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White oak kitchens have always been one of my favorites. They are bright, modern, and the cabinets look gorgeous. When we purchased our first rental property I knew I wanted to create a similar look, but for much less. So we purchased these Project Source in-stock unfinished cabinets at Lowe’s and I made it my mission to stain them and give them a white oak kitchen look.
I could have easily painted the cabients but wanted to stain them instead. If you are interested in learning how to paint kitchen cabinets, I did it for a different unit and they turned out great too!
What you’ll need to stain unfinished cabinets
- 120grit Sanding sponge
- Minwax Wood Conditioner
- Foam Brush and Rag
- Varathane Golden Oak Stain
- Minwax Color Wash Transparent Stain (I used Minwax pickling stain but this is whats available now)
- Minwax water-based polycryclic in Satin
Remove drawers and cabinet doors
In order to be able to stain your cabinets correctly, remove the doors and drawers. Set up a space and line them up. Make sure you are in a well ventilated room and you wear a mask (I’m not always good with this).
I didn’t have a lot of cabinets so I was able to line them up in my living and dining room and had my windows open. You don’t have to stain the actual inside of the cabinets but its recommended to stain the inside of the cabinet doors.
Give all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts a light sanding. I used a 120g sanding sponge and went over all the surfaces lightly. I then cleaned all the dust off and was ready to apply my first product.
Apply wood conditioner
Apply wood conditioner using a rag. Wood conditioner draws out the grain and helps ensure a more even coat. It prevents the stain from looking blotchy. Allow the wood conditioner to sit for 15min.
Apply whitewash pickling
The whitewash pickling I used from Minwax seems like it has a new look. I can’t find the can I used and what’s available right now is Minwax Color Wash Transparent Stain. I have used this product for a different project and loved it!
Initially, I applied the whitewash pickling with a rag but found it applies more even with a foam brush then excess wiped with a damp rag.
In the photo below you can see the cabinet door on the left has the stain and the one on the right has the whitewash pickling.
After applying the whitewash pickling and allowing it to dry, I applied another coat of the Varathane stain.
To protect the cabinets, apply three coats of Minwax Waterbased Polycrylic. Polycrylic does not stick to itself so sanding in between coats is required. Sand lightly in between coats using the 120grit sanding sponge.
In my opinion, water based polycrylic is better to use because oil based tends to yellow over time. I applied the polycryclic using a brush but you could use foam brushes, that work great too!
For the end panels of the cabinets, I ended up adding the same toe kicks that are sold separately for the bottom of the cabinets and had them cut to size. I stacked them like shiplap to create a more custom look.
And there you have it, white oak kitchen cabinets look for less!