Like many homes, the kitchen is the hub of activity with a flurry of cooking, cleaning and maybe it even doubles as the homework center. Providing meals for family and friends bouncing in and out along with the endless cleaning leaves the cabinetry looking less than new after a period of time. Constant opening and closing of cabinet drawers and doors accompanied by the echo of “we have nothing to eat” while they go back and check eight more times puts much stress on drawer pulls and door knobs, not to mention the worn area around it. Many times cooking leaves a layer of grease and oils on the face of the cabinets which may stain them. Cleaning kitchen cabinetry with harsh cleansers and abrasive materials wears away the finish making the cabinets look awful. Impact damage from an errant hockey stick or baseball can leave dents, nicks, scratches and gouges on the surface. If your cabinets are made with a skin-like vinyl covering, exposure to the excess moisture from cooking or cleaning can cause the skin to bubble, lift and peel.

Designing a new kitchen and adding new cabinets is out of the budget for many families. Refinishing the cabinets is much less expensive and provides the same effect because everything looks new. There are several options available to restore and refinish the cabinets regardless of whether you have wood, laminate, veneer or painted cabinets, ranging from simple to a little complicated. As long as the cabinets are strong and sturdy, successful refinishing is possible.

Start all Refinishing Projects with a Good Cleaning

Fill a bucket with warm water and add a squirt or two of grease fighting dish detergent.

Submerge a nylon scrubbing sponge into the soapy water and wring out as much excess water as possible.

Scrub the surface of the cabinets, door by door, drawer by drawer and cabinetry frame by frame, with the soapy scrubbing sponge. Rinse the sponge often to remove grease, oils and dirt.

Immediately wipe the surface with a damp rag and then dry completely with a microfiber rag.

Cleaning the cabinets thoroughly gives you an opportunity to examine the cabinets and determine the stability, sturdiness and overall condition.

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If your cabinets don’t look bad after removing the layer of grime, simply adding new hardware can breathe a new life into your kitchen.

Remove the hinges with the appropriate screwdriver. Bring the hinges with you to the store to match up sizes and avoid having to drill new holes and fill in old holes on the cabinetry.

Remove the drawer pulls and knobs, which typically have screws holding them in place. Open the drawer and look inside to find the screw head.

Look for new knobs and pulls that match your décor or add a pop to the existing cabinets. Sometimes a flash of bold color is all you new to liven up the room. There are literally thousands of knob designs from which to choose including glass, stone, metals, plastics, resins or wood. Choose shapes based on your tastes. Knobs come as round button-like handle or shaped as spoons, lizards or airplanes. So much to choose from, have fun picking because you can always change them again.

Concealing Damage on Wood Cabinets Without a Lot of Work

Remove the drawer pulls and door knobs.

Carefully examine the cabinets looking for dents, nicks, scratches or gouges.

Fill in deep scratches, nicks and gouges with wood putty. Choose a wood putty that matches the color of the cabinets. If you can’t find an exact match, choose a color slightly lighter than the rest of the cabinetry.

Press the wood putty into the damaged area with a flexible putty knife or use an old spatula. Let the putty dry for two to three hours and sand the surface lightly to smooth it out with 320-grit sandpaper.

Conceal the wood putty repair with liquid scratch cover or a scratch covering crayon. These covers are typically made for wood furniture, but when it comes to repairs there is no difference.

Repairing Lifting Veneer

Typically veneer lifts around the edges and may break off leaving a jagged edge around the damaged area, if it is not fixed.

Carefully pull the veneer back and scrape the area under the veneer with a small metal scraper to remove old glue.

Paint a coat of hide glue onto the back of the lifted veneer and onto the substrate.

Press the veneer in place and put a C-clamp over the area to hold the veer firmly in place.

Wipe away excess glue with a damp rag.

After All Cleaning and Repairs – Refinish the Cabinetry

Painting Cabinets

If you have cabinets with a shiny laminate surface or other type of plastic or resin, gently rough up the surface with 220-grit sandpaper and wipe away all sanding dust.

Choose an enamel primer made expressly for its ability to grip shiny surfaces. Apply two coats of primer, let each one dry between coats.

Choose an enamel paint. Enamel paints provide more wear resistance than latex paints.

Consider stenciling a design on the face of the cabinetry to add a personalized touch. Put flowers, fruits, checkerboard designs or add your monogram to the corners.

Staining Wood Cabinets

Remove the doors and drawers from the cabinet framework. Take off the pulls and knobs.

Apply a stripper and scrape off the finish.

Coat the cabinets with a new color gel wood stain. Typically, your only option is to darken the cabinets. If you want them lighter, you will have to apply a wood bleach before staining.

Adding New Laminate

After removing the doors, drawers, pulls and knobs, heat the laminate with a heat gun or hair dryer to soften the glue.

Pry the laminate off the substrate.

By new laminate, cut it to size and glue it on with a laminate adhesive.

Adding a New Cabinet Skin

Peel the loose vinyl skin off the surface of the cabinet. If it is difficult to peel off, use the heat from a hair dryer to loosen the glue bond.

Cut a new skin to size.

Peel the corner off the back of the skin to reveal the self adhesive tacky side.

Line up the corner of the skin with the corner of the door or drawer and press it in place.

Use a flexible putty knife to smooth the skin and remove air bubbles.

Peel a little more of the backing away and press the skin down. Continue to alternate between peel the protective backing and smoothing the skin until the skin covers the cabinet.