How to Reface Kitchen Cabinets? We Break It Down

What Is Cabinet Refacing?


You can define cabinet refacing as replacing the cabinet skins, removing the drawer fronts and doors, and applying the veneer over the existing cabinet’s body. Next, you install new drawers and doors in the old/existing cabinet. In addition to that, you also need to replace hardware like drawer pulls, handles, and hinges. The idea of cabinet refacing is to give a completely new and pretty look to your old cabinets. 

It is important to note that painting and refacing cabinets are two different things. Painting your cabinets only helps to give a fresh look to your cabinetry, whereas refacing usually changes the entire look of your cabinets from top to bottom.


Should I Replace My Kitchen Cabinets Doors?


If you are thinking of refacing your cabinetry, there are several factors that you need to know. Answer the following, and if you agree with them, you need to reface your kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them with new ones. 

  • You are satisfied with the layout of the kitchen.
  • Your cabinet boxes are in good condition.
  • You don’t like the façade of your cabinet doors.
  • Your cabinetry doors are not solid wood.

So, is your answer "yes" to all these? If so, you need to change the look of your kitchen cabinets without taking them out completely. 

Moreover, if your cabinets don’t have the following mentioned problems, only then reface is an ideal option for you. 

  • Mold
  • Rot
  • Broken pieces
  • Water damage
  • Poor function or layout
  • Low-quality materials
  • Misalignment

Can I Reface Cabinets by Myself?


DIY projects are pretty trendy, but you might find it challenging to DIY refacing your kitchen cabinets. Veneering is the most tricky part, and it’s not a task to take on lightly. If you are willing and have enough patience to learn a unique and different craft, you can reface your cabinetry. However, before jumping into this job, you need to consider the following aspects:


Cost of Materials


Suppose you make any mistake with laminate floor or drywall, you can easily find its replacement. Not to mention, it will be cheap, and you only need to check nearby home improvement stores. However, if anything goes wrong with wood veneer, you need to spend a handful of money and order it online. This means, not only is it expensive, but you also need to wait days for completing your project. 


Cabinet Structure


Homeowners find it hard to understand whether they need to reface or replace their cabinets. This is because they lack knowledge or have memories associated with their old cabinetry and don't want to change it. A professional can help you determine the right option for you. So, if you think that your attachment is influencing your decision, then call an expert. 


What Do I Need to Reface Kitchen Cabinets?


There is a list of things that you will need to get attractive and expensive-looking cabinetry. Here are some of the important tools that will help you do the procedure with ease. 

Drill

Drill bits

Laminate slitter

Screwdriver

File

Veneer edge trimmer tool

Circular saw

Finishing nails

Precision cutting tool

Sandpaper

Oscillating sander

Carpenter’s glue

When it comes to laminate slitter, it is an ideal tool to cut strips of veneer. In case you have a low budget, you can even rent it from home improvement shops. 


How Do I Reface My Kitchen Cabinets?


So, if you have finally decided to reface your kitchen cabinets and want to get a gorgeous and modern-day look, here are the steps to follow. Make sure to follow each step, and don't try to hurry, as a small mistake may cause you to repeat the step. 

Step 1

Measuring Your Cabinets

First thing first, you need to take the correct measurements of your cabinets to find the right size of drawers and doors. In this case, you need to measure the following things: drawer opening width & door opening width

You can also sketch a basic outline of your cabinets and write down the measurements, both height and width. Make sure that the tape you are using for the measurements does not stretch to get the right size of your cabinets.

Step 2

Ordering Your New Cabinet Doors & Drawers

Once you take the measurements, you need to order drawers and doors. But before that, decide how much of the drawer and door you want. This is because it helps you extend past the face frame opening, which gives you an overlay. Besides, the amount of overlay you need depends on the hinges you will install into the cabinets. You can opt for whatever overlay you desire, but it ½ inches hinges are considered great for homeowners. 

Now you need to calculate the size of your new cabinetry. In this case, double the overlay distance and add this number to the opening size. As a result, you will get the size of the cabinetry door. For instance, suppose your cabinet’s opening is 20x22 inches, and the overlay will be ½.

In this case, the final measurement you get will be 21x23 inches. You need to calculate the size of the drawers similarly. However, you need to add a 2x overlay to the opening size. Also, make sure to double-check the calculations and measurements before giving any order. Look for the best product in the market that meets your requirements and measurements. 

Step 3

Dispose of Old Materials

When you finally get your new shiny doors, drawer fronts, and hardware, it’s time to get rid of the old ones. Properly disposing of these things is very important. Try to avoid throwing cabinet pieces in garbage bags. 

The best way to dispose of your cabinetry items is to sell them to architectural salvage yards. They take doors, drawers, and hardware at excellent prices. In fact, they can buy every unique building material. If you want to take part in a bigger cause, you can even donate these items to an organization that sells these things to help people in need. 

