How to Revive Cabinets and Doors with Flaking Varnish | Ep. 101

Kitchen cabinets with shiny varnish
(©Jason, Adobe Stock Photos)

Touching up varnish isn’t easy. But when it flakes and makes cabinets, doors and woodwork look unsightly, there’s something you can do about it.

You may be able to lightly sand the area and apply a new coat, but old varnish sometimes yellows and the new varnish simply can’t match up.

First, try spot repairs. How successful spot repairs will be depends on how bad the damage is. If the bare wood has deep grease, grime and stains, it’s different than if the bare wood is pristine.

If spot repairing the varnish isn’t an option, get an orbital sander and grind as much of the flaking varnish down, as you can, without hitting the underlying wood stain. Apply some varnish in the spot.

If you’re happy with the result, great. If you’re not happy with the result, you’ll need to strip everything off, and then sand, stain and varnish the woodwork all over again.

Listen to the Today’s Homeowner Podcast for more home improvement tips!

  • [1:30]: Tips for venting bathrooms to the outside
  • [6:01]: How to make a dumb-waiter with a garage door opener
  • [7:39]: Tips for removing wallpaper
  • [12:49]: Best New Product: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool
  • [16:07]: The projects Danny is working on at his house
  • [18:46]: Tips for making laminate countertops look like granite
  • [20:10]: Simple Solution: Extension Cord Safety Tips
  • [23:08]: Question of the Week: What to do about flaking varnish

Simple Solutions

Quick Trick for Deodorizing Bathroom Sinks — Bathroom sinks often become clogged with soap scum and hair, which then produces a funky odor. Here’s how to re-freshen and deodorize the sink.

Start by dumping one-third cup of baking soda in the sink drain. Next, take one full cup of white vinegar and pour it down the drain. When it hits the baking soda, it’ll start to fizz.

Wait for a few minutes for the fizzing to calm down, then follow up with a full kettle of boiling water. This will, in combination with the vinegar and the baking soda, cut through anything that might be clogging up the sink.

Repeat this treatment once a month to keep the sink smelling sweet and flowing freely. And if you need to use a plunger to clear a clog, plug up the overflow hole on the side of the sink.

Watch: The Easy Way to Clean and Deodorize Your Sink

Extension Cord Safety Tip — Here’s an important safety tip to remember next time you use an extension cord: Always unplug the cord from the electrical outlet before winding it up.

That’s important because if the cord has a short or is damaged in any way, you can receive a potentially lethal electrical shock.


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