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Refacing Cabinets

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Refacing Cabinets
by Herrick Kimball
Paperback

You no longer need to buy new cabinets to create a beautiful new kitchen. With Refacing Cabinets, you can get professional results even if you're not a pro.

Remodeling professional Herrick Kimball shows you how to transform your outdated kitchen into your dream kitchen using wood veneer and new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Add a new countertop and a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and you have a completely new look.

Everything you need to know to do professional-quality cabinet refacing is in this book. You'll learn how to:

  • do top-quality work with only basic skills
  • choose the right wood and door styles for any taste and budget
  • make minor cabinet modifications for a more efficient kitchen
  • avoid costly mistakes when ordering materials
  • veneer your face frames so they look like solid wood
  • find sources for the materials and tools you'll need to do the work

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Details

You no longer need to buy new cabinets to create a beautiful new kitchen. With Refacing Cabinets, you can get professional results even if you're not a pro.

Remodeling professional Herrick Kimball shows you how to transform your outdated kitchen into your dream kitchen using wood veneer and new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Add a new countertop and a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and you have a completely new look.

Everything you need to know to do professional-quality cabinet refacing is in this book. You'll learn how to:

  • do top-quality work with only basic skills
  • choose the right wood and door styles for any taste and budget
  • make minor cabinet modifications for a more efficient kitchen
  • avoid costly mistakes when ordering materials
  • veneer your face frames so they look like solid wood
  • find sources for the materials and tools you'll need to do the work

Additional Information

Additional Information

Table Of Contents INTRODUCTION

1 CABINET STYLE

2 REFACE REMODELING FOR EFFICIENCY

3 MEASURING FOR DOORS AND DRAWER FRONTS

4 ORDERING MATERIALS

5 PREPARING FOR REFACING

6 VENEERING FACE FRAMES

7 REFACING WITH PLASTIC LAMINATE

8 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

RESOURCES

FURTHER READING

GLOSSARY

INDEX
Intro

Everything has a lifespan, and for the average kitchen it's around 20 years. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but in most instances, after a couple of decades that once gleaming new kitchen will be worn, outdated, and drab. While many components of an old kitchen can be upgraded with relative ease, the cabinetry is another story. Installing new cabinets is an involved proposition, and new cabinets are expensive. In fact, cabinetry is typically the most expensive component of a kitchen.

Although it is possible to improve the appearance of old cabinets by washing and waxing or sanding and refinishing, in most instances they won't look much better than what you started with. They certainly won't look anywhere near as good as new cabinets would.

If your kitchen cabinets are looking dowdy, don't despair. By making some simple changes to improve the efficiency of your existing cabinet layout and then refacing those cabinets, you can have a beautiful new kitchen for a fraction of the cost of ripping everything out and replacing it. What's more, a cabinet refacing job is usually a lot less disruptive than a conventional cabinet replacement job.

Sometimes called cabinet front replacement or cabinet restyling, refacing is a process whereby older cabinets are renewed by removing the old doors and drawer fronts, resurfacing the cabinet face frames and sides, and then installing new doors and drawer fronts. There are several methods for refacing face frames but I use prefinished wood veneers (with wood door styles) and wrap them around the rails and stiles. The finished appearance is that of a new face frame. Several other modifications, like upgrading old drawers and slides or replacing a worn-out lazy Susan, can be done at the same time, too.

If done properly, reface kitchen remodeling will give you a new kitchen that can be expected to age gracefully for another 20 years or so before you have to update again. If you have some basic woodworking tools and skills, you can do your own cabinet refacing -- it's surprisingly easy. Showing you how to save a lot of money and end up with a remarkably nice new kitchen by doing the work yourself is what this book is all about.

You should know that there are critics of refacing. In fact, I used to be one of them; I scoffed at the notion that refacing could be a legitimate remodeling option. But I don't feel that way any more, and I'd like to tell you why.

