Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Review

By now, you may have seen our kitchen cabinet transformation. It all began over Memorial Day weekend and finally finished up a few days ago when we put the last knob on the door. Woohoo! See our pride and joy below:

Below you’ll find my review of the Rust-Oleum product. I was not compensated for this review, I shelled out my own hard-earned money for the kit. While I would recommend it, I don’t think it’s quite the miracle product we were expecting. Maybe my expectations from all the blog hype were overly inflated and maybe my execution wasn’t spot on. I will say, however, that I had already painted the cabinets in our three bathrooms in the traditional sand-prime-paint method, so I’m not a complete stranger to this type of project.

What I Liked

  • I liked the water-based base coat. It was thinner than the latex paint I had used on my other cabinets, and it let the wood grain (even fake wood grain) show through. To me, this made it look more expensive. It also meant that we needed touch ups, so it was more like three coats instead of two (which means more drying time).  Water-based was also less fumey than other paint we had used.

Before and after -- you still see the wood grain.

  • The espresso color, which we chose, was very true to what we were expecting. It’s also nice to have so many color choices to choose from.
  • There was plenty of information and the customer service was responsive.
  • For the most part, the kit was handy instead of having to buy everything yourself.
  • Overall, we are pleased with the results, and that’s really what it’s all about.


What I Didn’t Like

  • The top coat was a pain! Gloppy, foamy and hard to get a good coat the first time, it seemed too thin after our first coat so we decided it needed two. Then we ran out and needed to buy more. The second product seemed less gloppy, but still very touchy when it came to getting even coverage. Perhaps uneven coverage might not be as bad on lighter cabinets?

Top coating. I eventually gave up on the gloves and mask. I'm still alive, though, and enjoying my cabinets.

See that white stuff on the edge? That's the foamy top coat that dried. That stuff foams more than a rabid dog. I scraped it off with a razor blade.

  • Since our cabinets didn’t have knobs, there were certain places where years of grime had built up and the deglosser didn’t really get rid of it enough. This led to the base coat not sticking and the original oak slightly peeking through. Also, the paint bubbled at some point, after putting on the top coat. Not sure why this happened.

Check out that grime! It was all caked on and difficult to get off completely. All the more reason to put knobs on your cabinets.

Here's a place where the paint wasn't sticking. This was after two coats of base coat.

  • Inconsistent information was frustrating. We liked the DVD for the most part. The website, box and papers inside seemed like a mountain of text for what is a simple process. Yet, with all that information, only one place on the box and nowhere else did it say to get the paint tinted at the store before you buy it. This makes sense, but is also strange to me. I originally thought that maybe  you mixed the color yourself.

Home Depot Man saved the day when we brought back our little cans of base coat to get some color.

This may just be the former editor in me, but the DVD and the box recommend a different number of brushes that are required. Then there was also the matter of trying to find the glazing techniques online that were mentioned in the video. After searching online and emailing customer service, it turns out that the videos didn’t exist yet. And it’s not like I was in the first wave of people to use the kit.

  • Despite claims on the box and in the video, the glaze didn’t really show up on dark paint, like at all. The hours of dry time to wait and find that they looked no different than when we first applied was a pain. Plus, it just made the kit less valuable to us in the end — could have skipped the cloths and two cans of glaze. (Also, the cloths included were really linty.)
  • The video recommends putting your cabinets onto nails through spare 2-by-4s while you apply the base coat and top coat. I wouldn’t recommend this as we just ended up with visible indents in our doors.

Painting the cabinets on nails. I think next time I would paint them while still attached by the hinges.

If I Were to Do it Again…

  • I would keep my dishes in the cabinets and wouldn’t remove the doors. We were carefully painting, and I think as long as were careful, we wouldn’t mess up anything inside the cabinets. This takes too much precious time.
  • Expect it to take longer than a weekend, unless you don’t sleep.
  • I wouldn’t buy as many paint brushes. I assumed the kit would ruin my brushes. While I didn’t want to use my expensive Purdy brushes, I think I would have been OK.
  • Do the project with your spouse or a friend. It just makes it more fun!
  • I would lightly sand the especially greasy places. Like mentioned above, we didn’t have knobs and the deglosser just wasn’t powerful enough. (And yes, I did scrub like the dickens.)
  • Buy a work light. We ended up snagging one during the late painting sessions. Got it at Wal-Mart for a good price.
  • Don’t do touch-ups with the top coat. You will notice it. You have to recoat all of it.
  • Skip the glaze if you’re going dark. Also, calculate how much you can get the rest of the kit for and see if it might be cheaper to just buy deglosser, water-based paint and top coat.
  • Get a moving packet from the post office. They’re free and usually include a 10 percent off a purchase at Lowe’s or Home Depot. And each one accepts competitor coupons, so you can use it at either place.
In all, we spent about $200 on this project. Sound crazy when the kit is only $70? We bought knobs (Ikea and Lowe’s), paint brushes, drop cloths, rags, plastic tubs, extra top coat, a work lamp, 2-by-4s (didn’t have any, so we bought cull/scrap) and gloves. Little stuff adds up. In all, I think that despite the lackluster return on investments these days, I think we’ll get our money back when we sell. Plus, I think it makes the funky countertop tile not look as bad.
So, what do you think? Would you go with the kit or the old school route?
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40 thoughts on “Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Review

