How to Reface Your Kitchen Cabinets
Time Required: Over 1 day
Refacing kitchen cabinets is a popular project for homeowners looking for a straightforward renovation option. A kitchen cabinet makeover is a great way to refresh the space without the expense and disruption of a full kitchen remodel.
Cabinet refacing replaces the veneer on the visible surfaces of the cabinet while leaving the structural aspects intact. Doors, drawer fronts and hardware are also upgraded in cabinet refacing projects, although if these elements are in good shape, they can easily be reused after cleaning and applying a new coat of wood stain.
This guide takes you through the steps of how to reface kitchen cabinets by applying veneer to give them a renewed appearance.
If you like your kitchen's current layout, cabinet refacing may be the perfect update option. However, you want to be sure that your cabinets are in the right shape to be refaced rather than replaced.
How do you reface kitchen cabinets with confidence? Evaluate the condition of your cabinets by looking at these elements:
- Plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) construction
- Smooth surfaces are in good condition
- Internal hardware are in good condition — drawer tracks, shelves, internal storage structures
- Solid wood facing frames
If any of these elements are not present, your current cabinets may not take well to refacing. It may be less expensive in the long run to invest in new cabinets or replacement cabinet doors.
- Order your refacing materials and any new cabinet hardware.
- Remove all the contents of your drawers and cabinets and store them safely in another room.
- Remove all cabinet doors, drawers and drawer fronts.
- Remove all the hardware from the cabinets and drawers.
- Wear gloves and clean the sides and faces of the cabinets with a solution formulated to remove grease and oils. Allow time to dry thoroughly.
- Scuff all the exposed surfaces with a medium-grit sandpaper, then wipe down all surfaces with a tack cloth.
The next step in your cabinet refacing project is to cut panels that you'll apply the veneers to.
- Measure and cut plywood panels to fit the exposed ends of the cabinets. Apply carpenter glue and affix the plywood panels to the cabinets. Press in place, then secure with 2d finish nails.
- Fill in any holes with wood filler. Allow time to dry, then lightly sand for a smooth, uniform surface.
Rails and stiles are familiar if you know how to reface cabinets. Rails are the horizontal faces of the cabinets; stiles are the vertical pieces.
- Measure all of the rails and stiles and record the measurement of each.
- Use a utility knife and ruler or straight edge to cut the veneer into strips with the wood grain or pattern running lengthwise. Each strip should be 1/2-inch wider and 2 inches longer than the corresponding rail or stile. Be sure to change the knife blade every few cuts to ensure that the cuts stay clean.
- Always begin applying veneer with the stiles, or vertical lengths.
- Take the first piece and align it so that it slightly overhangs all the edges of the stile.
- Peel one corner of the backing away and then press it into place. Continue to peel away the backing and press the adhesive side down as you go.
- Once the strip is in place, take a small wood block and firmly press down the length of the strip to force out any air bubbles and ensure the glue adheres firmly and smoothly.
- Repeat this process with the adjacent stile.
- Using a utility knife and a ruler or straight edge as guide, trim the excess veneer from all the edges of the stiles.
Next, apply the veneer to the rails so that it overlaps the stiles on either side.
- Apply the veneer to the rails of the cabinet so that it overlaps the stiles on both sides.
- Use a carpenter square to line up the join between the two pieces of veneer, then run your utility knife along the guideline, slicing through both pieces of veneer.
- Remove the excess piece of top veneer from the rail, then lift the edge of the rail veneer. Remove the cut piece of stile veneer from underneath. Then smooth the edge of the rail veneer back into place. This should create a neat join.
- Continue finishing all the cabinet facing.
- Clean the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Allow them to dry thoroughly.
- Sand the surfaces and wipe down with a tack cloth.
- Stain the cabinet doors and drawer fronts to match the new veneer. Use a paintbrush to fill in any detail areas.
- Allow time to dry thoroughly.
Use water-based polyurethane as a final protective coating on the cabinet surfaces. Water-based dries fast and is odor-free, making it easy to work with.
- Apply the first coat of polyurethane with a paint brush recommended for the finish you've chosen. Apply in a thin layer, brushing in the direction of the wood grain or pattern, in even single strokes.
- Complete the first coat and allow it to dry.
- Lightly sand all the surfaces with fine-grit sandpaper, then wipe away any sanding dust with a tack cloth.
- Repeat these steps to apply a second and third coat of polyurethane.
- Attach the drawer fronts to the boxes and then install the drawer pulls.
- If the internal cabinet hardware can be reused, install the old drawer slides onto the drawer boxes. If needed, replace with new drawer slides. Slide drawers into place.
- Orient the doors so that all the patterns run in the same direction.
- Position each door hinge one hinge-length from the top and from the bottom of the door. Mark the screw hole locations on the door.
- Use a drill to create pilot holes in the door, then affix the hinges with wood screws.
- Use a piece of scrap wood to make a jig that keeps the spacing of the holes uniform. Create the holes in the cabinet for the hinges.
- Attach the doors to the cabinets.
Kitchen cabinet refacing saves money compared to a full remodel. This process reuses the standing cabinet structure, preventing the cabinets from ending up in a landfill. There are refacing options for just about any style. Knowledge of how to reface cabinets can be a DIY project, but refacing can also be requested from professional cabinet refacing services.
Don't worry if you don't own all the tools to reface your kitchen cabinets. Consider rental of well-maintained tools and equipment for your kitchen refacing project. Download The Home Depot Mobile App and check out its inventory to find the supplies you need for your kitchen cabinet refacing project.