In 1988, with nine years of down-and-dirty kitchen remodeling under my belt, I took a position as the manager of a kitchen and bath store. It was during this stint in sales that I first heard of refacing. I knew nothing about the subject except that it involved putting new doors on old cabinets, and at the time the whole concept seemed rather crass and cheap to me. I reasoned that the only way a person could get a beautiful new kitchen of lasting quality was to rip out the old cabinets and put in new ones -- preferably bought from me.

To make a long story short, I eventually quit the sales job and headed back to the field as a self-employed remodeling contractor. I took with me my bias against refacing, but it wasn't long before I had a change of heart. It came when I saw a well-crafted reface kitchen remodel and talked to the craftsman who did the work. I was amazed at the job he had done. I saw immediately that cabinet refacing could be a legitimate remodeling option, and a sensible one, too.

From my time in sales, I knew that while most homeowners sincerely want to buy top-quality cabinetry, they typically settle for lesser-quality cabinets that look good and are reasonably priced. That's because top-quality cabinets are surprisingly expensive. Cabinet manufacturers realize that outward appearances and price are the main factors the average buyer considers, so they wisely concentrate on putting the bulk of cabinet quality into the doors and frames. I've heard that as much as 80% of the expense of making a new cabinet is in the fronts. Indeed, on many brands of new cabinetry (even into the mid-price range) the only real evidence of quality is in the cabinet fronts.

That first kitchen reface I saw looked as good as any new cabinetry I had ever seen. Although the insides of the cabinets were not new, they were perfectly functional and made of better materials than some upscale cabinets. I concluded that over the years I had installed or sold many new kitchens to people who could have gotten a better-quality finished product for less money by refacing.

There was very little related to refacing that I hadn't already done as a cabinetmaker and kitchen remodeler, and what I didn't know I figured I could pick up easily enough, so I didn't waste any time lining up some reface jobs. And now here I am, six years later, with scores of reface kitchen remodels behind me, extolling the virtues of the craft. I'm just as excited, if not more so, about refacing today as I was the day I realized it could be much more than a hokey cover-up.

Cabinet refacing is done with the cabinetry in place in the kitchen, and the job is further simplified by having all the new doors custom made and finished to your specifications by a company that specializes in doing just that. Although you may certainly go to the trouble of making your own doors, you don't have to; most professional refacers and, for that matter, quite a few name-brand cabinet manufacturers have their doors made by a custom door maker. There is no reason you can't take advantage of those services as well.

Regardless of the style of your present kitchen, the newly refaced version can be virtually any style you want. A classic 1960s built-in kitchen of plain birch plywood doors can be transformed into an elegant cherry kitchen with traditional raised-panel doors. A kitchen with dark cabinetry -- so common in the 1970s -- can become light, clean, and stylish with natural maple or oak doors. Pick a wood, pick a door style, pick the look you want, and it can probably be done with refacing. It's even possible to take traditional face-frame cabinetry and reface it to end up with the simple lines of Euro-style frameless cabinetry with full-overlay doors. That's what I did when I refaced the cabinets in my own kitchen (see the sidebar on pp. 34-35).

As wonderful as I consider refacing, I'll be the first to admit that this approach to kitchen remodeling is not appropriate in every situation. In some instances, the existing cabinets are so poorly made that they don't provide a suitable foundation to reface over. I once looked at a prospective kitchen reface where the cabinet sides, face frames, and doors were made out of nailed-together 1/2-in. waferboard, and nothing was square or level. While it's typical to need to do some minor repair and cabinet rebuilding when refacing, that particular kitchen would have required a complete rebuild, and I recommended getting new cabinets. Manufactured 'trailer' housing typically has chintzy cabinets, often with particleboard face frames, and they are not worth refacing either. But more often that not, older cabinets are well made and their carcasses are constructed of plywood, which is arguably a much better material than the high-density particleboard so prevalent in today's new cabinetry. To be fair, I should state that particleboard for cabinet sides, bottoms, and shelves isn't necessarily a poor-quality construction material (and I've refaced over many particleboard cabinets). It's just not as good as plywood.