  1. Hello! I’m in the middle of doing my kitchen in the espresso color. I personally can tell the difference between the glazed and unglazed, but that top coat IS a nightmare!!! When I scraped off the bubbles, it took it all the way back down to the oak! A little bummed the cabinets look “painted” (not sure what I was expecting), but it is a million times better than paying for new cabinets. I also refinished my dining room set in “linen” and it looks AMAZING! I was about to throw this table away!!!

  2. I agree about the look of painted cabinets. I liked that you can still see the grain through our oak doors, but I imagine that it might not be that way for everyone since oak is known for having a heavy grain. I think one of the issues with the kit is that they make it seem like it’s something other than painting or staining your cabinets, when it’s essentially a painting kit.

  3. Emily,
    Did you have to buy the stain your wanted separately or did it come with the kit? Thanks. BTW, your kitchen looked amazing! Love the handles!

  4. Hi Vicki,

    You don’t need to buy any additional stain. Bring the kit to the paint counter to have them select the color you want and they’ll color the two cans of base coat.

  5. Hi Emily,

    Your cabinets look great! I’m using the espresso on my bathroom cabinets this weekend (a little practice before doing my kitchen cabinets)! My cabinets do not have any grooves which is nice but I’m a little nervous for applying the top coat. Only other tips?

  6. Hi Chelsey — that’s a good idea to do a test run! I think as long as you keep a similar thin consistency throughout with the top coat, you’ll be fine. Maybe practice on the backs of the cabinet doors first until you find your top coat groove would help. And when it’s dried, lightly scratch away any bubbles or build up with a razor blade, being careful not to scrape off any color.

  7. After scraping off the white foamy stuff did you have to repaint again? I had the same issue and scraped off a bit of it and it ended up going right back to the oak color.

    Any suggestions?

  8. I don’t recall having to do many touch ups, since it’s been a while. In scraping it off it’s more like I scratched lightly at it to make the white stuff less noticeable.

  9. How are your cabinets holding up? I’m thinking about using Transformations since it looks like it cuts down on the sanding/prep work. (And because my cabinet sides are laminate.) Thanks!

  10. I did 3 bathrooms and two kitchens in the cabernet with the glaze and they look amazing!!! Everyone that has seen them think I have custom cabinets.

  11. I use two coats on the outside and inside, I only use the glaze on the outside though. It took me a little while to get the top coat looking great, but I mastered it!!! I have gotten it down to two days, my kitchen has 21 cabinets and 11 drawers. I can also say that having the wood grain show through makes them look custom made. I have many people begging me to do their cabinets..LOL I sold my last home with the cabinets done and the new buyers said they fell in love with all my cabinets in the house, they were shocked when I told them what I did. It helped my house sell!! My cabinet handles made it all come together (and the handles cost more then the kit).I would say just go slow the first time, maybe going darker makes the kit better since you can’t see any flaws with it. I can see using a light coat could be more difficult. I also think the glaze makes them look not painted.

  12. Did you find bubbling of sealer coat due to foam brush or did you use regular brush? Has anyone used a different sealer?

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  14. Thanks for your review! I honestly believe we share the same tips/experience. I thought the same thing about the top coat – it was seriously the worst part of the project. Had to scrap some off, repaint, and then do another coat. Boo. But, overall, the end result of your kitchen looks great! If you have a chance, check out my cabinet redo project –

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  16. Thanks for every other informative blog. The place else could I am
    getting that kind of information written in such an ideal means?
    I have a project that I am just now running on, and
    I have been on the glance out for such information.

  17. Tint the base coat??? Can u explain that more? My kit doesn’t say that anywhere!!!

  18. So I’m helping my mom re-do her bathroom cabinets & we are trying out the dark color kit. I attempted to de-gloss the cabinet doors but I don’t feel that I did a good enough job of de-glossing. The cabinets still seem to be glossy did you guys run into a similar issue?

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