even know I'm doing it. 

I would also like to point out that you should not purchase your spray unit from any major Big Box store. Most of the sprayers form these stores have been used and returned. Home depot is the worst offender of this. I had to purchase and return three of these units before I found one that wasn't returned. The sales clerks would not let me open the boxes to check the contents which was infuriating. Visit This company has better pricing than most and your guaranteed to get a brand spanking new gun. 
Wagner HVLP Multi-Pattern Control Spray Paint Sprayer
Buy this to save yourself hours of Brushing.

The first step to achieve a sick look for your cabinets is to dismantle the cabinetry from the face frames and remove the knobs and pulls. Before dismantling the cabinets completely (before removing the doors) I strongly recommend that you prewash the cabinets with a harsh grease cutter. Something like Krud Cutter or Simple Green used in full strength to remove most of the grease and oil. I am going to focus the majority of this article on cabinet doors. As doors receive the most attention and are the hardest to finish. Once you have figured our how to finish a door then you will be able to apply your new skill set to the face frames and panels of the cabinets. So to save your eyeballs from reading a zillion paint steps involved in refinishing cabinets lets just focus on a door. 

The most critical step in cabinet refinishing is cleaning and sanding the cabinets. I don't care what a can of liquid sand paper says or a magic all in one cleaner. Your cabinets are filthy. Oils from your hands impregnate the finish on the cabinet doors that is almost impossible to remove. When you sand your doors do not remove the finish! You are just trying to scuff up the doors so that the paint will adhere better. 

The fastest way to scuff any project is to load a 1/4 sheet sander with 3M scuff pads. you probably have seen these in the cleaning aisle at Wal Mart. I do not use the green pads but prefer to use the red pads. These pads can be purchased from Sherwin Williams or other professional paint supplier. if you buy the full sheets you can easily cut them down to quarters for your 1/4 sheet sander. One word of caution: Don't load the sheets in a 1/4 sheet sander you really care about. The pads will eventually wear out the rubber backing on your sander and ruin it. Purchase a cheap sander from Wal Mart or Harbor Freight. 

Super Fast Scuffing! 

To get in all the nooks and crannies use a piece of the buffing cloth and ram it in the grooves of the doors. Pin the cloth against a five in one with your index finger and slide back and forth in the groves of the doors. This will ensure that you scuff all the tight spots that are prone to failure. You can also use the pads to touch up hard to reach places in the corners of face frames and end panels of cabinets. Bu using a combination or sander and corner scuffing technique you can prepare a door in less than two minutes booth sides. Great time saver. 

Yet Another Use for the 5 in 1
After sanding the doors I like to use Krud Cutter to remove all the residue from scuffing and cut any oil that may be on the cabinet doors. Use the Krud Cutter full strength. Krud Cutter is amazing stuff. It actually increases the adhesion of water based paints. You don't even have to wash the stuff off. Set and forget it. Wear gloves though. It is an unusual liquid. The first time I used it all my loose dried skin and cuticles disappeared from my hands. Kind of freaky actually. Great for manicures but it has to be a really toxic chemical to remove dead skin. So wear protection and don't do what I did when I first started using Krud Kutter when it came out. 

Krud Kutter is the Shiznit!! 
After you have cleaned and scuffed the door it will now accept a base coat. As soon as the Krud Kutter is dry you can apply your base color. Thin multiple coats are better than one thick coat. I applied two coats. I cheated the drying and re coat times by using a small ceramic space heater in between coats. This speed drying isn't recommended but I have not had any problems thus far. 

Space Heater to Speed Re coat and Drying Times. 
 If you lay the door directly on the drop cloth your door with be glued to your drop cloth. This is really bad! Use Hyde Painters Pyramids to raise the door off the work surface. If you don't have painters pyramids you can sharpen dowl rods in a pencil sharpener and shove them into a blue foam board creating the same effect. The Hyde Triangles are neat because they don't stick to your work surface. They have special designed rounded corners that resist sticking to tacky surfaces. Neat! and they stack when not in use. I leave a set in my tool bucket and use them a lot. 

Hyde Painters Pyramids. 

They can and will support 200 pounds each.

Base coat. 

I applied the darker color with a rag and streaked the door. I watered down the glaze with plain old water until it was runny. Do this in a separate container to avoid thinning the paint down too much. Its best not to apply the darker color over the entire door and then whip off the excess. It will dry too quickly and then you'll run the risk of having an uneven pattern. I find that its best to start with the hips of the center panel, then the center panel, then the top rail, then the bottom rail, and then the stiles of the door. By doing it in this order you will achieve a consistent pattern from door to door. 

Base Coat with Glaze. Camera doesn't do this door justice.

After applying the glaze I coat the door in a thin coat of Water based Minwax Polyurethane. This is a water based product and can be shot through the HVLP gun. It is a little thicker than oil based polyurethane and requires the largest tip with the Wagner HVLP gun. This product also behaves a little differently than most polyurethanes and will sag very easily. Again I cheat the drying times with a small space heater to save time.

