How-To: Reglaze Honey Oak

It's not news that honey oak and I are not friends (like here, here, and here). The guest bathroom remodel of course included honey oak that needed to be conquered. I have painted honey oak and loved the results, but this time I wanted to try something different. My goal was to make it look like wood-dark wood-but not dark oak that restaining would result in. The answer I came up with-reglazing. How do you think it turned out?


After -
The best part? So cheap....we did this entire cabinet makeover with materials we already had.

So this is how I did it......


Ugly oak vanity
Orbital sander (not required but will make it so much easier)
Clear Mixing Glaze (I used Valspar)
Paint (I used paint sample from Benjamin Moore in Branchport Brown)
New Hardware

Wood Filler in color close to final stain
Empty container with lid for mixing and storing glaze

If replacing hinges with concealed or euro hinges-
New hinges
Hinge template set

1. Start with an ugly door with ugly hardware and ugly hinges. Wash it with soap and water. Remove the said hardware and hinges.

2. We replaced the external brass hinges with euro hinges that you cannot see from the outside of the cabinet. This added extra steps but in my opinion it is so worth it and totally modernizes the cabinet. In order to install these hinges some extra steps are involved. Home Depot and Lowes sell a template and special drill bit for using these hinges and the couple of bucks was definitely worth it. (We also did this in the kitchen)

Derek marked the spot to drill using the template (he centered it on the hole from the previous hinge.)
And then drilled with the special bit.
Leaving this hinge hole-
But when you set the hinge in there, the old hinge hole on the side is ugly.
So fill it with wood filler in a similar color of the finish glaze. This step is my second least favorite of the whole process as it takes multiple fillings and lots of messy fingers (and maybe some cursing).
3. Now for my least favorite part- sanding. I used an orbital sander with a medium grit sandpaper on the large areas which was not so bad. But then I had all the edges and crevices to do....by hand....very thoroughly....which sucked. This step is the primary reason I could have never have used this method in the kitchen. It took forever and I only had four doors and two drawers. I did not worry about get all the honey oak color off, but the coat of gloss poly had to go from everywhere if the glaze was going to stick. Here is a door all sanded-4. Now onto the fun part.....glazing. I used Valspar's glaze and a Benjamin Moore paint sample that I picked up awhile ago. The bottle said you could mix the glaze with a ratio from 4 parts glaze and 1 part paint to the ratio of 8 parts glaze and 1 part paint. I wanted the glaze to be fairly thick to hide the oak ugliness, so I used the ratio of 4:1 (and started on the back side of a door in case I was wrong).
Here is my mixing can and measuring device that just might be a shot glass. I promise that it won't go back into the bar.
I put three very thin coats of glaze on all the doors and cabinet face. By thin coat I mean I was almost drybrushing to make sure it went on evenly.

5. To protect the finish I then put on three very thin coats of MinWax semi-gloss polyurethane.

6. Add the new hardware and hinges. We used hardware that had the same drilling space as the old hardware so we did not have to refill holes.

Put it all together and you get this-

I like it because it still looks like wood and not just brown paint sitting on top of wood. But is better than stain because it minimizes the oakey grain. At least I think so....but I may be delusional because I want to think all that sanding was worth it.
I am living on the edge and going out of my normal order of posting the room reveal and then how-to projects but I wanted to share since we put it all together over the weekend. I can't wait to share pics of the entire room, but right now I am just happy to report that honey oak has been banished from every room in the house (ok except one).

Update: Complete Guest Bath pics can be found here.




  1. Wow, this looks great! I think I need to spend some time reading your blog as you obviously have mad skills!

    I wonder if this would look good on our crappy kitchen cabinets, until we remodel. They are just plain fronts, so the sanding would be much easier. Hmm...

    P.S. Found you via AllBowerPower

  2. I'm glad I caught this post! I really want the European hardware, but I didn't know it could be a DIY project. I'm definitely looking into it for my kitchen now~ thanks!

  3. I love your glaze affect! I it seen on Color Splash all the time, but the NEVER say how its done! This will come in handy on future projects.

    BTW - the cabinet looks good

  4. Jenny,
    Looks fabulous! I can't believe how well the glaze covered the telltale oak grain. Kudos to Derek as well on the hinge project!

