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Talking with a Local Cabinet Refinishing Professional

We sat down with a local painting contractor that has been an expert in his field for over 15 years, and has taken on the incredibly detail-oriented skill of refinishing kitchen cabinets. We’ve all heard of the DIY kits, but something told us there’s a reason there are experts for this job. Learn with us why hiring a contractor is the way to go!


1. Please introduce yourself and your company. How long have you been working in this profession?

My name is Matt Schmohl (AKA Duck) and I’m a professional painting contractor and refinisher. I’ve been working in the business for over 15 years and have worked for the company Just Add Paint for most of those years. We have done a plethora of interior/exterior residential and commercial painting projects throughout south central PA over the years and within the past few years, we’ve focused on building our cabinet refinishing business.

2. Why should someone refinish their cabinets versus replace them?

Refinishing is a great option, especially if you’re on a budget, or if you don’t want contractors demolishing your kitchen and basically moving in for weeks to install all new cabinets. If your cabinets are in relatively good shape, but just outdated, refinishing is the way to go. 

A lot of older sets of cabinets are built really well, but just need a little TLC to make them like new again. It can be done at a fraction of the cost of new custom cabinetry and still have that “factory finish” appearance. We actually end up doing a lot of door and drawer replacements and carpentry options to really spruce up the cabinets and it still costs less than new custom cabinetry. So the answer is simple, if you want to save some money and update the kitchen all while adding value, then Refinishing is the best bang for your buck.

3. What’s the difference between the cabinet refinishing kits at big box hardware stores opposed to hiring professionals?

Well to be honest, it’s a big difference. Professional cabinet refinishing is a skill that takes a lot of practice, trial, and error. Preparing the substrate properly, using the right coatings, knowing the right procedure, having the right tools and the workspace has everything to do with the difference between professional results and a DIY nightmare. So as far as those “all-in-one refinishing kits” at the big box store, I’d say avoid these at all costs, because they will likely end up costing you more than you bargained for.

Kitchen refinishing after

4. What is the process like from the moment you step into a home to the moment you pack up and leave?

The cabinet refinishing process usually takes about a week on average from start to finish, depending on the size of the kitchen. First things first, we would arrive at the clients home on the scheduled day and greet the homeowner (hoping that they have a dog because we love doggos). We usually start by loading in all of our gear and masking off the countertops. Then we get into cabinet door and drawer removal and label everything so it’s easy to recall during reinstallation.

While some of the crew does that, the other half continue masking to protect all the surfaces that aren’t getting sprayed. Once all the doors and drawers are out, we mask the inside of the cabinet box frames and load the doors out to be taken to our shop where they’ll be prepped and painted.

While the magic is happening in the shop, the in-house portion continues. After everything is masked (including appliances) we clean and sand all the surfaces to be painted. Then we’ll plastic off the whole kitchen with Zip poles and essentially make a giant spray booth with high cfm fans and air scrubbers, which extract the overspray while cleaning and redistribute the air inside. This is usually around day two or three.

Now it is spray time. While the doors and drawer fronts get sprayed in the shop, I start my spraying process. I usually spray the primer the first day and then do two coats of the topcoat the next day. Sometimes, the client chooses two different colors so that makes for a busy day when it comes to spraying. After all the doors, drawer fronts, and cabinet boxes in-house are finished, we tear down the booth and masking, and get ready for install. This is usually around day four or five.

Then it’s install day. We package up the refinished doors/drawers, take them back to the house, and reinstall. We usually end up changing out the hardware to give it a nice update as well.

And … Voila! New Kitchen.

Kitchen island refinishing

5. What does having cabinets refinished do for a home’s value?

Well here’s the fun part, professional kitchen cabinet refinishing increases value! A kitchen update is one of the top ways you can increase value in the home, whether the cabinets are new or professionally refinished. We use some of the same coatings that they do at the factory, the only main difference being that ours are mostly water-based polyurethane coatings that look just as good and are just as durable. Save Money /Increase value, sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!

6. What is something you want clients to know about the refinishing process that they may not anticipate?

Something I want clients to know about the process is that though it is less invasive, there will still be contractors taking over your kitchen for a week, so be prepared. We always like to give notice again a week or two before we do a refinishing job just to give the clients time to get things in order. By that, everything, I mean EVERYTHING has to be out. Everything in the cabinets, everything on the cabinets, and everything on the countertops. We try to keep

the kitchen as accessible as possible during the refinishing process, but again we will be essentially taking over the kitchen while the work is being done. Even though the client knows this, they may be sick of seeing my face by day three. So be prepared and patient during the process – I swear it will be all worth it when the job is done and the results speak for themselves.

Jessie Ellis

Jessie Ellis

Wife, friend and dog mom with 18+ years of education and 12+ years as a commercial design professional. Always inquisitive, creative and empathetic; trying to live each day with intention.

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