The next step is similar to glazing. The goal of burnishing is to leave a little bit of the accent color in the groves and depressions of the piece. This particular door has lots of groves to pick up the burnish color. If you have a shaker style door you may want to skip this step all together because you only will be burnishing the groves where the center panel comes into contact with the stile and rails of the door.

Use an un-thinned paint right out of the can for this step. The thicker paints will not be as transparent and will appear bolder. I use a small brush to apply a liberal coat of burnish on two or three depressions at a time. Then using a cotton rag wrapped around my index finger I dip the rag into water, and wipe the excess burnishing away. This will take a little bit of practice and patience. Start with the groves in the center of the door and work your way out towards the outside. Its more about a balance of wetness of the rag and pressure of your finger. Too much pressure and you'll remove all the burnish. Too much water and you'll thin out the burnish. The water is just to help the rag slide more easily on the coats of paint. Use the thinnest rag possible. If its too thick you'll whip the burnish away. 

Shiny and awesome with Burnishing and Glazing!
The above door is the look that you are trying to achieve. Its shiny because there is a wet coat of polyurethane on the door. I finish the doors off with at least two coats of polyurethane. So what was the point of applying a top coat in between the burnishing and glazing? If you do not do this step you will run the risk of wiping off the glazing as you burnish. This can be very frustrating. This is something that the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Kit fails to tell you. I cant blame them for trying to sell an easy all-in-one product but this is one of the hardest finishes to achieve and the easiest to screw up. 

A few final thoughts:
  • Hire a professional to do this! This takes a lot of patience and skill to get it to look right. you can potentially destroy your cabinets. 
  • Purchase higher quality paints and use them instead of the kit contents. 
  • Prepare your self for a time intensive project. This is not easy. Don't rush it or you will have crappy old cabinets with a crappy finish. 
  • Purchase a left over cabinet door from a resource center and practice on that. I buy them from the Habitat for Humanity for $2 dollars a piece and use them for samples to show customers what to expect. 
  • Buy your paints from an expert level paint store: Sherwin Williams, Diamond Vogel, or similar. Expert paints usually come with expert advice if you get stuck. Big box stores don't really care if your project goes well. 
  • Purchase the Wagner HVLP sprayer. Or rent an HVLP sprayer with the correct tips Generally 1.5 to 2 mm is a good start for latex products. Off the shelf HVLP guns and compressors from your home improvement center are a waste of money. 
While waiting in between coats you can play around with different faux techniques to spark an idea for your next project. Like so...
Faux: Ragging, Tissue Paper, Sloppy Mess and More  :)

How to Tell Time
Whoa. What is this How to Tell Time sign? Well we have been busy over the years... we now make custom pieces like this. Check out Denver Sign Design. We have an Etsy account that we know sell some sick pieces out of.


  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

    Solid Wood Doors

  2. Thank you for your post. Lots of good information. I was going to purchase the kit, but after reading your article, I will have a contractor follow your instructions. I love the look of your finished door. Again, great suggestions.

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  4. Nice post! I just finished my bathroom cabinets using the espresso color. I wrote up a how-to article with pictures and tips based on what I learned. I definitely am please with the results. What do you think of my writeup?

    1. Checked out your cabinets. Looks nice. Glad to see that you had success with the kit.

  5. The cabinet design, color, architecture, etc is fabulous.Can you tell me about the store, from where I can get one for my home.
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    1. The paint was from Diamond Vogel. Its called "Nu-Cling". Awesome paint. I love it. Very aggressive bond. Hope that helps.

  6. Its more about a balance of wetness of the rag and pressure of your finger. Too much pressure and you'll remove all the burnish.

  7. Have you used Krud Kutter Gloss Off in place of the original Krud Kutter for prepping the wood surfaces for the base coat?

    1. I have not used gloss off from Krud Kutter for cabinets. However I was at a paint convention and stopped by the Krud Kutter booth to ask about the different products they offer now. The sales rep was "hinting" that every product is just original Krud Kutter in various dilutions. So in a way I'm using "gloss off"on cabinets. Should be a similar product.

  8. Which color from the kit did you try to match - was this custom matched from a store? Also what exact brand and color of glaze did you use?

    1. I used Diamond Vogel paints for this project. For the glaze I simply thinned out the paint with water and ragged it onto the surface. The water slows the evaporation of the drying agents in the paint and make it easier to smear around.

      The color of the kit I was trying to match was Provincial. I had the paint experts at Diamond Vogel do a custom match from the lid of the box.

      Hope that helps,

  9. Doug.....Your data on the Rustoleum Transformations is spot on. I do cabinets from raw wood so that process is easy but I found with Rustoleum glazing process the dull matte finish, as you pointed out results in the user controlling the tone of the paint and also the glaze highlighting in the same process. So if I understand your process correctly you apply the acrylic latex enamel, allow that to dry , then apply the glaze highlighting. Then apply the poly finish. With the latex enamel finish you use is the glaze a water based finish ? If you answer this it would help me tremendously......

