How to Distress Your Kitchen Cabinets

  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-500
What You'll Need
Paint for the bottom layer
Paint for the top layer
Distressing materials (keys, padlock and hammer)

Kitchen cabinets are a strong focal point in your home. If you're a fan of antiqued wood, consider distressing your cabinets. Distressing a cabinet is basically taking something new or unfinished and making it look like it is old. This article will explain how to easily distress your kitchen cabinets.

Step 1 - Sand the Original Cabinets

Before you begin to distress your kitchen cabinets, you need to remove any paint that is currently on them. To do this, you will want to remove the cabinet doors. Removing the actual cabinets is not always easy or possible, so you will have to do the frames where they are. Use the sandpaper to remove the layers of paint on both the doors and the frames.

Step 2 - Apply the Bottom Layer of Paint

The paint that you want to be seen under the distressing is the bottom layer of paint. Essentially you will be painting the entire cabinet this color for the specific purpose of allowing it to show through. You can achieve stunning result if one color is dark and the other color is light. After you finish this layer, you will have to wait at least 12 hours for it to dry.

Step 3 - Apply the Top Layer of Paint

Apply your top layer of paint. This is the layer that you will be distressing in order to let the bottom color show through. Paint the kitchen cabinets with this second color and allow it to dry for a day before you move forward.

Step 4 - Distress the Kitchen Cabinets

You want to create a worn look to the kitchen cabinets as though these things have been used for decades. Use the sandpaper to wear down areas around the knobs of the kitchen cabinets down to the bottom layer of paint.

Repeat this same method of distressing around areas that would see the most use, like the edges opposite of the hinges. Make sure you sand down sharp edges so they appear more rounded.

Now use your other implements of distressing to create more character. Use the keys to makes scratches and shallow dents, use the drill to make wormholes, and use the padlock or hammer to create deeper dings and dents. No two cabinets will look exactly the same so have a lot of fun distressing the cabinets until you make them your own. Some people prefer to leave out this last part and only use the sanding method of distressing.

Step 5 - Add Varnish

Now that you have finished distressing your kitchen cabinets, you can start to protect them. Start with a single coat of varnish, which you will apply with your paintbrush. Allow the top coat of varnish to dry before you apply a second coat. Attach the doors and enjoy your distressed kitchen cabinets.