Overview

Refacing Cabinets Overview Illustration
Illustration: Gregory Nemec
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Refacing cabinets is really just a matter of switching out the doors after covering all the exposed parts of the frame with veneer that matches the new finish. This technique works well with cabinets that have partial-overlay doors where the face frame is visible. But you can still reface cabinets with full-overlay doors, which have no face frame, and flush-inset doors, on which the face frame is on the same plane as the doors. In both cases, you have to be careful to order doors that match the size of the ones you're replacing, rather than just measuring the cabinet openings and adding an inch to create an overlap.

Self-stick veneer is easy to work with, since there's no contact cement to contend with. But its adhesive is still strong, making the veneer hard to remove and adjust once you've stuck it in place. So you have to be careful when measuring, cutting, and placing a strip on the cabinet face.

The hardest part of making a refacing job look neat is trimming the veneer with a utility knife once it's in place. It helps to work slowly, to keep your hand braced against the cabinets to steady it, and to always use a sharp blade. Once you've finished the frame and installed the doors, it will be hard to tell that you haven't installed a whole new set of cabinets.
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    Tools List

    • hammer with nailset
      Hammer and nailset
    • straightedge guide
      Straightedge
    • utility knife
      Utility knife
    • try square
      Try-square and razor
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • hand saw
      Handsaw,
      if necessary to cut old drawer fronts

    Shopping List

    1. DOORS

    Provide the manufacturer with dimensions for each door. Measure the cabinet openings. Then add 1 inch to both the width and the height so that you’ll end up with a 1/2-inch overlap all around. (For split-doors, where two doors meet to cover one opening, add 1 inch to the full width, divide by two, then subtract 1/16 inch. This will give you a measurement for each door that leaves a 1/8-inch gap between the two.) If you’re installing concealed European hinges (see below), order the doors 'bored.' Specify right or left bore. If you want glass-fronted cabinets, order 'mullion' doors (specify the number of lights) or 'frame only' (single pane), then have glass inserts custom cut.



    2. SELF-ADHESIVE VENEER

    aka “pressure sensitive” veneer. Comes in 2-foot-by-8-foot rolls; one roll will cover about 10 cabinets.



    3. DRAWER FRONTS

    Measure edge to edge for the exact size of replacements.



    4. PLYWOOD PANELS

    to cover the exposed sides of cabinets. Measure edge to edge.



    5. HINGES

    if old hinges are bent or broken, or if you want to switch to concealed European hinges with a spring that closes doors automatically.



    6. KNOBS AND PULLS

    7. TSP

    (trisodium phosphate), a strong degreaser. For cleaning cabinet faces and prepping them for veneer.



    8. 150-GRIT SANDPAPER and TACK CLOTH

    9. CARPENTER’S GLUE

    For affixing plywood panels.



    10. 2D FINISH NAILS

    11. WOOD FILLER