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How to Apply Polyurethane to Kitchen Cabinets

Shawn Chambers

Kitchen cabinets are exposed to heat and humidity on a daily basis, which can cause warping or mold and mildew buildup. A protective coating of polyurethane provides reliable protection, but many homeowners are afraid of applying polyurethane to kitchen cabinets themselves. Do-it-yourself enthusiasts need not fear the task because it is a straightforward process with minimal preparation, tools and expense. Polyurethane can increase the beauty of any kitchen cabinet and provide years of protection.

Step 1

Use a flat-head or Phillips screwdriver to remove a cabinet door and place it on the drop cloth. Polyurethane is best applied to cabinets horizontally to prevent runs and drips, which can ruin the look of the finished product.

Step 2

Soak a lint-free cloth in mineral spirits. Wipe down the cabinet door with the cloth to remove any dust and ensure a smooth, even finish. Allow the door 30 minutes to dry.

Step 3

Mix the polyurethane using a stir stick until thoroughly blended. Also stir occasionally during use.

Step 4

Dip the foam brush into the polyurethane and carefully scrape off any excess on the side of the container.

Step 5

Apply in long strokes in the direction of the wood grain. Each successive stroke should overlap the one before it to maintain a wet edge. Work at a brisk enough pace to prevent the polyurethane from becoming tacky on the wood.

Step 6

Allow the first coat to dry fully according to the directions on the polyurethane container, usually three to four hours. Once dry, sand lightly with a fine-grit sandpaper.

Step 7

Wipe the cabinet door with the lint-free cloth to remove any dust raised by the sanding.

Step 8

Apply a second coat of polyurethane using long strokes and maintaining a wet edge. Allow to this coat to dry fully, usually three to four hours.

Step 9

Inspect for flaws or imperfections. If found, sand lightly, wipe and reapply polyurethane. Most kitchen cabinets require three to four coats of polyurethane to achieve a durable, long lasting finish. Sand, wipe and apply polyurethane until the desired coating is achieved.

Step 10

Rehang the cabinet door.