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DIY Kitchen Cabinet Refacing Versus Professionals

DIY Cabinet Refacing 1. Remove old doors and hinges from old cabinets.

2. Remove drawer fronts from each drawer. Set drawers aside. There are two types of drawer fronts. The type that is merely attached to the drawer box can be removed by the removal of the attaching drawer pulls, screws or staples. The front that is an integral part of the drawer box must be cut or sawed off, making sure that the cut is square with the top, bottom and sides of the box.

3. Cabinet preparation: Old screw holes or gaps in the frame work should be filled with either auto body filler or wood filler and, when dry, sanded smooth. All surfaces to be refaced with any type of cabinet refacing material must be scraped clean of chipping paint, grease or varnish. To accomplish this you can use on automatic belt sander or a hard paint scraper. A propane torch can be used on troublesome spots to "lift" the substance from the framework (use with caution).

4. Should you have a corner cabinet situation, it may be necessary to add a filler strip. If you have decided that an opening is slightly too large and you wish to add a filler strip, do it after you scrape that surface. Use a piece of clear pine cut to size. Secure it with nails or screws. Fill in any seams with filler and sand smooth. At times you will need to square off surfaces using 1/4" core (i.e., cabinet bottoms). Reveals at side returns should be shaved off or area filled in with 1/8" or 1/4" luan skin or plywood so that surface is smooth for lamination.


1. When all framework is prepared and free of foreign matter, the cabinet refacing laminate, wood veneer or thermo-foil skins can be applied. If working from a full sheet of 2' x 8' skin cut the material for cabinet bottoms and returns 1/4" larger than needed. Make sure grain on under side of wall cabinets run all the same way. Grain on cabinet returns should run vertically.

2. Laminate underside of wall cabinets first. Apply the manufacturer recommended adhesive on both cabinet and cabinet refacing skins. Use a roller or brush, where needed. Let the adhesive dry to the touch. Apply cabinet refacing skin to cabinet surface. Remember that once material is applied to the cabinet it cannot be realigned. Use good judgment and a hand roller or block of wood to press laminate to cabinet. Trim excess material using utility knife or router.

3. Next laminate returns of cabinets, using the same process described above.

4. Cut cabinet refacing skin into strips for stiles and rails with grain running the length of the strip. Again, cut strips 1/4" larger than needed.

5. Laminate cabinet fronts. Apply cabinet refacing skin strips exactly as cabinet is stilled. Laminate vertical stiles first, then horizontal rails. Keep all seams as tight as possible.

6. Rather than proceeding according to directions 4 and 5 above, you may use full sheets of laminate. Apply to cabinet fronts, then break through with trimmer and router to trim opening. Both methods are acceptable. Using strips will, of course, save on materials; covering the entire front of the cabinet with a full sheet will save on labor and result in a better lamination since no seams will show on stiles and rails.

7. Regardless of the manner employed in refacing the front of the cabinets, left cabinet refacing skin overhang whenever possible.

8. Remove any excess oak skin from cabinets with a utility knife or router.

9. Cabinet lamination is now completed.

Hardware Application

To install new doors effectively the installer must plan and organize the entire job. Place new doors face down on a soft work area. Measure equal distances from top and bottom (usually between 1" and 3") and place hinges at these locations. The aid of a hinge marking jig can save time that is expensive. Start holes for flat head screws by first using a pilot drill bit. Screw on hinges using electric or manual screwdriver.

Make sure that hinges on all doors are the same distances from top and bottom. When installing hinges do not over-tighten screws in order to prevent stripping of screw holes.

Now attach new doors to framework by having someone hold the door in proper place (use human eye to level). Screw hinges to framework, do not over-tighten screws and again use starter holes.

Finally, install knick-knock shelves, desired molding, toe-kicks, etc.

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