Is it time to give the surface appearance of your bathroom cabinets and vanity an upgrade?
If so, then you need to consider refinishing and glazing them.
A new coat of paint (or a stain) along with a glaze is a much cheaper way to enhance the beauty of your bathroom cabinets with a refreshed antique look.
But how should you do it, what products to use and what are the things you need to remember? Let’s get into every detail in our step-by-step guide below.
But first, let us understand…
What is Cabinet Glazing?
The glaze generally is a much thinner paint film that goes over the base paint color to give it more contrast and richness.
It’s like a mixture of dark paint and water where the water is used to thin out the darker paint so that it is easier to apply to a surface.
Before applying the glaze film, you will need to wait until the base paint dries and cure completely.
This is important to make your oak cabinets in the bathroom look more vintage.
Are Glazed Cabinets Out of Style?
Distressed and glazed bathroom cabinet finishes have risen in popularity over the last decade and have fallen out of fashion soon.
But because of the easiness of the glazing techniques that can add an antique yet modern look to your project in a DIY way, it is bringing the style back.
A few reasons why I personally like this technique are:
1- Brings out details
When painting, staining, or spraying the aging cabinets with your favorite color, the details and the natural element of the wood are often lost.
Glazing your stained cabinets gives your details a subtle boost-up so that nobody misses these designs while looking.
2- Great for a customized look
Since glazing is a process that is usually done by hand-glazed cabinets can help add that traditional customized antique look to your kitchen or bathroom.
Adding a glaze to your real wood not only looks to be warmer but also feels to be less modern and more antique.
3- Adds a dramatic element to your bathroom
While creating an antique look, it also adds a dramatic element to your bathroom, which makes it feel warmer and homier.
The darker or more layers of pre-colored glaze you put in, the more dramatic and sharper effect it creates in your room.
Think of the effect when you are in your bathtub and enjoying the scented aroma of a nearby bathroom diffuser, along with an antique and dramatic element of the oak cabinets nearby.
Glazing Cabinets Techniques and Steps
The glazing process is an easy enough process to do on your own.
The most challenging part, however, is choosing a glaze that is the right shade.
Generally, if you select a glaze with a darker shade (than your base paint color), then you will be fine.
After that, the application of the glaze on the wooden surface will be just as easy as it was to apply the base paint.
Step 1. Gather Tools
Gather all the necessary tools and materials first.
This glazing project will require a screwdriver, premixed glazing solution, a plastic bag (resealable), two dry and soft cotton cloths, and one small paint roller made of foam.
Alternatively, you can use a China paintbrush instead of a roller if preferred.
Step 2. Remove Hardware
Start by using the screwdriver to open up the screws and remove the handles of the bathroom cabinets.
Save the screws by placing them into the plastic bag.
You may want to remove the hinges and doors of the cabinets as well, but it is not essential for getting the job done.
Step 3. Get the Glaze
Open up the seal of the premixed glaze container.
Add this already tinted glaze to the foam portion of the paint roller or the bristles of the paintbrush.
For small areas, corners and crevices, I recommend putting the glaze with a clean cloth as it’s much easier to work with.
Rub it over gently to get a smooth finish.
If you are using a roller or brush, move them in one direction only. Focus on one small area of the cabinets at a time.
Remember, you don’t need to add a lot of glazes to get the antique effect.
The glaze should only be applied as a thin layer (thinner than paint or a stain you already put).
But remember, the thin layer of glaze on the cabinets will dry quickly. For this reason, it is better to focus on sections as you work.
Step 4. Clean the Excess Glaze
Use a soft clean cloth to remove the excess glaze that has not dried yet.
Leaving a slightly more glaze in the areas like millwork, grooves, or engravings can sometimes look great.
So, if you have these designs on the cabinets, you would need to decide whether you want to clean up the excess glaze or want to leave it as it is.
Plus, the glaze can easily build up in layers on your roller or brush, so removing some glaze is recommended when that happens during your project. Make sure you use another clean cloth for this purpose.
Step 5. Let the Glaze Dry
After you are done with the application, let the glaze on the cabinets dry altogether.
Once it’s dried, reattach all the handles, hinges, and doors that you had removed previously from the cabinets.
Glazes tend to dry darker. So in between applying the layers, take a step back and look for the finish you get.
Do not wipe away the glaze too much, as this can cause a dirty look that is not impressive.
Leaving too much glaze on the surface will also not help, as it can make the classic antique effect less visible.
