Our Kitchen Cabinets: The Best Made Plans… Often Go Awry. Part I

28 Jun

When we first looked at the Pink Monster I knew the kitchen would have to go. It was nasty and I couldn’t bear the thought of eating any meal that came out of that kitchen no matter how hard I scrubbed, bleached, and disinfected. My first plan was to gut the whole thing and get a temporary, stand alone kitchen from Ikea.

Ikea, Varde, Kitchen, Stand, Alone, Free, Standing, Cabinets, Island

These units are relatively inexpensive and my thought was that we could get it gutted and put in rather quickly. Brian mentioned one night that maybe we should just refinish the cabinets and once I got to thinking about it, I was sold. I did some research and found out our cabinets are vintage Youngstown made in the 1950’s and they were actually original to the house. I am all about keeping some of the history of our home and to come across a whole kitchen of Youngstown cabinets in good shape is rare.

My original idea was to remove the paint, polish them up, and clear coat them to protect the finish from rust and wear. The cabinets are Steel not Stainless Steel so that means even the slightest bit of moisture will create rust. You can see in the inspiration board I created for the kitchen the cabinets are steel.

The Reagan's Rock Kitchen, Cottage, Vintage, White, Steel, Metal, Cabinets, Board and Batten, Edison Light bulbs

So I talked to a few people about it, did some online research and settled on sandblasting the cabinets. It sounded easy enough and it sounded fast. I mean, it even had the word blast in it. Blast makes me think of rockets, which are fast, and so I assumed that this was surely the way to go… Not only is sandblasting the slowest way to remove paint, it is also the absolute messiest. We turned the pool into a sandblasting pit because I knew I would have to collect and reuse the sand. Being in a pit seemed to help contain the sand and allow me to collect it eaiser.

Sandblasting, Cabinets, Metal, Kitchen, Remodel, Youngstown, 1950's, The Reagans Rock

Look at that mess! I mean, COME ON! Really that mess wasn’t the worst. The worst part was getting sand and dust all over me! In my hair, in my eyes, and even in places that sand doesn’t reach when you are vacaying on the beach… The sandblaster is actually my Grandpa G’s and he was such a dear to let us borrow it. It did actually come in handy on those hard to reach places like the rails for the drawers and other tight spaces so using it wasn’t a total waste of time. If you are considering using a sand blaster I HIGHLY recommend getting a blasting hood with a replaceable window like these:

Blasting, Hood, Sand, Harbor Freight, The Reagans Rock

Yes you will look ridiculous but you will be able to wear your respirator and ear protection underneath so you will be fully protected. I quickly found out that eye goggles have small ventilation holes and those grains of sand will fly in no matter what you do. A hood really is the only thing that works to keep sand out of your eyes.

So once we decided that blasting just wasn’t the best way to go, Brian went out and picked up a cheap 4 1/2 angle grinder and a few different grinding pads. These worked great but you can’t get into the small spaces and the grinding pads we found were $9 a pop. One pad would only do about a quarter of a cabinet. So using just a grinder was out.

Our last resort was using a stripper. In the beginning I had tried a non-toxic biodegradable stripper with no luck and I really didn’t want to deal with toxic chemicals but in the end, we had to go this route. There were three layers of paint on the cabinets. The original factory paint was Robins Egg blue powder coat, the second coat was a cream oil based enamel, and the top coat was a gray latex. The latex and most of the oil were pretty easy to remove with the stripping gel but the powder coat was just stuck. We found that using a combination of stripping for the top two coats, grinding off the blue coat, and sandblasting the nooks and crannies was really the best way to get them completely clean of all paint and rust.

These bad boys better be some sweet cabinets because this is what has taken us so long to get the kitchen done. We have spent about 3 weeks really working on only stripping the cabinets and believe me, I am so ready to be DONE with them!

So that’s how the stripping plan went awry and I will tell you all about our other scrapped plans in the next post!

Here’s our tips on stripping metal cabinets:

  1. ALWAYS wear appropriate safety gear. This includes eye protection, respirators, ear protection, and protective clothing. Wearing shorts and flip flops while running a grinder is a bad idea. Don’t ask how I know… Spend the money on good quality safety equipment. Cloth respirator masks are not a substitute for a real respirator. They cost, on average, $40 at your local big home improvement store but your lungs are worth it, so don’t be cheap and make sure to buy the right respirator filters for the job you are doing. Filters made for use when painting are not the same as the filters for use with airborne dust contaminates.
  2. Remove the cabinets completely. There is no way you will be able to treat for hidden rust if you just paint the fronts. The cabinets are over 50 years old and are bound to be rusted somewhere. Treat it now and they will last another 50 years.
  3. Discount tool stores like Harbor Freight and Northern Tools often have much better deals on the same things that Lowes or Home Depot sells. For example, these grinding disks we bought at Lowes for $9 were $5 at Harbor Freight and they lasted twice as long as the ones from Lowes. I am usually a great believer in ‘you get what you pay for’ but not in this instance.
  4. Check for lead paint. You do not want to breath in lead dust particles so all the more reason to invest in a good respirator.
  5. If there are several layers of paint, user stripper first then use a grinder to remove the powder coated original finish. If you have a blaster at your disposal, use it for the nooks and crannies.
  6. Outside is your friend. Strip, grind, and sand in very well ventilated areas. Even in the summer heat it was better to do these things in the shade because we kept the house clean and toxic fume free.
  7. Once completely stripped, use a rust treatment for any cabinets that have problem areas. This will typically be your sink cabinet and any cabinets that were installed near it.
  8. Take your time. This is a very long process for people who work day jobs so if you don’t think you can make it through, get a quote from a local auto body shop or powder coating shop. They can have them done in a matter of a few weeks and they will have a beautiful professional finish. Getting in an hurry always leads to mistakes so if you must do it yourself, know that you will need plenty of patience.



One Response to “Our Kitchen Cabinets: The Best Made Plans… Often Go Awry. Part I”


  1. Ohh…Crazy, But It Feels Alright « - July 7, 2011

    […] you’ll just have to wait for this crazy week to slow down enough for me to write part II of Our Kitchen Cabinets post. Until then, I leave you with The One,  The Only, Ms. Briteny Spears. Hit […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: