The Under $400 Kitchen Makeover…In a Box

Rustoleum Transformations in the Test Lab

Last week, I traveled to New Orleans to attend a day of hands-on kitchen makeover product trials. Ten bloggers from across the country all had a chance to try out brand new kits that are an attempt to make DIY kitchen cabinet and countertop makeovers quick, easy, foolproof, tough and affordable. And, while the timing was perfect for our Home Project month, I thought it sounded like it might be a bit too good to be true…
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I was a guest of Rustoleum, who just launched a new line called Transformations. It includes two product kits, one to make over your kitchen cabinets and one for your countertops. They say that the kits make it easy to totally transform the look and finish of your cabinets and counters, even if you are starting with un-makeover-friendly materials like melamine and laminates. From dark to light, neutral to colorful (or vice versa) for cabinets and from solid-flat to a stone-look glossy finish for counters.

Now, of course, it's always been possible to change the color of your kitchen cabinets with paint - I've done it myself. It's a big job (sanding, priming, multiple coats, and a sealer) and the finish unmistakably looks like paint, unlike the usual finish of store-bought cabinets. Changing the color and finish on countertops was not a DIY that many would have attempted previously — most countertop materials are just not all that paint-adhesive friendly and the thought of having to worry about chipped, peeling work surfaces is not the makeover happy ending anyone is looking for.

So, while there were some DIY possibilites in the past, these products looked to be the potential start of a new way of making over your kitchen at a low price point … that is, if they worked well.

Check out my photos for step-by-step shots and a close-up look at some finished pieces:

My conclusions after seeing a full demo of both products by Ashley (the Rustoleum project lead), trying them myself and seeing the results that both I and my nine fellow bloggers got?

• It's Relatively Quick, but Messy: The cabinets job can be completed in a weekend, the countertops in under a week. The amount of steps is minimized and drying and curing time is fast. What isn't necessarily fast or fun: Doing it right will take time and prep is essential (for example, taking all the cabinet doors off, keeping track of the hardware and masking off walls and appliances). Also, some steps are definitely messy - you need to accept that cleanup will be a bear and this is definitely a "clean as you go" type of project. I'm thinking a shop vac might become your best friend for the duration of the job.

• It's Definitely Easy: Communication is key to success and there are very direct and simple instructions provided. Everything is clearly labeled and you know exactly when and how to use it. Video tutorials are included on DVD in the kit and online. This is hardcore DIY results made light-DIY-friendly through lots of instruction, information and product design.

• It's Been Tested to Be Tough: Rustoleum makes lots of products from garage floor paints to boat sealants and have borrowed from all of these different areas of expertise while developing the products in these kits. I got the feeling from everyone I talked to (including the lab guy) that it was a point of pride that these finishes would last, so they were tested at length.

• It's Pretty Close to Foolproof: Now, of course, if you don't pay attention or rush or cut corners, you can make a mess of things. BUT, if you put in the time and focus, it would be hard to screw this up. Even the parts of the job that seemed challenging before I attempted them, when broken down into the clearly defined steps and using the specific (provided) tools, were actually really easy.

• It's Affordable: The cabinet kits are $79.99 (small) and $149 (large) and the counter top kit is $249.

The takeaway?

• You will have to be both brave and patient if you give this a try — there are moments in the process where things look ugly and odd — you'll likely be thinking that you've really messed up your KITCHEN beyond repair! But, as someone who has seen it all from beginning to end, I know things come back together eventually if you stick with it.

• I'd say that the cabinet kit is a no brainer for anyone considering this type of job (or even a furniture refinishing project). It is easier and faster than a regular painted cabinet DIY with the added benefits of a more "store bought" finish and increased durability. You have tons of control over the look of the final result and it is available in lots of colors (that are mixed for you when you purchase). It works on all sorts of base material finishes (even the previously challenging ones) and could be completed in a weekend.

• The countertop kit is really amazing in the transformation that it makes from outdated counters, but the end result is a very specific look that will either really appeal to you...or not. If you like a speckled, glossy, stone-look finish, then you will be comfortable with the result. It is light years away from the look of laminates for a fraction of the price of any other upgrade. But, If that same speckled glossy finish is not what appeals, then you are out of luck since it is all that is currently available — although we did get the scoop that solid colors and different gloss levels MAY be in the works for the future.

LOTS MORE INFO: Rustoleum Transormations

Images: Janel Laban

Full Disclosure Notice: Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did provide us with the opportunity to test the product for review purposes. Our full notice is here.

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