James Wicker
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Kitchen Cabinet Update: All New or Refreshed?

by James Wicker 09/26/2020

Photo by Jafar Mansuri on Unsplash

To resurface or replace? That's the question. Consider replacing if:

  • They have significant water or humidity damage.
  • They're poorly constructed and/or falling apart.
  • The design frustrates. You could do better starting over.
  • The style can't be easily updated, for example, floral moldings.
  • The cost to refinish is more than new cabinets. It can be.
  • Otherwise, you may want to refinish what you have to make your cabinets.

    How to Replace Cabinets

    Replacing cabinets rarely involves building them yourself. Most kitchen remodeling professionals don't even do that. You can purchase pre-made cabinets. They'll fit in most kitchen. But don't forget to measure.

    Start by evaluating how the cabinets are attached. Most cabinets simply unscrew from the wall for clean removal. You can now hang new ones in their place. But remember, if you need to stain or finish, always do that and let them dry before hanging. It will just be easier when they're on the floor or a work table.

    If it's just the hardware you don't like, consider replacing it instead of the whole cabinet. That's generally a small job that just needs a screwdriver and new handles.

    How to Give Cabinets a New Look

    A coat of paint or stain can work wonders. But know that refinishing actually takes a lot longer than hanging new. Plan for three to eight weekends of work and a semi-functional kitchen during that time. The more cabinets, the longer it will take. Let's get started

  • Choose your resurfacing medium. Polyurethane, varnish, paint, lacquer, shellac, penetrating oil or vinyl are all excellent choices. Purchase this, a stripping agent, clothes and brushes and your local home supply.
  • Ventilate. Open some windows and turn on your stove vent to keep the smells from overpowering you. Safety first.
  • Clean the surfaces. They may have collected years of grease, dust and hand oil.
  • Protect your kitchen by laying down plastic 
  • Remove the hardware and soak it in soapy water. Scrub it, if needed. But a good soak should do most of the work.
  • Strip & refinish the cabinets according to the instructions on the finish you choose. If you're getting creative with alternating colors or finishes, you may want to remove the doors and lay painter tape to create crisp contrasts between shade. 
  • Once dry, replace your glistening hardware. And you're done. 
  • *Pro tip* Some woods soak up oils like a sponge, so you might need multiple coats to achieve the desired look. That's one reason the job takes multiple weekends since each layer must dry.

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