With having this kitchen finished over a year ago, this blog is an honest review of General Finishes Milk Paint on our 90’s golden oak cabinets. The original cabinets were outdated, bland and boring. As a complete gut is not financially in the cards, this refresh was necessary and the best way to avoid a huge financial decision.
Published March 13, 2023
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To see the initial work done on the Kitchen with Milk Paint, check out the work done a year ago by clicking the link below.
Cost for Milk Paint
Replacing an entire kitchen is quite the cost. To lower the cost, and space out the time needing to replace the cabinets, refacing them can help to extend the life of the existing cabinets until the time to replace them comes.
Our previous house needed an entire kitchen replacement as it suffered water damage and became moldy and unhealthy. Picking out and designing a new kitchen took around a month, and it cost over $6,000 including the countertop and hardware.
Refacing these cabinets did, indeed, cost much less than $6,000.
Instead of $6,000, this project only needed the cost of sandpaper, paint brushes, handles, primer, General Finishes Milk Paint Patina Green, painters tape and white cabinet and trim paint.
Below is a 3D rendering of this kitchen as we wished it would be. However, this would take well over $6,000 to get done. This is done by using the site HomeByMe.
Paint brush $0.00 – as I already had one, this was not a cost
Copper handles $0.00 – Christmas gift from my husband!
Primer – $0.00 – already had some
General Finishes Milk Paint Patina Green $101.00
White cabinet and trim paint $0.00 – already had 1/2 gallon
Painter’s tape $5.00
The cost to refinish this 90’s golden oak kitchen was $110.00.
That is much less expensive than gutting and then redoing the entire kitchen, saving us upwards of $6,000.
Why reface cabinets with Milk Paint?
On December 16, 2021, I started a project in the kitchen to refresh it using General Finishes Milk Paint. The existing cabinets were built in 1996 and are in the color golden oak. They were dingy, old, and orange.
With everything in the new house in shades of brown, a splash of color was so incredibly necessary. We chose the color Patina Green, from General Finishes.
Cleaning the Cabinets
The first step in refinishing cabinets is to clean the entire cabinets. There are many products on the market that help to remove dirt and grime from surfaces.
This time, I used Dawn dish soap and warm water, with an abrasive scrubber to clean the cabinets. Once they were all cleaned, rinsing the cabinets to make sure all of the cleaner and dirt is off is just as important as scrubbing them.
The cabinets were dirty, gross and dusty. The cabinets that were around the stove had layers of grime that took many hours of scrubbing with soap and water and a rough scrubber.
Sanding is Important
Sanding is, next to cleaning, one of the most important steps in refinishing any furniture. Before you begin to sand, you need to prep and clean the surface, so it does not gum up the sandpaper.
The cost for Sandpaper was so low, well under $5, and only two sheets were used. Sandpaper is always a good thing to have on hand for any DIY project, so buying it is not really a bad thing to do. Ethel cat was there to help me in sanding and was the master sandpaper inspector.
Paint and Primer
Painting is one of my favorite things to do. Priming, however, is an important step that should not be skipped, especially when dealing with old oak wood with the tannins and staining that can happen. This primer from Kilz is one of the best that helps with stain blocking and sealing.
Before painting, make sure to use Painter’s Tape off any spots that you do not want to get paint on, like the wall or countertop.
While the primer is out, I primed the walls to get rid of the gross greige walls that were stained and not cleanable.
Second Coat of Paint
In addition to primer, making sure the paint and primer cures for the allowed time is very important. Some paint can dry within the hour, however, that paint will not be “cured” for sometimes up to 28 days.
Once the primer is dry, the first coat of paint is dry after 24 hours, then it is time to paint the second coat on the cabinets. As the upper doors were removed, the bases were able to be painted separately while the doors were painted on the table.
After a year of wear and tear on these kitchen cabinets, I thought an honest review of the Milk Paint was due.
Milk Paint Review of Lower Cabinets
The lower cabinets received two coats of the General Finishes Milk Paint in the color Patina Green.
