Home Improvement: How to Give Oak Cabinets and Furniture an $8.99 Face-lift without Paint

When I completed the basement overhaul (click here for the full reveal), I had two pieces of oak that needed a face lift but I didn’t want to tackle painting either one because of time and (let’s be honest) a lack of patience.

So I started searching for options other than painting.

before gel

After lots of reading and researching I settled on this product by General Finishes. It is recommended for wood that has already been stained.

Very light sanding or just a good cleaning is all the prep that is required before applying it.

And it had rave reviews all over pinterest.

Java Gel Stain, 1/2 Pint

Honestly, I didn’t really believe all the hype, but it totally works.

I have read terrible reviews on other brands of gel stain so be aware of the brand that you choose.

I loved the gel consistency, aka no stain drips anywhere.

Both of the pieces that I stained required three coats, but the results are amazing. It completely refreshed and updated previously light colored wood without stripping the old stain off.

basement 4

gel after

I purchased 1/2 pint for $8.99 and even after completing the vanity and the media unit I still have 1/4 can remaining.

Honestly, this is one of the easiest furniture makeovers I have ever done.

Each layer of stain only took about 20 minutes to apply, with a 24 hour drying time in between. I just followed the directions from the General Finishes website.

I am going to apply some kind of sealant to the stain eventually, but it will probably be the same furniture wax (click here for a tutorial by Barb Blair) I used on my painted chest of drawers seen below↓.

Antique Painted Dresser in our Sun Room

What do you think? Would you try it on some outdated oak furniture?

before after gel

11 thoughts on “Home Improvement: How to Give Oak Cabinets and Furniture an $8.99 Face-lift without Paint

  1. Did you do this on your kitchen cabinets? I have old maple cabinets – from the 50’s. I have been wanting to paint them – but maybe this would be easier. Do they any light stains? Did you take off all your cabinet doors?
    This is Genie Yearick McCorkle. I love your blog! Use a lot of your recipes!

    1. Hi Genie, this was one bathroom cabinet but I know it would work on kitchen cabinets. They have like 5 colors of stain. And I did take all the cabinet doors off because I didn’t want to get stain on the hinges. I will say I did the whole project by myself so it’s not that hard :) If you go to the general finishes website and select the gel stain you can see all the colors they offer.

    1. WAY WAY easier than painting. It takes a little while to get used to it. And at first it looks streaky but by the second and third coat it evens out. Read the reviews on amazon. A lot of people had great tips.

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