Do It Yourself Cabinet Refacing

Reface Kitchen Cabinets Yourself

If you're sick of looking at your old outdated kitchen cabinets but can't afford a costly renovation, do it yourself cabinet refacing might be the answer.

Cabinet refacing in the kitchen or bathroom involves replacing the drawer and door fronts and veneering the front of the cabinet boxes. Since only the front of the cabinets is replaced, it's more affordable and eco-friendly than replacing the entire cabinet system.

In order to simply reface and not replace the entire cabinet unit, the boxes need to be intact and sturdy.

Refacing Cabinets Yourself

Do it yourself cabinet refacing is tough, but not impossible. It requires quite a bit of work and patience, but if done properly it shouldn't take more than a few days.

Preparation

Like with any home improvement project, a certain amount of preparation is required.

  • Remove all of the doors, drawers, and hardware, including the hinges.
  • Take measurements and head over to your local home improvement store to purchase new doors and drawer fronts (and hardware if desired). Choose a corresponding veneer that comes in peel-and-stick sheets. These can also be ordered directly from cabinet suppliers.
  • Clean the inside of the cabinet boxes, removing any dust, dirt, and grime.
  • Give the front of the cabinet boxes a light sanding. (Don't sand the inside.) Wipe away any dust with a damp cloth and let dry completely.

Installing the Veneer

Apply the wood veneer to the exterior of the cabinet boxes.

  • Begin with the ends of the cabinets (where they meet the wall) and work your way out.
  • Apply pieces that are a bit larger than needed so that they hang over the edges. Begin by sticking it at the top and then press the rest, working your way from the top down.
  • As you stick it down use a board (or something similar, such as a hardcover book) to smooth out the veneer and eliminate any air bubbles. You can also look into veneering tools, though there is some debate as to whether or not these are really necessary.
  • Use a sharp razor knife to cut the veneer at the edges.
  • Use the same technique to apply the veneer to the narrow pieces along the front of the cabinets.

Note: While it sounds fairly straightforward, applying veneer can be a tricky process that requires some practice to master. You might want to purchase a bit extra and practice on some scrap pieces of lumber. It adds to the expense, but it's better than messing up the cabinets and wasting even more money. Provided the veneer is applied properly, it shouldn't ever peel off.

Hanging Doors

Once the veneer is in place it's time to replace the doors and drawers.

  • Install the new cabinet doors, preferably using new hinges.
  • Replace the old drawer fronts with new ones. They should screw in to the same holes as the old ones.
  • If you've purchased new hardware, install it on all the drawers and doors. While new hardware isn't mandatory, if you're going to all the trouble of refacing the cabinets, you might as well go all the way and use new hardware.

Pros and Cons of Do It Yourself Cabinet Refacing

Do it yourself cabinet refacing is great for handy people who are comfortable with these types of home improvement projects, but those who are unsure might want to consider hiring a professional. While the instructions are fairly simple, applying veneer can be a frustrating process. Wood veneer can be expensive and you want to get it right the first time. Depending on the size of your cabinets there will be a lot of small, narrow pieces that need to be applied and cut, and if you're new to veneering it can take a long time to complete.

Refacing Versus Replacing

Cabinet refacing is a great way to save money while giving your kitchen or bathroom an overhaul. While it's impossible to say exactly what it will cost, it should be approximately half the cost of replacing all the cabinets with custom work. Refacing is also a more eco-friendly alternative to replacing. Since the cabinet boxes don't get replaced, it keeps the material out of landfills and uses fewer new materials.


If you want to give your kitchen a fresh new look but don't want to spend any more money than necessary, consider refacing the cabinets. If you plan to do it yourself make sure to do the proper research and preparation before beginning.

Do It Yourself Cabinet Refacing