  5. Oh my goodness... I just gasped out loud. I didn't know you could DO this???? how did I not know this? I have been painting honey oak like it's my life mission. Now, I can just glaze it.

    Wow.... my world was just rocked.

    (Thanks for joining in on the DIY challenge.)

  6. My barfy kitchen cabinets are the exact same color as your before cabinets. The whole kitchen needs to be reconfigured, and I'm far too lazy to do any temporary fix to make the cabinets look better, but you almost tempted me. Your cabinet looks so great now!

  7. This turned out amazing. I am so impressed with all your renovations...they turn out beautifuly and are very inspiring. **Especially to those of us whose houses have the "Honey Oak Syndrome"** :)

    Thanks for taking the time to share all of your experiences!!

  8. Thanks for the very detailed how-to. It is just the inspiration I need to do away with my own honey-oak curse!

  9. You have officially rocked my world!! The finished product was absolutely worth all of the work! I love that it still looks like a dark stain, and that you can enjoy the beauty of the wood without the grain overpowering it. Gorgeous!!The gears in my head are spinning, and my to-do list is growing.


  10. Looks AMAZING! What color was your paint sample?

  11. I adore this. Found you via Thrifty Decor Chick. You did such a great job on the cabinets. Do you have any ideas for transforming white fake wood cabinets? My house has that in both baths and the kitchen!!

  12. Gelft-
    Sorry for leaving that important detail out....I used Benjamin Moore's Branchport Brown.

  13. I'm so glad you posted on the Before/After party at TDC!!! My entire house is filled with honey oak. If I didn't love the floor plan I would have walked away just because of the oak. I am so going to try your method in my master bath. I can't change the tile just yet but at least I can get rid of the oak and then paint some walls. Your bathroom looks fab!

  14. I'd really like to do this to both of our honey oak bathroom vanities, but each have 1 side of fake "wood". Do I just glaze over the fake wood side or what do you recommend?

    Your blog is full of amazing transformations!

  15. Mrs. KLP-

    Hmmm...I have no idea how it would work on the laminate side. I would try it by scratching it up a little and see how it sticks. It is totally worth a try. Or another option is to buy the really thin pieces of unfinished oak that Home Depot and Lowe's sells by the unfinished oak cabinets. They are made specifically for the sides of cabinets and you could just just stick it over the laminate and glaze away. I would love to know what you end up doing!

  16. Hi Jenny.
    I just wanted to let you know that I am including a link to this post in my Inspire My Saturday post today.

  17. Holy cow, I feel so blessed to have found this post! I know it's a little old, but it is still being appreciated. I absolutely despise my honey oak orange nastiness kitchen cabinets (So happy to read I'm not the only one that has this complete hate, but people actually compliment them- Ugh!! What is wrong with you people??). So I have been debating on what to do with them... paint? stain? replace in 2 years when we have the money?
    Then I conjured up this idea (and this is how desperate I am):
    I realized that for my wedding I used stain glass paint to turn clear cups into amber colored votive holders, so an idea came to me! See if a semi-transparent paint could be painted over the top of the orange-iness to tone it down! Right? Makes sense?! Well, I tried one cabinet and it wasn't noticable enough. But I didn't want to give up the idea. So I googled and googled about semi-transparent paint til I came across the word GLAZE {choirs singing} and then I googled some more until I found your heaven sent post of your adventure.
    You make it look so easy! And I've already got those special door hinge thingys, so a couple of steps already eliminated!
    I am so trying this tomorrow when the hubby is at work {slight evil laugh} as he does not want me to touch them for fear I will ruin them completely. Sorry, but they were ruined when they were put up in my kitchen 10 years ago by some lady with unfortunate taste.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And to your idea for using the thin piece of wood for us veneer base people- it's pure genius.
    I'm sure you can already tell by my ramblings, but I am so freakin excited and anxious to do this- the orangeness has made me crazy for too long! And I have you to thank. Again and again :)
    Enjoy your beautiful cabinets for all of us honey oak haters!

  18. Hi Jenny,

    Your cabinets look great! I'm thinking of doing it on my kitchen cabinets (but we'd buy new unfinished doors cause that's just too much sanding). I tried it out on one of the old doors and it looks... not right. The paint almost looks purple. Does it look browner/redder after you add the the polyurethane? Also, how much time did you wait between coats? I'm finding that when I add subsequent coats I think it's moving the previous coat around...

