” We’re the Valdez family and we’re fancy as f*ck.”

“ We’re the Valdez Family and we’re fancy as f*ck.”

Ladies and gentleman, we present our new family slogan. My bff decided that since we now have a fancy adult kitchen, we needed a fancy slogan for our fancy family. Fancy that.

Okay, enough with the shenanigans. We re-vamped our kitchen and I am in love! We bought our first home a little over a year ago with plans to do house projects slowly but surely and one at a time. I’ve been doing a project a month, no matter how big or small, and it has been nice to see them coming together. Our kitchen was on my big project list however it jumped up to the “It’s a big project but if I search the internet enough maybe I can do it myself and it will become a little project” list when I found out that it cost a lot of money to have your kitchen demolished and re-built. Insert sad face here when I remembered that I don’t have a money tree. But thanks to the Internet, I found an abundant amount of crafty people who have transformed their kitchens on their own with a little elbow grease and some time. I’ll post the links to the tutorials that I watched for reference, as well as where I found the supplies I used.

I had some friends ask to post the before/after photos and how I did it. I’m going out on a limb here writing my first tutorial ever so hang in there with me!

Here is the before photo of our kitchen. When we bought the house, I fell in love with the size and layout of the room despite the peachy cabinets. I’m not a huge fan of light wood furniture so we knew that the color of the cabinets wouldn’t work for the long term. Please excuse the mess by the way, I started taking things out of cabinets then realized I needed before photos!

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And the glorious after photos!!! Again, I am so freakin’ happy about how everything turned out. Besides staining the cabinets, we purchased a new microwave, sink and dishwasher, and spray-painted the track lights on the ceiling. For the top of the cabinets, I’m planning on getting a couple of fake plants to organize our vintage kitchenware around.

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So as you can see, it is possible to give your kitchen a make over without having to spend a bazillion dollars, woo hoo!

To get started, you’re going to need supplies and a spare weekend. Figure out what shade your looking for and what type of material your cabinets are so you can choose a stain that works best. We ended up using General Finishes Gel Stain in java. If you visit the General Finishes website, you can type in your zip code and they will tell you were to buy it near you. You can buy it online as well but I ended up driving 45 minutes to a woodworking store because it wasn’t sold near my home and I didn’t want to wait a week for it to get here! I’m impatient, I know.

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Here’s a complete list of the materials we used:

  • General Finishes Java Gel stain
  • General finishes High Performance Water Based Top Coat in Matte
  • 2 large and 2 small sponge brushes to apply the stain & top coat
  • paint applicator pad to apply final coat
  • painter’s tape and plastic
  • 3M sand paper blocks in fine and medium
  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • something to clean cabinets with before starting
  • screw diver and/or power tool
  • areas for drying
  • large plastic baggies

Side Note: I also bought big yellow sponges to clean the cabinets because I got overly excited they were on sale for $1… but you don’t need to buy those!


First things first, clean your cabinets! Get off all the grease and grime then dry them off with a towel so you have a clean surface to work with. Clean out anything from the shelves that may get in the way and clear off all counter tops. Use the painter’s tape along the walls near the cabinets and where they meet the floor, as well as on any appliances that will be close to where you’re staining. Next, set up your drying/working stations. I covered a small area of my tile floor with plastic then used two 8-foot folding tables draped in plastic as well for our working/drying areas. I also utilized the top of the island and the countertops. Make sure any surrounding area that you don’t want to scrub stain off of is covered.

After you’re done pretending to be Dexter, its time to take off the cabinet doors, drawers, and hard ware. I put all the nobs and coordinating screws in one plastic bag and the hardware that attaches them to the cabinets in another.

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With the java gel stain, you don’t need to go old school and sand down your cabinets to the bare wood. This saves so much time! I used the 3M Medium sanding block and probably spent 40 minutes to do a light sanding on ALL the surfaces that I would be staining. After sanding, wipe all the dust away and make sure all your tabletops are clean. You don’t want dust mixing with your stain!


Now you are ready to start staining! Stir the stain well to mix all the magic inside. I used a small sponge brush to apply the stain to smaller areas and the larger sponge brush to apply to the large areas. Apply a light layer then wipe off with a paper towel. I let the first coat dry over night. Here is the first coat after its been applied and wiped off:

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Once the first coat has dried, use the 3M Fine sanding block to do a very light sanding. This is just to slightly buff the surface to help the second coat stick better. For the second coat, I applied a light even layer again but I didn’t wipe it off. I let this coat dry for about 24 hours. Drying times may vary and the second coat was probably dry way earlier than 24 hours, but I work a full time so I didn’t apply the final coat until I got home the next evening.

Before applying the 3rd coat, use the fine sanding block to buff out any bubbles or imperfections. To apply the final coat, I used the paint applicator pad and the small sponge brush to get the corners and tiny details. I did 3 coats because I wanted the cabinets to be a really dark, solid java color. Depending on how dark you want the color, you can vary how many coats you do. I also let the final coat dry for 24 hours.


Almost done! Awww yeahhh!! Stir the clear coat well before applying. I applied two layers of the clear coat with the foam brushes and let each coat dry for about 2 hours. It looks milky but it will dry clear. Again, after the final clear coat, I let it dry for another 24 hours.

Once the clear coat is dry, you’re ready to put everything back! High five guys, we did it! It took me about 6 days to get this project done because I did it on a Saturday and Sunday, then after work during the week. If you have more time at home, it will probably be a faster process.

I hope this is helpful if you are planning on staining your cabinets with a gel stain. If you have any other questions, please let me know and I will try to help as best I can!

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Here are a couple links of tutorials that I used as reference:

General Finishes YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIPJBi2ECeM


Extra Tips & Tricks:

  • When sanding, make sure to get the all the edges as well as the nooks and crannies in the detailing of the doors.
  • If you get stain on tile floors, use alcohol and the scratchy side of a regular dish sponge to clean it off.
  • If you apply the stain too thick, it may stay sticky! Apply thin even coats and allow them to dry completely.
  • You may not be able to use this method if you have a laminate covering over your cabinets. I’m not sure if it would stick, so do some extra research if you do you have laminate over your cabinets.

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