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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48 thoughts on “Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Review

  1. I’m about 3/4 way through doing our kitchen cabinets. We chose “meadow” which is a light blue/green. The deglazing went well. Our 20 year old honey oak cabinets were pretty clean. The bond coat went on very well. It is among the easiest “paint” I have handled. No glaze.
    However I started the final protective coat today and it is awful to handle. It is runny as milk, but sticky — very hard to apply evenly, and if you apply a bit too much, will gather in drips on the edges. I think I’m handy with a brush, and am very patient, but I am dreading the rest of this final step. I wish this final step was available in spray cans.

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  6. i bought a pool noodle for a dollar and sliced it into even two inch pieces and rested my doors on these while working on them it worked out well. I agree with the top coat problem I have to go over several of mine with another coat it is hard to work with and I also had some globs of white topcoat on a couple edges. I picked Rustic color and am happy with it.

  7. I am about to buy the Rustoleum product. I can’t decide between chocolate or espresso. I appreciate your input about the glaze. All of your information is really helpful. I am a careful painter. Do you really think I could do it without removing the doors? It would be so much easier if I don’t have to but I want it to look good. I don’t have a very big kitchen. Any thoughts?

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