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Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing

One of easiest and most rewarding remodeling projects is upgrading cabinets and counter tops. This will be my third kitchen remodel and each time I have skipped the expensive option of replacing the existing and opted for a facelift. In this house, I love the fact that the cabinets are original to the house and solid wood.  I have priced enough cabinets to know I couldn’t afford new solid wood cabinets and since the existing cabinets are fully functional I saw no good reason to tear them out…waste not, want not!  Besides being way cheaper, revamping old cabinets is a whole lot faster and when I started this project I was getting a little tired of going to the barn to get my pots and pans that were still in boxes from when we moved six months ago.

The original cabinets were white with silver hinges and had a whole lot of wear and tear.   The counter top was Formica and not at all original. It came complete with a matching backsplash that was glued to the wall and trimmed with a lovely gold trim piece. One of the first things I did when we closed on the house was rip the backspash off, which left a lovely orange glue stain.

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My first step in the remodel project was to create a new counter top. We planed, sanded and doweled bleacher boards together that we got at the Millwork Outlet. They were originally out of Tolt Middle School and three years ago our friends and family sat on them during our outdoor wedding. Besides being pretty these boards had a rich history so for three years I saved a few of these boards just for this purpose.

Next I removed all the existing cabinet doors and brought them to the Millwork Outlet where their shop applied a shaker edge. This gave the doors a little extra charm and was super affordable compared to buying all new doors. I decided to leave the drawers as they were because they were not constructed in a way that allowed for easy removal of the drawer front.

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Next we attached black walnut caps to the ends of the counter tops. While I would like to say that we planned for this, that would be a lie. In truth, we completely mis-measured and came up short (which you can see in the picture above). After a few four letter words we realized the only solution short of starting all over again was to add an extra three inches to each end. We knew if we used the same wood color it would really show off the fact that we messed up. Instead we decided to make it look like we did it on purpose and use a darker wood as an accent. And of course, this is the part we get the most compliments on.

Because I had been without a sink for over four months and had been using the bath tub to wash my pots and pans I strongly suggested that we finish the countertops even though the cabinets weren’t finished. So we applied one box of Parks Super Glaze Ultra Crystal Pour On Epoxy Finish Kit, Clear Gloss to the counter tops and meticulously used a heat gun to remove the air bubbles. The result was beautiful and very waterproof. Next we installed the sink. Thank God!

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Next we painted the cabinet doors. When it comes to cabinet doors, I would HIGHLY suggest investing in good paint. I used crappy paint on one house I did and the doors were stained the next day. Your cabinets will get a ton of wear and you will need them to to be washable and durable. I now only use Sherwin Williams Pro Classic paint with a good paint brush. It is washable, durable and doesn’t leave streak marks if you paint with a good brush like I do.  It costs about $70 a gallon which is double the price of Home Depot’s paint but it is twice as good, I promise!

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The last step is to install new hardware. I LOVE bin pulls because they are really easy to grab and I love the vintage charm. I buy all my hardware from the Millwork Outlet because their prices are GREAT and the vintage bronze color is my favorite. I use round knob pulls on the doors and I buy my hinges from the closest hardware store (all the prices seem to be pretty similar). I have found that to keep things as easy as possible stick with the same hinge design and just change the color. If you try changing the design it is likely you will have end up doing more work covering up the old hinge marks and the doors don’t always shut properly. This is one of those times to not get caught up in details and think of the bigger picture. Trust me!

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While the project isn’t completely finished (in fact Ross is nailing bead board to the end caps as I type) I am super happy with the progress! Obviously, we have learned a lot after three homes because this project was almost too easy. Here are some helpful hints we have learned the hard way:

  • Use cheap materials and great finishes. Go ahead and look for deals on the countertops or cabinet handles, but when it comes to the paint, finish, ect. spend some extra cash. When painting cabinet doors and boxes only use paint designed for doors and trim. You can make a $2 cabinet look like $1000 with good paint and vise versa with bad paint.
  • Add moulding to the doors. If you hate the look of the cabinet doors either add moulding to update the doors or find a place that will sell you custom doors made to your sizes. You will want to look for a specialty door store like the Millwork Outlet or a custom cabinet maker. For the most part cabinet boxes are all the same, it is the door style that makes one house look outdated and the next look brand new.
  • Use the same hinge type. If at all possible don’t switch up the hinge type or layout, you will regret it. Ross has forbade me from changing hinges after our first home when NONE of the hinges matched up and we spent hours trying to get the doors to close properly.
  • Use trim to cover up blemishes. The corners on all the above cabinets were chewed apart by a dog. I added a simple corner trim which made the cabinet look a little more “custom” and covered up the unsightly blemish for only $1.29
  • New hardware will go a long way. If you are thinking of upgrading your kitchen please consider just replacing your hardware first. You will be surprised how much more you like your kitchen cabinets when you get rid of the brass flower knobs.
  • Paint works wonders. I am always surprised when people spend a fortune on buying new white cabinets. strip and paint your old, dark oak ones first! It may be a lot of work, but guess what, so is installing all new cabinets!
  • Never underestimate the power of bead board! Some people think that if you use bead board in one place you have to use it everywhere. Not true. Bead board is classic and can look good in a wide variety of styles. Consider using it to cover up damaged end caps.
  • Think Outside the Box. Just because granite counter tops are all the rage doesn’t mean it is what will look best in your house. Think about when your house was built, what motif you are going for and what your budget is. Our countertops cost less than $200 and are gorgeous. We get compliments all the time because they are different than the- dare I say -average granite tops everyone is used to seeing.
  • Choose your battles. If the drawer fronts are going to be impossible to upgrade, think about the big picture. Try not to get hung up on details and remember that if you are able to replace everything except one little thing, it is likely you will forget about that one thing when all the rest looks so good.
  • Don’t Underestimate the work and cost of buying new. I have never bought new cabinets. You know why? Because my husband used to work in a cabinet shop. He knows how expensive and how much work they are! To replace your old cabinets you will have to remove all the existing cabinets which will include unhooking all your plumbing and probably your oven, stove, microwave, ect. Then after you have the new ones installed you will need to hook it all back up again. You may also run into an issue of the new layout and measurements not matching the old which means you could end up having to refinish your floors or touching up your paint (which you probably don’t have the original color anymore so you have to go through the hassle of matching the old paint). And depending on how old your house is the list could go on and on and on.

Kitchen remodels are typically the most expensive remodel you can do to your house and new cabinets and counter tops  is often one of the biggest costs, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about it…if you can save $2,500 be keeping your existing cabinets and giving them a facelift, that’s a lot of money to put towards new appliances, things that are way more fun and less likely to go out of style next year!

The "garden" behind the garden to glass cocktails, Venise is the resident farmer of the Simple Goodness Farm, older sister and goat lover.

2 Comments

  • Cheri Arkell

    Measure twice and cut once…..after more than a few miscalculations with wallpaper, Mike and I measured thrice and cut once. We all learn the hard way. The darker wood accents the hardware….perfect! Great advice you’re giving others. Can’t wait to see it all come together.

    • Venise

      Yeah definitely not the first and certainly not the last time we will make a mistake. The key is to find a way to turn it into something better than your original idea 🙂

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