If your original kitchen is poorly designed and you are planning extensive changes in layout, refacing may not be the best solution. That isn't to say that you can't make some modifications to improve the layout, flow, and efficiency of your kitchen when refacing, because, as this book will show, you certainly can and should. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and, depending on the extent of the changes, refacing may not be practical.

Whether or not refacing will fit into your remodeling plans is a call you'll have to make on your own, but after reading this book you'll be better prepared to make an informed decision. If I were to hazard a guess, though, I'd say that reface remodeling can be a workable option in better than 75% of the kitchens out there.

This isn't to suggest that refacing, even when it's appropriate, is always a good value. It turns out there are different ways to reface cabinets, and some approaches are better than others. For example, I once refaced a kitchen that had been refaced five years earlier. The homeowner had paid a lot of money to have a refacing 'professional' put wood-grain contact paper on the cabinet sides and face frames. The new doors were sections of particleboard covered with matching contact paper. I was told that the job looked decent for about a year, before the paper started peeling. The whole thing ended up looking worse than ever.

I consider cabinet refacing to be a skilled craft, and although it is not a difficult craft to learn and master, it should nevertheless be taken seriously. Fortunately there are many refacing craftsmen who take pride in their work, but there are also a few, like the contact-paper refacer, who look upon refacing as a way to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, it's the charlatans and the people who just don't know how to do a good job that give refacing a bad name.

This book is a guide to the reputable craft of reface kitchen remodeling. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject because that would be, well, exhausting for you to read, and confusing as well. What can be confusing is that there are so many different style combinations and several different ways to reface a cabinet. To make matters worse, refacing is a relatively new discipline and many refacers, like members of the craft guilds of medieval Europe, do not like to share their 'secret' techniques. And there is no national cabinet refacing institute to declare and promote standards of excellence in the craft.

What you hold in your hands is essentially Herrick Kimball's methods for refacing cabinets. Though I do mention other methods of work, my focus is on my techniques, which have evolved from my first-hand experiences and my observations of other refacers' work, as well as information I've gleaned from various material suppliers.

My methods are not the only right way to reface kitchen cabinets, but they are sound and proven and will result in a nice finished product--one you can take great pride in. All my secrets are here. If you are new to refacing, use this book as a primer to guide you through a reface job for yourself or launch you on a career as a reface professional. If you already are a professional, you'll still be able to pick up some helpful insights into the craft.

Chapter 1 covers the fundamental and essential topic of cabinet style, so you can decide how you want your new kitchen to look. Chapter 2 deals with the practical aspects of design by looking at several ideas for improving the organizational efficiency of your existing kitchen. Chapter 3 covers the tricky topic of measuring your kitchen for new doors and drawer fronts, and Chapter 4 takes a close look at the materials used for refacing and explains how to order them. In Chapter 5 we roll up our sleeves and get to work by prepping the old cabinets and resurfacing the sides and face frames. Chapter 6 explains how to veneer the face frames; Chapter 7 covers refacing with plastic laminate. And Chapter 8 describes hanging the doors, as well as installing drawers, valances, molding, and everything else you need to do to finish the job. The book concludes with a resource list, some suggestions for obtaining further information, a glossary, and an index.

Compared to many skills within the building trades, cabinet refacing is relatively safe, but it's not entirely benign. If you undertake any of the tasks outlined in this book, you must take responsibility for your own safety by educating yourself about the proper use of all power and hand tools, and observing all prudent safety precautions.

Finally, I welcome your feedback about this topic of refacing. In particular, I'm interested in hearing about any unusual experiences, solutions to problems, special techniques, and product insights. Please direct your comments to me c/o Fine Homebuilding Books, The Taunton Press, 63 South Main St., Newtown, CT 06470. If you include a self-addressed stamped envelope, I will reply by passing along any new tips or valuable information that come my way.

ISBN 978-1-56158-197-9
Video No
Author Herrick Kimball
Publication Year 1997
Dimensions 8 x 10
Pages 176
Photo black and white and color photos
Drawings and drawings
Other Formats No
Cover Paperback
Format Paperback
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