    Thanks for the great idea and your help!


  19. Lucia-

    Hmmmmm....the color did not change a whole lot in between the glaze and the poly so I am not sure what is going on. What color were the old doors because that could be affecting the color of the glaze? I probably allowed 6-8 hours of dry time on the glaze before adding another coat, but it was totally dry to the touch at that point and it did not seem to move around with subsequent coats. I could be if you are working on un-sanded doors that the glaze does not have a place to "stick to" and it is causing that result. Keep me posted!

  20. Your projects are so awesome! We recently moved into a mid 90's honey-oak house and I felt so happy to run across your blog.

    Quick question: why didn't you use a TSP replacement to prep the bathroom cabinet for sanding? I noticed you did this for the staircase.


  21. Yeah.... so the 20 minutes I was waiting between coats probably wasn't long enough!
    I'm practicing on our old doors and I'm sanding them with 60grit, then 120 grit paper. I'm not bothering with the crevices as I'm just practicing technique and checking the color at this point.
    The doors are all oak, and it looks pretty much exactly the same as yours when it was sanded. The only other thing I think that is different now is that I had to have Lowe's colormatch the Branchport Brown, so maybe it's not EXACT???
    I'll keep you posted on how it turns out. I bought three more color samples last night. Thanks for posting Beth and Derek's kitchen. I now have renewed faith that I want to do this!

  22. Jessica-
    I did not use TSP since I was sanding very throughly and frankly I did not feel like mixing/disposing of it. So I guess I was being lazy:). I used it on the staircase because I did not sand everything as thoroughly and I was worried that after 20 years of hands on the rails that I had a lot of grease to cut through.

    I am so happy you are re-inspired! Let me know if you have any more questions!

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  25. Jenny,
    I am thinking of doing this on an unfinished oak vanity. I know that I will have to prime the wood first, but what about the paint type. In reading on in a bathroom it says "Because bathrooms are areas of high humidity, you should use a gloss or satin enamel paint, or a specialist cabinet paint, to get both an attractive sheen and a durable finish. This type of paint is easy to wipe clean, and resistant to moisture and mildew."
    What do you think? Will this peel or cheap in time?
    Love your website. You house is amazing.

  26. Cathy-

    With the glazing, you should not prime as it will mask the grain of the wood. If you are thinking about painting, I used a latex specialty cabinet paint (Ace Cabinet and Trim- I have blogged about it a lot). It has been in our steamy kitchen for two years and has held up perfectly.

  27. Do you have more pictures of your tile? Also where did you find it? We're looking to replace ours and I like the look of yours from what I can see in the picture. Hoping to glaze our vanities soon!

  28. It looks wonderful!! I'm so going to try this in my house. I have an entire kitchen and pantry area full of custom built oak-glazed cabinets, ceiling to floor. Luckily, they are flat fronted so I should be able to use the orbital sander for most of the work. If my cabinets turn out half as nice as your bathroom did, I'll be ecstatic. Great timing for the post (came from www.Re-Nest.com).

  29. Jenny,
    Thanks for your comment and link! Oh I'm glad you send me that... I need it for that living room buffet, but will you come help? LOL
    I'm following you so I don't miss a thing. Are you following me? I love suggestions and you are a pro so your tips, I would welcome =)
    Forget me nots...

  30. That looks great. I love your choice in hardware. I was looking all over for a good "how to" post with pictures. You just made my day!!!! Thanks

  31. Hi, your cabinet update looks fantastic! I have 20+ year old bedroom furniture in the dreaded honey oak, but it's solid and well-built, so I would love to try your glazing idea. There are TONS of nooks and cranies in it, so would I be better off using TSP or LSP versus hand-sanding? Also, what kind of paint did you mix with the glaze - FLAT, EGGSHELL or SEMI-GLOSS? (Does it matter?) Thanks for the inspiration, you're a genious!

  32. Hi Jenny ~

    Stumbled across your blog while trying to get up the guts to "mess with" the cabinets while hubby's out of town. :p

    Looks awesome! I have a 3 year old house full of honey oak. Hate it, but unfortunately what we thought we were getting and what we got were two different things - and we didn't see the house until it was a week from closing so....UGH.

