Refreshing Your Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are in sound condition but are dingy, unstylish or just plain ugly, you usually don’t need to spend tons of money on brand-new cabinets. A number of less expensive options can refresh old cabinets, or even make them look brand new.


Refreshing Your Kitchen CabinetsDecades of accumulated dust and cooking grease can turn cabinet surfaces dull and grayish. Whether your cabinets are natural wood, painted or laminate, some aggressive but judicious scrubbing and rinsing may uncover their original good looks.

  • First try a mild cleaner and, if that doesn’t work, move on to stronger products. Test out-of-the-way areas first, to make sure you’re not removing wood finish or paint.
  • Cabinets near the range tend to accumulate layers of grease over the time. You may need a commercial-strength degreaser for them.
  • A solution of trisodium phosphate power (TSP) and water makes for a mild or powerful cleaner, depending on the concentration. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, or the surface will have a dull residue.
  • Scrub with a non-abrasive pad; steel wool can remove finishes and paints. Use plastic or wood scrapers to get at crevices.
  • Remove and soak hinges and pulls or knobs in a strong TSP solution. Once clean, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that they look brand new.

Replacing Hardware

Simply removing and replacing door and drawer knobs or pulls can provide an instant facelift. Consider replacing hinges as well for a subtle but noticeable improvement.

  • Home centers often carry a good selection of hardware, but check online sources as well for a vast array of options.
  • If you have pulls that are attached through two holes in the door or drawer face, make sure the new pulls are the same size, so you can reuse the holes. Filling, sanding and refinishing the old holes is time consuming, and the resulting patch may still be apparent.
  • If you have single-hole knobs, drilling the second holes for two-hole pulls is not difficult. However, measure and drill carefully — even a slight misalignment is obvious.
  • There are a wide variety of hinge types and sizes. Measure carefully, and perhaps take one of your hinges with you when you purchase new hinges, to make sure the new hinges will fit and cover all discolored areas.


Painting wood cabinets calls for no special skills, but because they’re on display, take care to produce a smooth and consistent painted surface. Most people choose to paint visible surfaces only, but you may choose to paint the insides as well. Alkyd-oil paint produces the smoothest finish and is the most scrubbable; acrylic paint is nearly as durable.

  1. In a spacious, well-ventilated area, set up a work space where you’ll paint the doors and drawers. Protect the floor with drop clothes and lay wood strips on the floor to raise the cabinet doors above the cloth — laying the doors flat to dry prevents drips.
  2. Remove the doors and drawers — it sounds like a lot of work but it saves time in the long run, and you’ll end up with a much neater job. Remove all hardware.
  3. To prepare the surfaces you plan to paint, clean them as described under “Cleaning,” above. Lightly sand glossy surfaces or apply a liquid deglosser according to label directions.
  4. Stand the drawers on end so you can paint their faces more easily. Lay the doors on the wood supports.
  5. If the cabinets have never been painted, apply a mildew-resistant interior primer to prevent the wood’s natural oils from bleeding through the paint. If you’re painting cabinets a dark color, ask the paint supplier to tint the primer — many do it for free — which can eliminate the need for a second coat of paint.
  6. Paint wide, smooth areas of the cabinets, door and drawers using a paint roller with a 1/4-inch nap and then paint narrow areas and crevices with a brush. Work to achieve consistent surfaces — slightly bumpy for the rolled areas and straight, neat brush strokes for the other areas. You can paint the insides of the cabinets or leave them unpainted.
  7. After the paint dries completely, flip the doors over and paint the other side.
  8. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly and then apply a second coat.
  9. Reinstall the doors and drawers and reattach pulls and knobs.


Sears and other companies offer cabinet refacing services . Refacing leaves the bones of your cabinets in place while replacing or covering every visible part for an entirely new appearance. A representative typically takes all the measurements and shows you of styles to choose from. The process is generally done in one day.

Steve Cory, author of many how-to books, painted his own kitchen cabinets six years ago and finds they still clean up nicely using a weak solution of dish soap and water.

© Copyright 2011, Sears Brands, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. I have arrangements for SEARS to reface my kitchen cabinets starting next week and after seeing some VERY BAD reviews I am getting REALLY scared!!! It is a lot of money although less than a remodel but I want to know that I made a good decision. I chose SEARS because of the long history of quality products and workmanship. Please can you send me to a site for some good reviews? I can't seem to find any and it worries me!


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