Honest Opinions Needed - Stain on Cabinets
hme75
March 21, 2013 in Design Dilemma
We are building a house and this is the current state of the stain on our custom maple cabinets. I would really appreciate opinions from people who are not emotionally involved as to whether or not this is acceptable. Final sanding and finish coat has not yet been applied.

I understand that a factory type finish is not possible with on site finishing, and certainly had an image in my mind of what would be acceptable. This falls far, far below my expectations
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rinqreation
What is the image you had in mind then?
And what is wrong with the results now?
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 5:38AM
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PRO
Distinguished Flooring LLC
Nothing wrong with those cabinets. Maybe your image was unrealistic or not conveyed properly.
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 5:40AM
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hme75
So you think the blotchiness is acceptable?
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 5:48AM
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handymam
Perhaps that is the character of maple you are seeing. Wood has grain with a mind of it's own. :) and I don't think that it is how it was finished that is the problem. I actually think they are beautiful cabinets. I think that you are seeing them without their sealant and without countertops and that is really affecting what you are seeing. Ask your contractor to show you what it will look like finished and look at it with your choice for countertop, backsplash and room paint.
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 5:56AM
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0825sam
I see what you are saying. But if you search houzz for light maple shaker cabinets I think you will see that variation. Hopefully a pro will weight in on whether the final sanding and finish will even it out a bit for a smoother look.
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 5:59AM
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PRO
Landis Interiors & Cabinetry
I took a look at your inspiration pics on here, and the current cabinet stain is lacking the warmth that your pics are showing. You may need to warm up the stain a bit. This should help you get more uniformity in the wood grain (minimize the blotchy look). Right now, the cabinets are looking more rustic than modern. Try testing a few options on a door or scrap of maple, before completing the entire kitchen. Hope this is helpful!
1 Like   March 21, 2013 at 6:00AM
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sljmccarty
We had maple cabinets in our previous home that were stained. The problem with maple is that it has to be conditioned before staining. The painters conditioned ours three times before staining and we still had some blotching. I would think they would know to condition it but you might ask.
1 Like   March 21, 2013 at 6:01AM
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PRO
Gabberts Design Studio
They look like beautifully finished cabinets...how do they differ from what were you expecting?
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 6:01AM
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soberg
I see that one door has taken up stain unevenly, hence the dark blotchy streaks. No, I would not consider that acceptable for maple, which typically has a very uniform grain and uniform color. For custom cabinets, I wouldn't accept it.

Just Google "uneven maple stain" and you'll see that maple is considered a difficult wood to stain for exactly this reason. However, someone with the proper skill and experience can get this right and maybe even fix the cabinets. Find your local finishing expert and ask for advice.

BTW...if someone (your cabinet dealer?) is trying to tell you that the blotches are characteristic of a non-factory finish, they're blowing smoke. It's true that factories with ovens, paint rooms etc. can do things that can't be done on site with respect to **uniformity and durability of topcoat**. However, that is completely unrelated to the blotch issue you are seeing. Stop work on those cabinets until you get expert advice (i.e. from someone who's successfully stained maple before).
4 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 6:02AM
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PRO
Distinguished Flooring LLC
I do not see blotchiness in your pictures. Maple will most certainly cure and lighten as it ages. Perhaps have you contractor finish one cabinet so you can see how it looks. Keep in mind that even then you will be looking at a cabinet without countertops a d other finish work
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 6:05AM
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rinqreation
I had to make a maple chair in college (I studied furniture making) and had to stain it with waterbased stain. I can tell you: Maple is a very tough cookie to stain! It doesn't have enough open pores for the stain. Colored varnish or transparent paint (which is called stain too) will give more result. The finish coat will give a richer warmer color to it all.
1 Like   March 21, 2013 at 6:06AM
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hme75
Thank you very much for the input. I have indeed been spending a lot of time in the last few days googling blotchy maple and trying to see what can be done. The builder did agree to replace many of the doors which is good. I just wish I could see the entire finished product now, with counters and everything. It feels like we are at the point of no return as far as deciding whether or not they are acceptable- where is my crystal ball?

FWIW, my husband likes the 'character'. I say there is a difference between the natrual character of the wood, to something that looks rustic, to something that just looks muddy and dirty.

Thanks again.
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 8:16PM
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PRO
Wingren Design
Maple can be very blotchy, especially in lighter stains, and they are not finished yet!
I tell all my clients 'construction is like making sausage; you don't want to see it made, you want to enjoy it when it's finished.'
Honestly, your cabinets look normal for that shade. Only solution is to go darker or add glaze. Shaker doors don't leave much to glaze though. This is so often a problem with maple that some larger cabinet companies will actually use dye but, you loose so much grain. Wait till you see it all together and trust your first choice. This color will be great with the room finished!
2 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 8:37PM
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PRO
Serra Design Inc
I had a similar problem and i have an amazing finisher, he used a conversion varnish as the final coat and added some white glaze pigment to the topcoat when he sprayed the final coat I was more than pleased when it dried and all the tones had evened out, and I liked the slight white wash finish, it was like the old pickled finished we use to do in the 1980's, but on your shaker doors style it may give it an updated look. And always do a test piece to see if you like the results before committing to the whole kitchen! I have included a pix of what I am talking about
2 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 8:53PM
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ptrost
Our maple cabinets also had the same finish as Serra's cabinet in a previous comment. They were beautiful. Our island cabinets were black and the rest of them with the white wash glaze. The glaze is a nice effect.
0 Likes   March 21, 2013 at 9:30PM
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364robertferrie
I think that it makes them look more rustic and depending on what your countertop will look like it could end up looking quite modern-rustic, which is a great look if that is what you wanted!
0 Likes   March 22, 2013 at 4:50PM
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PRO
Rockin' Fine Finish
was the stain sprayed on ?
0 Likes   March 22, 2013 at 5:10PM
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PRO
Eagledzines
Hello. Retired cabinet maker here. In order to get an even stain without blotching on Maple he will have to do a wash-coat first. He should sand them down and do the wash-coat and then re-stain them. It is made by cutting the finish coat with two parts solvent or water--depending on the type of sealer to one coat sealer. Let it dry completely. If a water-based sealer is used, it will raise the grain and make it rough. A solvent based sealer will also raise the grain but not as much. This is normal. It should then be sanded. Then apply the stain coat and let it dry. It will slightly raise the grain again. Then apply the first finish coat, dry and then sand. He may or may not add pigment to the finish coats. If he does, keep in mind that it will darken with each coat. It should be sanded between each finish coat. Whether he adds pigment to the finish coats depends on the look you will like. He needs to do some samples on the wood that was used to build the cabinets with the full amount of seal coats to determine what look is most pleasing to you. He needs to sand between seal coats and then completely remove all dust before applying each next coat of sealer. The final sanding should be with 400 grit garnet paper that he can purchase at an auto supply. The seal coat WILL make a difference. The samples he shows you should contain both the light and the darker areas of the Maple on the same sample pieces.

This is something that even a lot of small cabinet makers will have trouble with. Maple is very difficult. Please be patient and pass this information on to him.

The grade of Maple (which is entirely acceptable depending on what you actually purchased) is partly responsible for the more rustic look. However, adding pigment to the seal coat in this case will most likely yield a higher satisfaction from you than not and will even out the differences in grain to some degree, but the wood is the wood.
4 Likes   March 22, 2013 at 5:41PM
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