Nothing spruces up a kitchen quite like a new set of cabinets, but many homeowners who opt for a full reinstallation find this process to be costly and time-consuming. Refacing the doors, frames, and sides of your cabinets and drawers is a great way to give your kitchen area a new twist without the fuss and muss of a complete cabinet overhaul. Refacing can take some work, but if you’re willing to dedicate a weekend to the project, a refacing job done right can really make your kitchen look like new. If you’re wondering about undertaking a refacing project of your own, here’s what you need to know to get yourself started.

When and Why to Reface

First of all, refacing your cabinets and drawers will save a lot more money and take far less time than having entirely new ones installed—there’s no need to find temporary homes for all the kitchen appliances and everything in the drawers. Refacing your own cabinets is also far less costly than hiring a crew of technicians to install a brand-new set. Also, since refacing only involves the fronts and doors of the drawers and cabinets, you won’t have to deal with an intruding crew or wait out the inconvenience of having a missing set of cabinets for the duration of the job. Refacing is a cost-effective and low-stress solution to removing and renovating the cabinets completely, so if you’re on a budget and you’re itching for a new cabinet set, this is the project for you.

It’s also important to take into account the state of your current cabinet set when you’re making the decision to replace or reface. If your cabinets aren’t high quality or if you’re having structural problems with the insides of your cabinets and drawers, you might want to consider going ahead and hiring a contractor to install a whole new set.

So You Want to Reface Your Own Cabinets…

1. Measure before you start. Carefully measure the openings of your drawers and cabinets before you start your project. That way, you’ll avoid ordering doors that are the wrong size for your cabinet openings, and you’ll have some idea of how much veneer you’ll need and how to cut it. This is also the time to make sure your new veneers and cabinet doors match—if they don’t, find a stainer for the doors and drawers.

2. Prepare the old cabinets for refacing. Remove the old cabinet doors and drawers, and take off anything else affixed to the doors or frames, like latches or hinges. Scrape any old finish off the cabinets, then sand the frames down lightly.

3. Cut and apply new veneers. Using your measurements from before, cut your sheets of new veneer into strips to fit the cabinet and drawer frames. Leave a quarter-inch of overlap so that the excess can be trimmed if necessary and you’re not stuck with too-small veneer strips. Remember to trim strips of veneer to fit the vertical stiles first (the vertical sides of the cabinet frame), then the horizontal rails (the parts running across the top, bottom, and middle of a cabinet frame), and any frame dividers last (the parts running up and down through the middle of the frame). Now, carefully peel the protective sheet off the sticky back of the veneer. Stick the cut veneer to a corner first, slowly peel off the rest of the sheet, and affix the veneer to the frames and sides of the cabinets. Be very careful when you’re applying self-stick veneer sheets—once they’re in place, they are very hard to move and adjust.

4. Finish up your new veneers. Help the new veneers adhere better to your cabinets by rolling over them carefully with a smoothing blade or J-roller. Trim any excess veneer using a utility knife and a ruler or straightedge—be sure to get a clean cut.

5. Fix up and attach the new cabinet doors. If your new cabinet doors and drawer fronts aren’t finished, apply a coat of wood stain first—do the same to any unfinished veneer so that the two match. Then, apply three coats of polyurethane finish to the newly stained doors and any veneer, sanding lightly in between each layer of finish. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to put on the hinges. If the manufacturers of your new cabinets have already bored holes for hinges, install the hinges according to where the holes are. If there aren’t holes bored, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the hinges. If no instructions were included with your new cabinets, then follow the steps below to install them properly:

  • Decide how far away you want the hinges to be in relation to the tops and bottoms of the doors.

  • Measure two points equally far from the edges of the frame using a ruler or combination lock.

  • Install the hinges at those points.

  • Attach the other sides of the hinges to the frame.

  • Make sure the doors sit in the middle of the cabinet frames and overlap the sides equally!

6. Reface and install your drawers. If the drawers you’re replacing do not have a decorative front panel, saw off any overhanging edges so that all edges are the same length. Turn the drawer around, and affix the new wooden drawer face to the back face of the drawer. Take off and realign the door slider hardware as well. If your old drawers do have a decorative panel, remove the old faces and affix the new drawer fronts.

A good refacing job can be just the thing you need in order to look make your old cabinets feel new again, and it takes less time and concentrated effort than having a whole cabinet and drawer set replaced. However, if you don’t have that time and effort to spare, choosing a Best Pick remodeler for your cabinets can be well worth the investment.

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Sources: DIY Network; EBSCOhost Home Improvement Reference Center: Complete Guide to Kitchens and Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair; HGTV; Qualified Remodeler; Showplace Cabinetry; This Old House.

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