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How can I beautify these plywood walls and cabinets?

How can I beautify these plywood walls and cabinets?

Old 12-28-05, 08:35 AM
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Question How can I beautify these plywood walls and cabinets?

Our home was built in the 50's and has plywood walls and cabinets. When the home was built, the plywood was probably varnished and it has darkned over the years. We would like to brighten it and beautify it. We recently moved the appliances out of the kitchen to install ceramic flooring and the color of the walls is uneven where the appliances were. It obviously needs cleaning, but what can we do for the wood?

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Thank you,
Steve Smith



Old 12-28-05, 12:18 PM
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I've run into cabinets and trim that are about that same age and color. Usually the varnish used back then has become pretty powdery- especially in areas that have been exposed to a lot of light or heat.

I'm not sure what your goal is... if, by brighter, you mean that you like the color and you just want everything to be glossy, or you want more consistancy such as making the lighter wood match the darker again... I guess that's my only question.

In order to lighten the color of everything, you'd have to sand and strip the wood which would be a huge undertaking, seeing as how your entire kitchen, with the exeption of the floor, is wood! So I'm assuming you just want to restore the original look of the wood.

You might try rubbing denatured alcohol on the powdery looking area of the plywood walls. If it restores the shine, then you likely have a lacquer or shellac based finish on your woodwork. If the denatured alcohol just seems to clean the powder off without restoring the shine, then your woodwork is probably varnished.

The areas of your woodwork that are darker have been darkened by UV light, and it's *very* difficult to match that with any sort of stain or finish. But what you can do is treat those areas seperately... perhaps sanding off the finish using 120, 150, 180 grit sandpaper, then applying a stain that will bring the color of the wood closer to the rest. (Looks to me like Minwax Colonial Maple would be a good color to try first- the minwax website has color charts available). After it's stained, you'd need to apply a sealer and some finish. For the sake of compatability, you'd probably want to stick with a varnish and not switch to a polyurethane.

As far as the rest of the woodwork is concerned, you could touch up any nicks and spots with stain, provided you have a stain that matches and you've sanded through the finish first. (stain won't soak into wood that is covered with varnish). You could then apply a fresh coat of varnish to everything. Varnish comes in various levels of sheen. Satin and gloss are probably the most common... personally I prefer satin because it shows less imperfections and I don't care for the high gloss look- especially if you have so much woodwork that it would be blinding when you walk in the room!

Since you have so much trim, you might want to look into a cheap sprayer, which would make quick work out of it, provided you learn how to spray a thin fine coat on everything without developing drips and runs.

Hopefully Marksr will see this post- he'll have way more good ideas than I do. You might also check out some of the posts in the Decorate/Wood Finishing forum to learn what all is involved in wood finishing.
Old 12-28-05, 05:49 PM
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I would only add that a nice shiny finish will often seem lighter when in the light. Gloss will reflect light while an old faded finish will more or less absorb the light. The only true way to lighten would be to strip, sand and start over - no minor undertaking.
Old 12-28-05, 11:33 PM
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plywood walls

If you had wall board that needed a lot of work the easiest thing is often just to go over it with another layer of wall board. Off hand, I can't see why the same thing wouldn't work with a thin layer of plywood. You have to extend the jambs on the doors and windows so you could nail the trim back on and you'd still have to strip the cabinets. It's worth a thought.

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