Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How To: Kitchen retrofit

As I mentioned in one of my other posts about the latest Waugh Woodshop projects, I had been asked and kind of volunteered myself to help a friend out with a retrofit of her kitchen.  She's selling her place and the kitchen wasn't quite at it's prettiest.  She had quotes to replace the cabinet doors, but I convinced her to let me try reworking just one pair… and then 16 doors and 4 drawer fronts later, she now doesn't want to move ;)

Oh, and some of her friends/neighbours have asked how it was done so I told her I'd post the details so that she could pass it along

Here's the original kitchen, remember it?  You're not going to believe what it looks like now.  It's a lesson in what a few weekends of hard work can turn into… and that tearing things apart to replace them with something brand new isn't necessarily the way to go.

I simply redid the kitchen doors for them, and they did the rest!  Here's how…

As you take the doors off of their hinges, be sure to number each one so you know where it should go back up.  You can mark them with a sharpie inside the hole from the hinge, creating some sort of code you'll understand later.

Step 1 - take off the unfortunate wood 'handle' piece - I just hammered away at them, being sure not to be too forceful.  It took an average of 10-12 hits on each.  Then I had to use a chisel to take out the remaining piece that was left in the groove of the door

Step 2 - wash the door front, back and sides with an ammonia and water wash.  You might need to use a putty scraper to take off any stickers or stuck on bits.  Let them dry completely and then get your sander out and gently sand the edges from where you took off the handle.

Step 3 - Evaluate whether or not you need to take off the edge opposite of where the handle was.  I had to do this on maybe 5-7 of them?  They were just really worn.  I used my table saw for this, setting up the guide to take off the width of the handle… which was the width of the MDF I found to replace them with.

Step 4 - cut the MDF (they were from HD, 1 x 3" pieces that came 8' long) to length, and glue each piece on, using a clamp to hold it there until the 'no more nails' dried.  The MDF was a bit narrower than the doors, so I glued them with the faces aligned, leaving the gap at the back.

I actually had to measure each door because I don't think many of them were the same.  Another reason why it was important to fix what was there instead of try to just swap them out.  Measure each door

Step 5 - drill holes through the end of the MDF into the door, and then glue/hammer in some dowels. I wasn't comfortable relying entirely on the glue.  After this, you'll get your sander out again and take the extra off of the ends of the MDF, and also off of the dowels.

Step 6 - (no photo, sorry!) apply sand-able putty to the back where the gap is because of the depth difference in the doors and the MDF.  You don't have to do this, if you aren't worried about being able to see the gap on the inside of the doors when you open them.

Step 7 - use an extra piece of MDF as a guide to trace a line all the way around the doors.  This will be the line you use to measure how long you should cut the outside of your trim pieces.  When you're cutting these, all the corners will be on a 45deg angle.  To make sure these came out as a square once they were all put together, I would measure the bottom one and then cut the top one to match the bottom (instead of measuring and cutting the top).  Then I'd measure the left, and match the right to it.

On some of the doors, I made a double square trim panel as they were so wide/huge that the trim piece would have looked flimsy and too "diy" if I had made only one big square.

Step 8 - put a little bit of glue on each piece of trim that you've cut, and line it up along the pencil mark that you traced on earlier.  I clamped mine on until the glue dried a bit, and then I used my nail gun to put a couple of nails down each trim piece to hold them for sure.

Step 9 - putty the nail holes on the trim, and any gaps that you might have in the corners that didn't line up exactly.  Also putty the seam on the front of the door between the MDF and the door piece itself (you'll see it when you prime the doors if you don't)

Step 10 - prime the doors, front back and all sides.  I used Zinsser BIN primer.  It was a bit stinky, and went on kind of like milk might (it was much thinner than paint) but all I had read said that this was the one to use for melamine cabinets.  Time will tell I guess.

From there, I returned them to my friend so that they could paint them and put on the door handles themselves.

And….. Taaaa Daaaa!!!!!

Posts to your inbox?   That's easy… simply enter your email here:
No spam, I promise, just Project Jumanji Love!


  1. Replies
    1. Crazy eh?! They did such a great job on it. They painted the doors, did the backsplash themselves and repainted the walls too. Original countertops and appliances (sink too)… and you can hardly tell!

  2. Wow, excellent work! I can see why they might not want to move. Doing yours next? L - D.

    1. Thanks! Mine is the next big project on the line… there's a few smaller ones first though. I think I've got the design finished, but need to do the dimensions and then figure out all the cuts and whatnot. Big project but exciting!