Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations – A Review

Posted by Bonnie

All opinions in this post, as in everything I write, are mine and mine alone. I am in no way affiliated with Rustoleum and the information in this article is from my own experience with no influence from any 3rd party.

When we bought this house we were excited with the kitchen but it was really ugly. I wanted to update the appliances and the counter top was a very unattractive, water damaged blue laminate. The reason we were excited was because the cabinets were in super good shape inside and out; from our previous renovations we know first hand how expensive cabinets are so we were glad not to replace them… Problem being they were a natural oak color which didn’t appeal to us (me) AT ALL. Kyle wanted to leave them as they were but I REALLY wanted to paint them and promised that (at 7 months pregnant) I would handle everything from taking them off the hinges to prepping, painting, and replacing them.

I saw some pretty good reviews of the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit: Easy to apply, quick process, no sanding required, pretty hard wearing. I convinced Kyle to let me give it a shot.

The Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit comes with the following:

  • 1 deglosser
  • 1 scrub pad
  • 1 bond coat
  • 1 decorative glaze
  • 1 glazing cloth
  • 1 protective top coat
  • 2 Stir sticks
  • 1 instructional DVD
  • 1 pamphlet

We bought our kit at Home Depot for $119 (CAD). I’d seen online that people in the US were able to get it on sale quite often and currently has it available for $75. The kit is available in 2 base colors, light and dark, which are then tinted at the hardware store paint counter. Simple, right? The first issue we ran into was that the only available color samples are printed directly on the box, and all the boxes looked different. Maybe it was a printing issue or they were faded from sitting out but it made it impossible to tell exactly what color we would end up with. We selected ‘River Birch’ which in our samples looked like a warm creamy greige.


There are a bunch of people online with really good ideas about how to keep your cabinet doors organized so that you know precisely which door came from what cabinet. I tried hard to keep mine organised and failed because I didn’t use enough work space. The best method to stay organized is to label the work space with a number, and the inside of the cabinet with a number that you can match up to the door later. My problem was that because I had a very limited work space, I couldn’t label since I was using each space for working on multiple pieces. Try to use a large area (like a garage) that is well ventilated (even though the product is low odor) and place large sheets of plastic on the ground so that they each have a dedicated drying space that you can easily label. I didn’t do this because:

a) my garage was being used as a wood shop and

b) I was really pregnant and couldn’t stand the thought of bending repeatedly to pick up my pieces (so sad but so true).

The process is very straightforward, but watch a YouTube video or their instructional DVD as I am not going to be super detailed with the instructions here.

It basically goes as follows:

  • Wash you cabinets with a grease cutting dish soap really well. It is amazing how much grime you will find that you never noticed before, and if you try to paint over it I’ve heard that the little greasy spots will cause discoloration over time. I haven’t had that issue but then, I was very thorough. Better be safe and just do it even though it’s a pain.
  • Next thing you need to do is apply the deglosser. Start with the back sides and then do the fronts. This basically does what it says it will and removes the shiny surface from your cabinets (and its use is the reason you don’t need to sand before painting). This is applied using the scrub pad in the kit which is not sufficient to do the surface area the kit says it will – I bought an additional pack of 3M pads and used most of them.  Let me tell you, you’ll have to put your back into it. Scrub really hard, really thoroughly and wipe the soapy deglosser reside off with a lint free rag. Ensure there aren’t any little shiny spots left anywhere, especially in the corners or on the edges.
    • Super good tip I found on a couple different sites: Use a piece of plywood with nails or screws stuck into it as your drying surface. It will leave minimal damage on the finish you just worked so hard on. 
      • Or you could do what I did, which is to use old coffee mugs…
  • Once everything is deglossed, and has had a chance to dry fully (best to leave it for a couple of days in your well ventilated area), you can move on to the ‘bond coat’. The bond coat is the part of the kit that has been tinted to your chosen color. The bond coat should be applied evenly with a high quality paint brush. Start with the edges and corners first to avoid leaving brush strokes in highly visible areas. Again, start with the backs of your cabinets and allow them to dry before doing the front. Both sides need at least two coats – I got away with two, but others say that with white or the darker colors you may need three. Let your bond coat dry overnight before doing the reverse side.
  • Ok. Now the cabinets are painted and looking pretty good, right? If you want to apply the glaze, now is the time. I definitely wanted the glaze. If you look at the picture above of ‘River Birch’ you’ll see why – The glaze highlights the wood grain beautifully, and gives more of a stain effect than a paint effect. Or so I thought. I would recommend, unless you like a super weird rustic and dated look in your kitchen, that you chuck the glaze straight in the trash before it gets any ideas of ruining your beautiful paint job.
  • If you make the (right) choice to skip the glaze, you can head directly into the protective top coat step. Apply this the same way as you did the paint. I did two coats of this as well. It looks like a thin liquid glue, and gives your cabinets a satin finish which I find appealing. Many other reviews I read complained about the finish and people said they used a different sealant. I would suggest just using the one it came with.
  • Allow time to dry – This time for a bit longer. You really want to make sure you have a rock solid finish before it starts taking abuse. I gave mine about 3 days before reassembling.


Things to consider

  • The kit doesn’t come with adequate stir sticks, scrub pads or foam brushes. I had lots of extra of everything else though.
  • The tint we got was all wrong. I don’t think it was the Home Depot employee messing it up either, I think the samples were misrepresentative. I also think the picture they have online is messed up too (and it didn’t look like any of the boxes, either). We thought we were getting something similar to the photo from the top of the post, but what we ended up with is a weird beige that looks nice in natural light but sort of green in soft white light.
  • The glaze didn’t do it for me. I was very disappointed with the actual results vs. the impression they give on the box.
  • It was suggested in the kit to use a foam roller for any big sections, like the sides of a cabinet base for example. DO NOT DO IT! Or, if you do, make sure to back brush with another high quality paintbrush. The protective top coat dries extremely fast and by the time I realized that the foam roller was leaving tiny bubbles behind it was too late. Nobody notices them but me, but I see them all the time and they drive me nuts.

So the kit sounds terrible, right?

Well, not completely.

  • Look, this isn’t a new kitchen here. It is what is it – Painted cabinets. I probably wouldn’t be much happier even if the color was perfect, because what I really wanted was a new kitchen and I generally dislike painted finishes. I’d rather have melamine, even! For the price I paid for a  basic cabinet refresh it’s not bad.
  • The no sanding thing works. The paint did actually adhere as it said it would. I am actually pretty impressed with it. Some reviewers wrote that the bond coat peeled off and to that I say… scrub-scrub-scrub ’till you can’t feel your arms. Be thorough. Make sure you degloss adequately before proceeding with the bond coat. This is no-sand, but it’s not no-work.
  • We’ve been using our kitchen heavily for the last 8 months. We aren’t careful with the cabinets in avoiding scratches or gouges, and our toddler bangs things into them all the time and guess what – NO DAMAGE. None. They have held up super well!

But would I buy it again?

 Honestly, I don’t know. But I have to say I think I would if I was faced with an ugly kitchen or painting them again. The no-sand method really worked for me and I think it saved a lot of time. I would probably go with white next time though, or a color that can’t be misinterpreted by box fading or printing errors. But if sanding doesn’t seem as daunting to you as it does to me, I would say skip the kit and do it the old fashioned way. That way you can try out a few samples and see what looks good in your own home before jumping in.

Check out the pictures below for the before and after – I think overall, it was an improvement. (Backsplash is still in progress!)


2 thoughts on “Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations – A Review

    1. Don’t be scared! It’s a pretty easy project just a little time consuming. Let me know how it goes when you muster up the courage to try it 🙂

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