While glazing painted cabinets, you should create a balance between both and wipe gently if you really feel it.
What Kind of Glaze to Use on Cabinets?
Glazes for bathroom cabinets, vanity, and other wood furniture are available in two different formulas, i.e., water-based and oil-based.
- Usually, if you have stained cabinets, oil-based glazes will work better
- And for painted bathroom or kitchen cabinets, water-based glazes are ideal
Since oil-based glazes contain linseed oil or kerosene, they tend to dry slower (usually in about 40 to 60 minutes).
This means it’s easier to work with oil-based glazes as compared to water-based glazes.
If you want to apply a coat of glazing on cured polyurethane, you can use oil-based polyurethane and epoxy resin glazes.
If you want, you can also consider applying gel stain as a glaze over finished stained wood. This works for many people and can give good results if done right.
What Glaze Colors to Use?
There is a variety of pre-colored glazes available on the market so that you can choose an already-tinted glaze according to your personal feel.
How much tint paint you add to the glaze will typically determine the translucency of the glaze you will achieve.
Typically you can tint your own glaze by mixing glaze and paint in a ratio of 4:1.
If you want to make your glazed cabinets look chocolaty, for example, you can do that by mixing chocolate-colored paint with a clear glaze.
The more chocolate-colored paint you use with the glaze, the darker the glazed chocolatey cabinets will look.
In case you do not want to get a darker or sharper face-lift, you can simply use a clear, colorless glaze for your wood or MDF cabinets to get that charming, welcoming look.
TIP: If you just want to try the color to make sure how it looks, you can start by glazing inside of the cabinets or drawers first. Once you are sure about the tone, you can move ahead.
What Type of Paint Should You Glaze On?
I have glazed (de-glazed, and re-glazed) over a variety of different types of paints like latex paints, oil paints, enamels, polyurethane, chalk paints, etc.
Not only on bathroom cabinets but on various other furniture pieces like sideboard buffets, hutch, wooden mirror frames, vanity, etc.
IMO, glazing will work best over latex-based paints with eggshell or satin finish.
Glazing over flat and glossy paint finishes is not very easy to work with.
Glaze may work over oil-based paints for you, depending on various factors (like the brand of paint, how old it is, etc.).
But you should not try glazing over chalk paints, especially if it’s unsealed.
Since chalk paint is naturally porous, glazing over it will make the glaze settle down in pores.
This will create a muddy, messy look rather than a smooth, silky, and buttery surface.
Can You Paint Over Glazed Cabinets and Furniture?
Painting or staining over the glazed cabinets is NOT so easy, and I will not recommend doing so.
If you fail to do it properly, you will be wasting your time and energy and maybe also damaging the finish forever.
Since paint or stain does not adhere to the glaze coating well, it’s important to remove the glaze first if you really need to paint.
You should then apply a coat of good primer followed by premium quality glossy paint.
How to remove the glaze from cabinets?
Removing the wood glaze from cabinets is an important step and should be done carefully.
If not, you can damage the accent glaze finish on your cabinets forever. And then painting over it to cover the flaws can be pretty expensive.
As long as you can put some extra time and effort into removing the coating of glaze precisely, you can do all this in a DIY way without the need to hire a professional painter.
Here are a few steps you can follow to remove the old dried glaze from cabinets:
- Using a power palm sander (fitted with fine-grit paper), start sanding the cabinets
- Work slowly to remove the entire glaze both from inside and outside of the cabinets
- Take a damp cotton rag and wipe away the dust particles completely
- Since you have used a damp rag, let the cabinet dry for half an hour
- Check again if there is still some glaze left – if it’s still there, sand the surface a bit more
- While sanding, do not sand too hard to get the bare wood – your goal is only to remove the glaze layer.
Remember that you will need to sand around the edges and corners well so that it matches the rest of the cabinet.
For this, you can use a sanding block (without a sander) or a bit of liquid sandpaper that will do the trick for you.
Now when you have removed the entire glaze, you are ready to paint over it.
The primer and paint will now stick better on the cabinets without the risk of getting any bubbles, cracks, or peel-offs.
The bottom line
To glaze or not to glaze your bathroom flat panel cabinets will generally depend on the overall design, look and feel of your space.
But remember, the glaze is so versatile that you can easily add some (to your old-aged furniture) to achieve that vintage look.
Make sure the surface of the cabinets is clean, dry, and painted well before glazing it.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.