    I'm painting my kitchen island oak a deep rich brown. The rest of them I want to glaze and you have renewed my sense of "forget-it-he'll-love-it-when-it's-done."
    THANKS! Now I need to find a place to stuff four kids while I do it....

  33. How long do you let the glaze dry between coats? And how long between the last coat of glaze and first coat of poly?


  34. You are an absolute life saver and I am soooo thankful to have found this blog. This is a tremendously fabulous change in your vanity and I love it!

    We recently had a water leak in our master bath. The entire vanity must be replaced, but there are built-ins the insurance will not replace. Of course, it's all this horribly ugly honey oak and I refuse to buy more of it, so I've been at a loss on how to make it complimentary to each other without replacing it all.

    Because of your blog I now have hopes of finding a new vanity I like and using your technique (maybe even the same color) reglaze the built-ins I cannot yet replace. It also gives me a project to rid myself of the same ugly honey oak finish in my kitchen.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are fabulous for sharing this technique!

  35. Follow up question. While I love the brown color you've used should I have to opt for something a bit lighter do you believe it would cover as well?

    Thanks so much!

  36. How funny is this: I hate honey oak. Our house is full of it and my dad (im 13) wont let me paint it. :( So on google I randomly typed in HONEY OAK + UGLY + HATE.... and I found this which I am using and I'm following your blog and if you check mine I'll probably do what you did :D THANK YOU!!! Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to look around your blog for probably the next few hours :D

  37. Congratulations on a fabulous outcome! The "After" is simply stunning.

    I am curious how you determined the BM "Branchport Brown" as a color which would work for your process. Do you feel that color plays the biggest part in mellowing the grain, or could somewhat other hues work as well?

    I have miles of honey oak I need to tame, but I have to work with colors that will complement my window trim and solid wood doors, which thankfully are not oak.

  38. I thought I was the worlds greatest honey oak hater! Your home is amazingly beautiful! Bravo to you and hubby. Reglazing is going tobehappening at my house ASAP!! Thank you and please keep blogging.

  39. Hi Jenny,
    I love how your vanity turned out. You have given me confidence to try this on my ugly oak vanity and possibly in my ugly oak kitchen. I do have a question though. Did you need to sand in between poly coats or was the finish smooth enough? Also, I love your choice of Branchport Brown. On my computer monitor it looks like a cherry finish. Does it look like that in real life? Thank you so much for your inspiration. You have helped me move from a very frustrating "don't know what to do" to a definite plan of action!

  40. Elaine-

    I know you are "supposed" to sand in between coats of poly, but I did not and I am very happy with the finish. The branchport brown is a little less red than a classic cherry in my opinion. Seeing things on a computer screen is always tricky. Hope that helps!


  41. How close did the color come out? I know you used Branchport Brown but the picture of the cabinets look "redder" (is that a word).

  42. Saw this on Pinterest--Fabulous! I have a whole kitchen full of honey oak cabinets that DH won't let me paint. I was thinking of restaining but want to minimize the grain. This may be the ticket!

  43. I am amazed at how it looks like a totally different type of wood! There is hope in our home again! I am so inspired by your blog!

  44. Jenny, This looks absolutely amazing. I never thought of adding paint to get the color you want. I'm going to do my coffee table, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom vanity. Everything in my townhouse is the horrible honey oak that the builders put in, but now I have a way to make it look updated and modern for very little money. I've been looking for a fun and affordable winter project, and now I have it! Thank you so much. Next step will be to put in granite or marble tiles on my kitchen counters...wish me luck!

  45. Could you just use a deglosser instead of sanding? Or will that not work?

  46. I found you by googling ugly oak cabinets....how funny that so many do. I was curious to hear how durable you've found both this and the painted kitchen cabinets. Thanks for blogging, you give me hope for my out of date but very well made cabinets.

  47. Can you tell me what finish the new hardware is? is it a pewter? brushed bronze? or nickeL?
    i'm looking for a cabinet pull like the one you use here...

  48. Meredith- I believe it is nickel...and purchased at Home Depot or Lowes. Glad you like it!

  49. Can you tell me if you found the hinges online cheaper? At our local store they run about $7 each set. I have found them online cheaper but question the quality.

