Refinish First LLP
by Virginia Bruce

After masking all non-treated surfaces, cleaning and sanding the boxes, several coats of paint were sprayed onto the cabinets. Doors & drawer fronts are being refinished at the workshop.

One of the principles of more-sustainable living is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Our featured business this month brings that philosophy to home remodeling with their cabinet and woodwork refinishing service.

For kitchen and bathroom cabinets and any other wooden surface of your house, Dave and Claire Luton offer a fast, affordable and sustainable way to update your style, change color or finish, or revive damaged or tired surfaces. There are four methods they can use to renew your home. The first three treatments can also be used to renew wood surfaces such as window seals, banisters, stairs, shelving and interior doors.

Refinishing is best when you want to change the color of your cabinets and woodwork. In most cases they will take your doors and drawer fronts in. The wood surface will be treated with a professional grade water-based stripper to remove the old finish, then sanded and prepped to get them in the best condition for the final steps. Refinish First then applies your chosen stain color and seals it with three coats of satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finish for easy cleaning and long wear. The time out of your kitchen is typically between three-to-five days depending on damage and size.

dave and claire
Dave and Claire Luton pause during a refinishing job

Restoration brings back the original beauty of your cabinets without removing any parts of the cabinets from your home. An average-sized kitchen can be usually be completed in no more than two days. The area is carefully prepped to ensure no damage to non-treated areas. Then they use a strong but non-toxic cleaning solution to remove dirt and grease. All surfaces are sanded and filled if necessary, and then a carefully blended custom stain is applied so it matches your existing finish. Finally, three coats of your choice of finish is applied.

Painting can be combined with any of the above techniques, or used all alone, to achieve a custom look. Paint the “boxes” and refinish the doors and drawer fronts, as I did in my kitchen for a Mid Century Style. Or paint everything! Again, they mask and seal the room, and then proceed to sand and fill, prime, sand, paint, sand, and paint again to leave your surfaces looking like new. No brush strokes here! Every piece is sprayed with a professional quality spray system and at the hands of a professional with over 30 years experience.

painted kitchenRefacing is the right choice if you want a totally new look for your cabinetry. They carefully measure everything and then work with their Salem-based provider to custom-order doors and drawer fronts and made-to-match veneer to cover cabinet boxes. Specialty accessories such as wine racks, crown molding and glass-front doors can be added to update your space at a significant savings in time and cost over new cabinets. The typical job for a kitchen reface is three to four days depending on size.

Yes, depending on the job you may have to move items out of the room they’re working on. But that can be a great excuse to get rid of that junk at the back of your cupboards and drawers that clutter your life. You could probably hire an organizing expert to help if you don’t feel like tackling it on your own! And this may be a good time to update your handles, knobs, and hinges.

A stained and weathered skylight, before and after refinishing by Refinish First

If they’re refinishing or painting Refinish First may take the doors and drawer fronts beforehand to make the time out of your kitchen or bathroom less. Once they are on the job they will mask off the room with plastic sheeting held in place with poles and yards of blue tape to ensure dust and paint does not travel to other rooms. They cover any surfaces that won’t be worked on with sturdy paper and more tape.

Dave and Claire work quickly, and before you’re even tired of eating out, your job is done. It only took five days to transform my kitchen. Their professional demeanor and good communication style makes them easy to have around. As they wound up a recent job, the customer said, “I’m going to miss you guys!”

They are committed to sustainable practices and using local sources. They recyle all the plastics and paper. If you have chosen refacing, your old cabinet and drawer fronts end up at the Rebuild Center to be repurposed by someone else. “We only use water-based products that are non-toxic,” says Dave.

Refinish First is happy to work with your designer. If you don’t have a one in mind, they have several they can recommend, and if that is not in your budget they suggest that you browse through interior design magazines and websites, and collect pictures of what you like. That way, Claire and Dave have a good starting point to discuss the various options you have to get your desired result.

Refinishing and restoration involves working with your existing wood, so they want customers to know that the wood grain will determine the finished look. They can’t make oak look like cherry, although Dave’s stain-blending skills did manage to get my old yellowed maple looking a lot like walnut.

Dave carefully replaces window hardware after refinishing the woodwork

Although they work fast, it takes a lot of steps to achieve a great finish. Claire says, “For example, when we were refinishing your cabinets, I counted that we touched every door and drawer ten times—cleaning, stripping, cleaning again, multiple sandings, stain and multiple coats of finish. It’s not just a wipe and walk away process as some companies do if you want a long-lasting beautiful end result.”

They just started working as a company earlier this year, but they each bring years of experience to the job. Dave started painting cars before he was out of high school. “That’s why he’s so good with the spray gun,” Claire laughs. Some years later he worked for a cabinet refinishing company for eight years before starting Refinish First LLP. “Making old things look new again is in his blood,” says Claire.

Claire enjoys helping Dave on the job, but her previous experience has been with the office side of things, so she’s great at customer service. She knows how to listen and make sure that they understand their customers’ needs and desires. She’s learning how to bid jobs, to leave Dave with more time to use his skills beautifying peoples’ homes.

Plastic sheeting protects the rest of the house

They began thinking about starting their own company several years ago. They saved up and began acquiring the tools and equipment they would need. In addition to the workshop that’s currently located in their extra-large garage, they have a utility trailer outfitted with everything they need to work onsite.

They’re getting busier all the time and expansion is close on the horizon. They will soon be looking to locate commercial space and adding additional help. Their son is learning the business and works for them part-time. It’s a good time to be in the remodeling business!

Refinish First LLP is a licensed and bonded contractor with the State of Oregon (CCB). So you can be assured that they have completed a contractors’ course, and will comply with state regulations, including OSHA and code requirements, and follow the proper procedures with contracts. In addition both Claire and David have completed and passed the lead-based renovation certification training. An active LBPR license means the CCB has received proof that the contractor has completed the required training to safely renovate structures that may contain lead-based paint. This is very important to your family if you own a home built before 1978 as lead-based paint may have been used.

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Doors and drawer-fronts refinished, cabinets painted, Mid-century style!

They recently set up a display at the Remodelers Home Show in Tualatin that was sponsored by the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce. They are also members of the Home Builders Association of the Metro Portland and the Professional Remodelers Organization that holds all members to high ethical standards. They are planning to join the CMBA soon and will be attending the Portland Fall Home and Garden Show.

Their goal to support the local community also includes community charity. They donate three percent of their annual income to their three favorite charities—Outside In, Habitat for Humanity, and the Rebuild Center.

When they’re not busy with jobs, they enjoy camping in their travel trailer, having dinner with friends and family and gardening. Dave loves to ride his dirt bike, and they visit spots all over the northwest.

They look forward to discussing your project, and will be glad to give you free advice and an estimate. Visit their website at, or give them a call at 503-522-6188.

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