This paint was easy to paint, and it went on well enough with a 2-inch angled paintbrush.
Sink Cabinet Milk Paint Review
On the sink cabinet, the fixed faux doors had minimal wear with no damage to the paint. However, the doors did take on a few nicks and damage to the paint. With the left door being used the most, there were several scratches around the door pull that are noticeable. Other than that, the doors for the sink cabinet held up pretty well.
Next to the stove, on the other side from the Potholder Drawer, is a bank of four drawers. These drawers hold our plastics like baggies and wax papers, towels, rags and the top drawer contains the loose knives.
Baking Sheet Cabinet
This baking sheet cabinet did not end up receiving much damage to the Milk Paint finish.
Lazy Susan Food Cabinet
Of all of the cabinets in the entire kitchen, this one took on what appeared to be the most damage to the Milk Paint finish. Around the door pull, there are many scratches and damage to the paint. Additionally, the inside of the corner has no more paint remaining, which indicates an object that smashed into it.
This cabinet is our main food storage in the kitchen and does get the most use out of any of the cabinet doors. I am not surprised at the amount of damage to the paint.
Potholder Drawer Milk Paint Review
Right next to the stove, this drawer that holds all of the potholders did receive quite a bit of damage near the handle. There are about six or seven scratches in the paint. Below this drawer is a cabinet that holds our cooling racks and water bottles. This cabinet door did not come away with any damage to the paint, and honestly, it held up really well.
Drawers Next to the Stove
These drawers did not sustain any damage to the Milk Paint.
Additionally, above the four drawers is a pull-out wooden cutting board. The tip that sticks out was the golden oak, and it was then painted Patina Green to match all of the lower cabinets.
Not once have we used this cutting board in the three years since living in this house. For that reason, it is still in perfect condition.
Corner Cabinet Milk Paint Review
Moving to the right of the sink cabinet, this corner cabinet is a long one that dies into the corner of the kitchen. Instead of having empty space, this cabinet takes up the full length of the wall and gives access to a space that would otherwise have been useless.
As much as I hate this cabinet, it’s uselessness and deepness that then hides all of the things, the cabinet door did hold up fairly well. Especially being next to the sink and dishwasher. The door face does not have any scratches or damages to the front of the cabinet, and the paint held up very well.
The kids do however, love this cabinet because it is the perfect space to hide while playing hide-and-seek. One can shove my giant flour container aside, back further into the cabinet, and then have the best space to hide. The cabinet hides not only a container for 25-pounds of flour, but also small children. Maybe it isn’t that bad of a cabinet after all.
This cabinet has two drawers on the top, holding our random utensils and also the coveted “Midwest Junk Drawer”. This is the most important drawer in the kitchen. It has the rolling pin, paper clips, twisty ties, bag clips, knife sharpener, and more. This drawer is used daily, and thus resulted in the drawer face being scratched and damaged. There are quite a few scratches near the handle, while the drawer to the left is left undamaged.
On the lower part of the cabinet are the two doors that open to reveal a large cabinet that holds all of our Tupperware. As much as this cabinet is used daily, it did not come away with any damage. There are no scratches in the paint, no chips or marks near the pulls. These doors are still in amazing condition a year after the Milk Paint refinish.
Cereal Cabinet Milk Paint Review
The final cabinet of the base units is the Cereal Cabinet. But this cabinet is more than just for cereal. It has a drawer on the top with all of our silverware, and below are two doors with two drawer pull-outs. The pull-outs hold our bread, tortillas, cereal, foods for the boys lunches and crackers. Next to the Lazy Susan cabinet, this one is used just a bit less. And for that reason, the doors did come away with some damage to the paint near the pulls, but not much.
The silverware drawer, however, did succumb to quite a bit of damage near the pull, but also to the top of the drawer face where it looks like forks or other items were smashed into it. Most likely in the hurry and rush to put items away.
