They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. I say amen to that. Not only is it the heartbeat, it's also the gathering place and major focal point of your home, especially in the newer open floor plans and home designs.
First, your job is to make sure cabinets are washed down, free of grease and any dried kitchen mishaps. Sanding will not remove grease, only clog expensive sanding sheets. I remove all doors and drawer fronts (unless they're glued on, then I'll have to take the entire drawer.) and number them. (I only made that mistake, once!) All hardware is removed as well.
I work on doors and drawers first, leaving everthing in cabinets and drawers for clients to access during the time I'm working on the other pieces. I will usually bring everything to my home so that I can work in my own garage, (not waiting for paint to dry at your home) and taking up your garage space. Everything is thoroughly machine sanded, front and back to ensure paint bonding. Vacuumed and tack clothed, smooth like glass.
Priming with a paint based product. I used to tint my primers to match paint, but with the newer high end primer based paints, I can skip that step. Also, tinting primer didn't always match exactly to the top coat, which is a problem if you're distressing because that exposes the undercoat. Two coats here.
Topcoat with high quality eggshell sheen based paint without primer. I find that the primer paints are excellent as a base coat but are thicker and are more difficult to level out than traditional paints. For this reason I topcoat with the latter paint. Hand sand in between coats.
Sanding all corners and edges or high points to expose wood and add character on the fronts and sides of all pieces.
Most often I then apply wood stain to the exposed sanded areas to darken and age a bit. Blonde raw wood, seems too bright, unless I am doing white cabinets, then the sealer will darken it just enough.
I usually will then apply a glaze, either with cheesecloth or with a dry brush. This step is dependent on the look and type of finish we decided, early on. Edges are taped off to show where the different angles of the wood meet. Paint will erase this, but hand brushing it back makes the finished door resemble wood, and not just a painted finish. You can see what I'm referring to in some of the close up photos of the cabinet doors.
Last but not least, several coats of sealer are applied by hand. I use an excellent water based satin sealer that is very durable and won't yellow and discolor like oil based products will over time.
While the cabinet doors and drawers cure and harden for about a week, I begin the same process for the exterior of the base cabinets. Most often I will plastic off the interior, so that the client does not have to remove all contents. Whatever is easiest and convenient for you. Refinishing the bases moves a bit faster, since I'm only working on the exterior. A few days to cure, then I reinstall all doors and drawers to their original locations. Viola! We are done, and you have a beautiful "new" kitchen cabinets. To clean, one only needs a soft microfiber or cotton cloth and warm water. A little soap if necessary, but no alcohol based or abrasive cleaners.
You can see this process is time consuming and very detailed. It takes experience and patience to do it right. I have walked into incomplete jobs because the homeowner took it upon themselves to try and save some money but weren't educated in all the steps necessary to do the job successfully.....they ran out of time and patience. I'm trying to save you some possible future grief! I use this same process on most furniture pieces as well, it just depends on the look you prefer. I will be honest in my recommendations of what I think may be applicable and what may be a better choice. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Start to Finish... Illustrated Kitchen Transformation #1
Start to Finish... Illustrated Kitchen Transformation #2