    1. You are absolutely correct. That was the technique that I used. It is a fairly time intensive project to do... waiting for all the coatings to dry. I did use a heater to speed the process up but I do not recommend doing this. Letting coatings dry slowly allows for better finish.

  10. Could you potentially use a sprayer for the Rustoleum kit ? I got a great deal on the dark kit and I really would like to try it in my bathroom vanity - which is old laminate (yuck)! I am looking for a nice finish of course. I was considering purchasing an inexpensive gun for this and some other small DIY projects.
    I was looking at the Wagner Control Double Duty sprayer (around $80)...or the Wagner Flexio 570 (around $129) Would this type of gun be able to handle the Rustoleum bond coat ?

    1. In theory any sprayer COULD work. You can add the tiniest amounts of water to thin the product out to get it to flow better. You just have to be careful. Cause too much water can cause the paint to run off the project. Its more of an art form than a science when preparing paints for spraying.

      I was able to spray this with a wagner HVLP. Pretty impressive for a small DIY sprayer.

  11. On my 4th Rustoleum Transformation project. About to complete my kitchen cabinets with the Espresso color kit but don't like the quality of the final top coat. Very streaky. Can I spray on another top coat? Could another coat cause a cloudy or hazy finish? Thanks for your input.

    1. You should be able to use the products I discussed above to finish your project. As always do a small test over an inconspicuous spot to see if there is a weird reaction between the two coatings.

      If the haze if on the surface of the coating applying another coat with a sprayer should shine it right up.

  12. great article. I am looking for a bright white finish with with some wood grain coming through the finish. With the provincial finish you mention streaking the darker as the second step. With a white finish would skip this step?

    1. That is a tricky finish.

      Here is what I would consider doing:
      1) Try to thin out a white latex paint with water.
      2) Apply that with a rag.
      3) Then after that dries (which is gonna take forever cause water evaporates slower than the evaporates in paint) steak the door with a darker color of your choice by dry brushing.
      4) top coat with a shiny clear water based finish.

      Its gonna take some trial and error. I would recommend going to the habitat for humanity and buying a couple of used cabinet doors to try this out before attempting a large project.

  13. I have used the kit and am ended up with on build up of glaze in the corners that is off white . Do you know how I can remover with distorting the work I did.

    1. Thats a tough one. Special finishes in latex are harder to reverse than solvent based products. You might need to reapply your base color and start over.

  14. Clean out your cabinets thoroughly before doing any refinishing. You might be surprised how much better they look after a good scrubbing! You can even take off the cabinet doors to do a thorough cleaning. Be sure to label the cabinet parts if removing them so you don't get mixed up.

    1. Awesome input!

      Sometimes a simple cleaning is really all it takes. Cabinets can get crazy filthy over time especially cabinets above and around the stove or coffee maker.

  15. I painted my oak cabinets with the dark Tudor color (unglazed). I then touched up some spots almost a year later, and there are now obvious differences where I touched up the paint. Any suggestions on how to fix this without having to redo the whole door? That is what Rustoleum told me to do... Any help is appreciated :)

    1. Yeah the Rustoleum help line has to be just a bunch of 9-5ers just reading from a computer screen.

      Its almost impossible to match the exact color of paint after time has passed. There are so many factors that can affect color ie settling of colorants in the paint, sun fade, rusty paint lids adding more red rust color in the paint.

      I have got myself out of some jams before using a pack of crayola crayons. The packs with tons of colors. The crayons can fill tiny pinholes and then credit cards can smooth the surface. Sounds easy on the outside but again try this in an inconspicuous spot.

  16. If its the finish of the Rustoleum kit you don't like, couldn't the kit be used, but add a final step of a clear satin polyurethane to achieve the high shine you like?

    1. You got it.

      I believe they provide a mat finish cause most DIYers will apply this product with crappy rollers and cheap brushes that leave behind a lot of finish issues. So a dull top coat will hide a lot of these imperfections. Probably a marketing plow. Cleaver on their part though.

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  18. The kit from Rustoleum is around a hundred dollars for a little bit of paint and sub par combinations of sundries. Too expensive. Fortunately I've read your post.

  19. I would paint all the 6 panel wooden doors in my home that are now stained. I dread the brush strokes! A Finish Max sprayer would be a dream come true.

  20. I am happy to read your article.
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  21. the information you provide to create a lot of work
    I liked a lot of interesting content. this website

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  22. Very good advice on using a HVLP sprayer. You know, it is quite easy to be fooled by glossy pictures if you have no clue what you are actually doing. There is no way around learning some basic stuff about cabinet renovation. Thank you!

  23. Even when you are in a world of your own thinking about different and random things, merely looking at your beautiful kitchen would give you enough reasons to make something interesting for your dear ones, every time.licensed contractors near you

  24. Nice blog and absolutely outstanding. You can do something much better but i still say this perfect.Keep trying for the best.

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  25. great idea, I am looking for a bright white finish with with some wood grain coming through the finish. good job

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