Freshen worn and dark built-in cabinets starting with a coat of paint. Then replace the doors and drawer faces with simple DIY versions.
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When doing an update to existing cabinets, built-ins, or a bathroom vanity, you can use the same process to replace cabinet doors or drawer faces. These steps will guide you through the process for both components, when complete a fresh coat of paint will bring it all together.
Measure the existing cabinet door and drawer panels and record the sizes. Replacements will be the same as the existing ones. Also, measure the spacing between the assemblies and the distance from the edge of the cabinet to the edges of the drawers and doors.
If replacing the drawer fronts, remove the existing drawer pulls and pry the drawer face away from the drawer box. Take small steps – the faces are typically nailed in place, so gentle prying will help the nails slide out of the material and minimize drawer damage. Remove any nails with pliers or a pry bar.
Work gently to remove the drawer faces without damaging the drawer box. A inexpensive chisel or stiff-blade putty knife works well for prying the pieces apart.
Clean the surfaces of the parts you will keep, including the cabinet. A citrus-based cleaner works well to prepare surfaces for painting.
Evaluate the hardware and decide what you will replace, including any damaged or broken hinges.
When changing hinges, replace them with new hinges that work in the same manner. Subtle hardware differences will affect the operation of the doors and their position on the cabinet frame. If you have European-style hinges, you may need to adjust the width of the door trim stiles to drill the hinge holes.
Using a table saw, cut 1/2-inch-thick medium-density fiberboard (MDF) to match the size of the existing door, drawer faces, and any false front on the cabinet (Project Diagram).
If you have European-style hinges, measure the distance from the edge of the door to 1/8 inch beyond the hole. The large hole is typically 35 millimeters wide, or roughly 1-3/8 inches. If the hole is 1/8 inch from the edge of the door, you will need the stiles to be 1-5/8 inches wide. Match the width of the drawer stiles to the new door stiles for a consistent look.
There are two trim elements to the doors. The vertical elements are called stiles, and the horizontal parts are called rails.
Cut the stiles to width and to match the height of the door panels. Glue and clamp each stile to the door. Then hold a rail in position between the stiles, mark the exact length, and cut it to fit. Glue and clamp the rail in place, and repeat for the other rail.
Transfer the hinge location to the back of the new door panel from the existing doors. A carpenter’s square or combination square works well to relocate the center point of the hinge to the new door.
Measure from the edge of the door to the centerline of the new hinge hole and mark the location. Position the Forstner bit on the new center point, and drill the hole to a depth that matches the hinge cup.
To drill the new hinge hole the same depth as the existing one, compare the depths on the side of the bit.
Place the hinge in position and use a self-centering hinge bit to drill pilot holes for the mounting screws. If you try to drill without this bit, misplaced screws may cause the hinges to bind when the door swings.
Lightly sand the door with 150-grit sandpaper. The drawer faces match the doors; build them to the dimensions of the existing panels.
Use the existing holes in the cabinet to reinstall the hinges and hang the door.
Clamp a scrap board level under the door and or drawer openings to align the bottom edge of the door or drawer faces. A vertical guide can also be clamped in place to keep the sides of the panels aligned.
Insert a drawer box in its opening. If you plan to reuse the existing hardware, position the new drawer face on the front of the drawer box, and use the holes in the box to mark the position of the drawer hardware holes on the inside face of the drawer front. Then drill the drawer front and secure the faces to the boxes temporarily using the drawer pull hardware. Remove the drawer from the cabinet and drive flathead screws through the drawer box front into the new drawer face. Slide the new drawer back in position.
Use spacers to stack the drawer faces evenly apart based on the measurements you took at the beginning. Slip the next drawer in position and attach the hardware and drawer face as you did in the previous step. Repeat for the remaining drawer faces.
For a false drawer front, use spacers and the existing hardware to secure the panel in position.
A coat of paint and replacement doors bring new life to existing cabinets.