Step 4

Sand the Surfaces and Clean the Cabinets

It’s time to sand the surface where you have to place the veneer. Use fine-grit sandpaper for this task. You can bring an oscillating sander for bigger parts of the cabinets, such as the sides of your cabinetry. For smaller sections, use a foam sanding block or hold the sandpaper by hand.

Apart from this, you also need to clean your entire cabinetry. In this case, you can use a tack cloth to wipe the entire cabinet’s boxes, such as its frame thoroughly. Use a mixture of warm water and TSP for this purpose. Rinse cabinetry with cool water. 

Step 5

Glue Plywood on Exposed Sides

Take the carpenter's glue and squeeze it on the plywood panel. Also, apply this glue to the exposed end of your cabinet bank.  

You also need to secure the panel with the 2d finish nails. Do remember to sink the heads with a nail set. After that, you need to fill the holes with wood filler.

Step 6

Cover the Stiles

If you have measured the rails (horizontal frame member) and stile (vertical members), it’s time to cut veneer for them. Use a utility and straightedge knife, and cut the veneer 2 inches longer and ½ inch wider than your rail and stile measurements. 

Hold one piece of veneer over a style; align it so that veneer overlaps at all edges. Now peel away self-sticking tape at its back and press it while peeling. It is important to note that peeling a small portion of the tape is important.

If you peel the entire self-sticking back, it may get stick to the wrong place, and you know what will happen next. You can also use the woodblock to smoothly press down the full length of the veneer to force all the bubbles out. 

Step 7

Reface the Cabinets

Veneer the other side of the cabinet’s stile, as we have mentioned. Again use all the tools, like the utility knife, to trim or wood block to remove the bubbles. 

It is important to note that your knife’s blade may get damaged or rough when you cut too many veneer pieces. This is why it's best to change the blades often to solve this problem. 

Step 8

Cover the Rails

You also need to apply the veneers on the rail of your kitchen cabinets. Make sure they overlap the stiles on both sides. 

This is the tricky part when you will prove the carpentry skills you have to do the work. After sticking all the veneer parts, cut the extra edges with the same knife and other tools. Also, give your veneer some time to set. It's better to wait few hours before doing the remaining process. 

Step 9

Measure the Hinge Location

Before installing doors, you need to place the cup hinges on your doors. For this, line up the hinges and push them into the large round recess. Now, tight up your supplied screws to secure the hinges. 

Prepare to install cabinet doors by marking up the center of the top hinge on the face frame of your cabinet’s stiles. Measure the distance from the top of your door to the center of the hinge while subtracting the overlay.

To hang the door, you need to line up the hinge center on the mark you have made. After that, drill a pilot hole, and screw the top and bottom hinge plate into the stile. 

Step 10

Attach Pulls and Knobs and Finish the Drawers

Use a driver or drill to create holes for pulls on the drawer fronts and knobs on the doors. Screw the pulls and knobs in place. If your old drawer has a front attached to a four-sided box, you need to remove its screws and fit the new drawer front. 

On the other hand, if you have a fixed old front with a three-sided box, experts use the handsaw to cut off the tops, sides, and bottom of the front. This way, you can easily flush the drawer in or out. Turn your drawer around to screw the front to the back end of your cabinetry’s drawer. Make sure to screw it tightly from the inside of your drawer.

How Would A Professional Do It?


To give a professional touch to your reface kitchen cabinets, you need to avoid doing the entire process in one day. An expert will recommend you to take two to four days to perform this job, while it also depends on the number of cabinets in your kitchen. So, if you are planning to complete this task in three days, the schedule will look something like this: 

Day 1

Remove doors, drawers, and hardware. Start doing veneering your cabinets. Clean up the entire space at the end of this day.

Day 2

Complete the remaining veneering. Pick up the garbage, and clean your kitchen.

Day 3

Clean up the surface of your cabinets. Make holes for hinges, install hardware, and place the doors. Make the final adjustments.

Dividing the work into three days will allow you to do the task perfectly without making mistakes. If you try to finish in a day, you might make several mistakes because of getting tired. You may end up with wrongly installed doors and drawers. 


Bottom Line


So, these are the steps to reface your kitchen cabinets. It's best to hire professionals who know the ins and outs of the refacing job and can do your work at a low price. But still, if you are thinking of doing it by yourself, you need to follow every step carefully. Make sure to consider our tips to get a professional look for your cabinetry.

Lastly, choosing the right cabinet doors and drawers is as important as installing them in the right way. If you purchase old and dull style drawers and doors, you will not get the contemporary and new look. This is why look for the right quality product. You can either order them online or check the local stores. Also decide, what type of doors and drawers you need to boost the appearance of your space. 

Kenneth Wilson
August 6, 2021
Interior, Remodeling

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.