  50. Hi Jenny
    The paint was bridgeport brown is that oil based or latex and
    what sheen is the paint flat ,satin ,semi gloss or gloss

  51. Great info! I'm trying to install european hinges on my kitchen cabinets (which are exactly like yours..handles and all!) I am cleaning/sanding them now and will then paint them white. We have been practicing with the hinges but so far the door seems to stick out too much from the cabinet, even after adjusting the screws. I showed my husband your pictures and he is going to try making the cut out closer like you did. Do you know the exact name of the hinge you used?

  52. The paint we used was flat. But we sealed with with a satin poly.

    The hinges- we got them from a local specialty cabinet shop and there are different fittings and plates to correct the problem of sticking too far out. I would consult with someone like that as each cabinets has specific requirements based on how much the door overhangs!

  53. OMG.. lol... thats my bathroom I am starting on.

    I cant stand Honey Oak either. Unfortunatly our has has the same horrible cabinets everywhere. Kitchen, Laundry and 2 bathrooms. The previous owner updated (and I use the term loosely) at some point and thought shiney gold was the appropriate choice for fixtures, door knobs and pulls.

    Anyway, this will work great for the bathroom. My problem is the kitchen. We have a remodel down the road but we are stuck with the Honey Oak for a few more years there.

    Can you suggest a wall coloring that will make the Honey Oak look less yellow. Right now between the Honey Oak, the floor tile and the countertop our kitchen is a beige on beige on beige master class. Its a very 80's beige too.

  54. Jenny,

    Thank you so much for posting this!! I bought a honey oak desk with the plan to sand and stain it black, but for some reason, the stain just wouldn't take...I was heartbroken, as it was a beautiful desk, and there was no way I was gonna paint it! I saw this and you saved me! I have just finished putting on three coats of glaze and black paint, and I know after the poly it will look gorgeous! I can't believe I've never seen this before...
    Thank you soooo much!

  55. This looks fantastic! I once sanded, stained and polyurethaned a piece and I had a horrible time with getting the bubbles out of the polyurethane. I had to keep sanding over and over it. Did you have that problem? I applied with a brush and someone told me that a brush will make the polyurethane bubble and that using a lint free cloth works better but doesn't eliminate ALL of the bubbles? Any ideas? Your blog didn't really reference that. I would love to try this but am a little afraid of the polyurethane because of that reason.

    1. I am no poly expert...but I have found the key to be applying very very thin coats. It helps with the bubbles.

  56. It's now 3 years later. How did this hold up over time in terms of wear on the finish?

    1. It has held up great. There is one spot where the wood was gouged and obviously the finish suffered there, but since a chunk of wood was taken out, I don't think any finish would have survived and it was easily repaired.

  57. Jenny, your cabinets look beautiful! Hope this doesn't sound stupid but when you say you used 4 parts glaze and 1 part paint sample, I would assume you mean you used the exact amount in 4 for glaze as the size of the sample and that did all your cabinets?

    1. Yep! I used a shot glass to measure it out. It does not have to be exact. So if you wanted to glaze a larger project, you would use 2 "shots" of paint and 8 "shots" of paint. Hope that makes sense!

  58. Love the results! We may need to use your tutorial on our kitchen cabinets in the future. Thanks!

  59. I need your advice. I have oak kitchen cabinets. The front of the cabinet is real wood. However, I think the sides of the cabinet are some type of laminated material (not real wood). How can I refinish the cabinet with these sides not being real wood? What should I do? Thank you for your help. April

    1. Not sure how it would take on the laminate, but you could try it. I would lightly sand it, just to take off the glass but not scratch it up. Not sure what type of wood the front of your cabinet it, but they sell sheets of oak at HD and Lowes for the sides of their unfinished cabinets. You could try that as well and just apply it over the top of the laminate. Hope that helps!

  60. Love it. What type of paintbrush works best? Same for glaze and seal?

  61. I love the reformation of your vanity! We are in the process of buying the unfinished oak cabinets at Home Depot and I really don't like the grainy look. Would this work just the same on those cabinets minus all of the sanding and pre-existing stain removal??

  62. First I've seen that is doable giving beautiful results that do not look DIY! Well done.