Give your kitchen cabinets a makeover with new veneer, hinges, drawers, and doors.
The first impulse when considering kitchen remodeling is to replace all the old cabinets. That idea often lasts only until you get the cost estimates.
While recovering from sticker shock, you can consider other options, such as refacing. Unless you want to shuffle the location of the appliances or change the kitchen layout, there's no compelling reason to replace cabinets that are structurally sound. An application of plywood and veneer will give the ends and face frames a fresh look. New doors, drawers, and hardware will completely update the cabinets. Refacing can be far less disruptive, messy, and time-consuming than a complete overhaul.
Home centers and woodworking specialty stores are sources for refacing supplies, tools, doors, drawers, slides, hinges, and other parts and hardware. Many dealers offer installation tips and information about measuring for replacement doors.
Empty the contents of the kitchen cabinets into boxes, and move the boxes into another room. Remove all doors, drawers, hardware, and moldings. Make sure the cabinets are tightly attached to the walls and to each other, adding screws if necessary. Degrease the cabinets by wiping them with denatured alcohol. Fill dents and holes with wood filler. Lightly sand all surfaces with 100-grit sandpaper. Vacuum the dust to start with a clean work area.
If the edge of the face frame projects past the cabinet's end panel, bring the surfaces flush with a hand plane or flush-trim bit in a router. Cut a piece of 1/8- or 1/4-inch-thick plywood to size for the end panel. Position the panel so that it barely extends past the face frame -- an overhang that's just enough to snag your fingernail is plenty. Attach the plywood with panel adhesive and brads.
Apply a coat of water-base contact cement to the face and edges of each stile (the vertical elements of the face frame). When the contact cement dries, in about 30 minutes, it will act as a bonding agent to improve the grip of the pressure-sensitive adhesive on the back of the veneer.
Make a pencil mark on the upper and lower rails 1 inch to the side of each stile. Measure the size of the stile, then cut a piece of veneer that is 2 inches wider (for intermediate stiles) and 1 inch longer. For stiles at the end of the ends of the cabinets, cut the strip about 1-1/4 inch wider. Start to strip away the backing and align the edge of the veneer with the marks on the rail. Work downward, peeling the backing and patting the veneer into place.
With a steel straightedge as a guide, slice away the excess veneer in a straight line across the rail. To trim the veneer flush with the bottom edge of the rail, stroke your utility knife blade along the back edge of the veneer two or three times, then gently wiggle the piece back and forth until it breaks. Use this same technique to trim the veneer flush with the edges of the wrapped stile.
On the inside of the cabinet's bottom, run a strip of masking tape so its edge touches the back of the stiles. Brush contact cement onto the rails and up to the tape. Cut a veneer strip 1 inch wider than the rail. Square-cut the one end by using a framing square and utility knife. Butt the cut end against the veneer on a stile, then mark the other end with a knife nick.
Cut the rail veneer to length, then apply it using the same procedures as for the stiles. By holding your utility knife blade against a framing square, you can easily slice through the veneer folded into the cabinet. Peel away the masking tape to reveal a smooth edge. Use 120-grit paper in a sanding block to tackle any splinters and sharp edges. Apply stain, if desired, then a clear finish.