Improve Your Kitchen

Is your old kitchen looking tired and worn? Have you thought about renovating to give it a new look? If so, I would like to share our experiences that we had renovating our kitchen so you will not make the same mistakes .

If your house is old like ours, then expect warped walls and uneven flooring. This will cause more problems to make everything level. It was a real headache for us having to grind and patch them to make it right. Although if yours is a brick home you should not have as many problems.

Renovating: Old cupboardsCredit: © T Photos

This is how our old cupboards looked plus they had one white top and a Blue one

We are in our seventies and it was hard work. It took us ten weeks to finish the job. If we had known how much work it took to completely strip every cupboard down to the bare wood and rebuild and paint, if honest we would not do it again.

Do Your Research

Hidden Behind Cupboards

Expect the Unexpected

We intended to strip all the paint off the cupboards and then repaint. Simple, I wish. When we moved a cupboard we found mice dirt underneath, so we took the cupboards outside to clean and strip. This is when we found that half the walls and backs of the cupboards were no longer there or badly damaged. That was an unexpected and extra cost having to replace them.

Renovation: Replaced old walls with newCredit: © T Photos

Our cupboards were in poor condition as one top was white the other one blue. Plus drawers had broken fronts so had to renew them. Two drawers had a false front so we rebuilt the drawers back to new.

What You Need to Strip Paint

  • We used Paint stripper on cupboards and caustic soda for the drawers and doors. When using caustic soda - wear gloves and use a big container to put them in.
  • Sander and grinder – Plus sanding papers both rough and fine.
  • Paint - undercoat and top finish – Buy enough paint before you start, and stick to the same brand of paint.
  • Paint Brushes
  • Rollers and paint tray - If using a roller on doors use a thin nap roller to avoid orange peel effect or finish with a brush.
  • Tarp to protect floor if renovating inside the kitchen
  • Paint scraper
  • Water wash or hose with good pressure
  • Masking tape

Preparation and Removing Paint

Renovating: Caustic BathCredit: © TPhotos

We removed the doors, their catches, handles and the drawers. Wear gloves before you start as caustic soda is harmful to the skin. Then one at a time dip each door or drawer into the bath of caustic soda until paint blisters. Ours had about 8 coats of paint so needed longer. Use a paint scraper to remove paint, then wash under pressure hose. Warning: Be careful not to use too high a pressure on the timber as you could damage or splinter it.

Renovating: Stripping the paint of doorsCredit: © T Photos

We used paint remover on the kitchen cabinets. Leave until it blisters then scrape off and remove the stubborn paint with a grinder or sander.

Once we had removed the paint off our doors and drawers we found beautiful pine wood on the cupboard doors and  Jarah drawers. I would have loved to keep the natural timber but not two different types. Once all paint is removed, sand all the surfaces before painting and use a filler to fill any holes or imperfections. 

Choosing the Type of Paint to Use

Oil or Water Based Paints

Before starting, choose which type of paint to use. An oil based paint requires turpentine to clean up and wash the brushes in. We chose the water based paint as you can clean up by washing under a tap.

Paint the cabinets first. Always undercoat as you have sanded the surface down to bare wood. Then finish with the top coat.

Renovating: Taped doors for two tone paintCredit: © T Photos

I would recommend painting one side of each door first and allow good drying time before applying the second coat. When dry turn over and paint the other side. Paint if possible in a clean wind and dust free area. We had problems with the wind and dust when painting. Now undercoat the drawers, when dry paint with finishing coat.

If using two colors, I recommend buying leak proof tape to help on the edges. Although we still had a few leaks so nothing is perfect. Fix handles and catches on and attach doors to cabinet.

Renovating- Finished the CupboardsCredit: © T Photos

How to Rebuild the Drawers

Replacing the Face of Drawer

If the face of drawer has damage, then with a bit of luck you can remove it and replace it with a new one. Ours was only nailed so the front came off easy. You can go to a joiner and have a new one made or cut a piece of wood the same size then angle the edges and nail and glue back into place.

Renovating: Cutting dovetailsCredit: © T Photos

Remaking a Drawer

The previous owner cut the backs off two of the drawers and nailed the fronts back in place. That was okay, although we wanted the extra drawer space. So we decided to rebuild them. These particular drawers were made with dove tail joints, which created a lot more work. My husband is pretty stubborn so he found a way of remaking them using the old pattern. It was a tedious job cutting the pieces out a bit out at the time, careful not the break the ends off. Then even harder to fit them back into one another.

Renovating: Cutting slide grooveCredit: © T Photos

The next step was using a router to cut a groove in the sides and back piece to fit the base of the drawers. Once this was done he had to make sure the drawer was square.  He then glued it and clamped the sides together so they would not move and nailed in place.  He slid the base into place when dry and fixed with small nails. We also replaced the new bases in all the drawers. Now it is time to paint them.

Renovating - Fitting togetherCredit: © T Photos

Conclusion: I found the hardest part of all this was removing the cupboards and taking them down three steps into the back yard. In the back of my mind I knew we had to lift them back up those steps and refit them.  Jarah timber is very heavy and I knew I could not lift it.  Which made us think at times we would never finish this huge job.

If we can survive doing all this work, I am sure others can do it too. 

Renovating- Fitting drawer togetherCredit: © T Photos