An Honest Milk Paint Review
The General Finishes Milk Paint, on these lower cabinets held up incredibly well, especially with the wear and tear of a family of six. With the cabinets being from 1996, our hope for this kitchen would be to refinish them to give us a few years before completely changing the cabinets.
This General Finishes Milk Paint was an amazing product to use and even after a year, none of the tannins have shown through.
With the Milk Paint a hyper-pigmentated paint, which means it is quite dense, the tannins have not shown through. It was an incredibly nice paint to paint with and I am very happy with the results.
One thing the Milk Paint has in it is a topcoat, however, this paint also leaves more of a matte finish. With a kitchen, and with all of the food, moisture and cooking, leaving a matte finish is not recommended. On top of the Milk Paint, two coats of the General Finishes Satin Topcoat were painted on to protect the overall look of the paint.
While waiting for the paint and topcoat to cure, a fatal mistake on my part was made. I replaced the cabinet and door pulls with the originals with the hope that the kids would not scratch the finish while it was curing, up to 28 days.
Mistakes were made
In this process, of having the old hardware put back on, the screws then pierced the paint, and every door then left a screw imprint on the base cabinet where the handles rested closed. Even the upper cabinets have this mistake. I did spend some time painting over these spots, leaving the doors propped open for days in the hopes that the error would go away.
However, once the doors were closed, the marks came back. I do believe, with the old screws in the door pulls, they were just high enough to still touch the wood and cause the marks.
These marks, like a firework, are on just about every cabinet base where a door closes. Every time I open a door, I cringe just a bit, knowing that the old screws and my hurriedness to get the job done was to blame.
So, in future, if you are undertaking a project of this magnitude, do not replace the old hardware so your paint can cure. Leave the doors off so they can cure on their own, and then replace them once you are fully certain the paint is cured, and not in a hurry.
Upper Cabinet Milk Paint Review
The upper cabinets required much more work than the lowers.
As we wanted the uppers to be white, and not Patina Green, the uppers needed a coat of primer before being painted white.
Oak, when used in furniture, has natural oils that release over time. With these cabinets being from 1996, the oils, or tannins, would release and then cause the newly white paint to then turn brown and spotty. To stop this happening, priming the surfaces prior to the final coats of white, is quite necessary.
Once the primer had two coats, because the first was still spotty, the first coat of the General Finishes Milk Paint in White was painted onto the entire top cabinets. However, I was not liking the way the paint was going on. It was thick, like pancake batter instead of paint. Once the second coat was painted on, a decision was made to repaint them with a different product.
Because the Milk Paint was so thick, it did not resolve its thickness while drying. As Milk Paint should naturally self-level, the thickness of this can was preventing that process from happening. The result of the General Finishes Milk Paint White was streaky and spotty, with most of the paintbrush lines still showing up.
In our basement was a gallon of White Cabinet and Trim Enamel paint, so this was used to paint on top of the streaky Milk Paint. Because the uppers already had two coats of primer and two coats of Milk Paint, only one coat was then needed of the Trim and Cabinet paint. The result, with using this Trim and Cabinet Enamel paint, was a non-streaky finish that was bright white.
Upper Cabinet Mistakes
The main mistake, once the paint was done, was the effect that the pulls did on the cabinets.
The screws for the old pulls were too deep and pierced through the paint leaving impressions behind. It was such a bummer to see this, after working so hard to make the upper cabinets perfect.
While the old kitchen had a dirty and outdated vent hood, that actually didn’t work, we bought a new microwave that has a vent and installed that over the stove. In taking out the old cabinet above the vent hood, he moved it over our freezer, freeing up space to make and install a shelf over the microwave. That shelf is now where I store my pasta drying rack that Tyler made me for Christmas.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed using General Finishes Milk Paint. It was a great product to use, painted on smooth, and finished in a wonderful look that covered the outdated golden oak cabinets.
However, the General Finishes Milk Paint in White was difficult to use, ending in a streaky result that I was unhappy with and ended up refinishing again.
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