Put a new face on your kitchen cabinets
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Wed., Oct. 12, 2011
There are any number of home remodeling and decorating shows on TV which offer opinions on increasing the value of your home to attract a potential buyer. Among the areas that are considered critical selling points is the kitchen.
If you cannot afford installing a ceramic tile floor and granite countertop to match current design trends, at least update the walls and upgrade your existing kitchen cabinets. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to tear out the existing cabinets and install new ones. There are several choices you can make that will keep the upgrade within your price range, while at the same time limiting the work to your DIY project skill set.
Home decorators and TV show experts often recommend changing out the hardware as a minimum for a quick fix. It updates the cabinets right away, and if the finish is acceptable, that may be all you really need to do. Combined with other changes in the kitchen, it can modify the entire look of the room from informal to formal. Inexpensive knobs and hinges will cost you $3 to $5 each, while more robust hardware and designer pieces fall into the $8 to $20 price range.
Refinishing cabinets to most people means scrubbing them down and slapping on a new coat of paint. Almost anyone can achieve this level, and the cost is by far the lowest. To do a really thorough job, though, you might actually take more time and effort, and sink a few hundred dollars into the upgrade.
Staining your kitchen cabinet surfaces is a much more time-consuming project. It also requires a bit more expertise than just painting. But whether you paint or stain, these most economical alternatives will take a fair amount of time.
Doors, drawers and shelves are the elements of the kitchen storage units that take most of the day-to-day abuse, and after several years, a new coat of paint or stain is not going to make much improvement. The next level of upgrade entails putting a new face on the cabinets. Refacing not only means that you will paint or stain them, you will also take off the old doors and drawer fronts, replacing them with new ones that add a new surface and maybe upgrade them with a design or decoration. Depending on the type and original quality of your cabinets, you might also add or replace some of the shelves.
Before you decide to step up to this level of cabinet upgrade, determine how well your cabinet boxes are made. They should be made of solid wood, and if they incorporate plywood or composition board, every section should be in good condition. If they show signs of warping or swelling from water, heat and humidity, either replace them altogether or make do with a less expensive facelift and let it go at that.
Well-made cabinets, like your furniture, have mortise and tenon joints and/or high-quality adhesives, fasteners and hardware. There is no sense to installing brand new doors on a cabinet that is no longer holding its shape.
If the surfaces of your cabinets in your opinion are too far gone to merit one of the less expensive upgrades, consider resurfacing them. That is more than just a coat of paint or stain. It means applying a new surface entirely. This type of DIY project is not only more expensive, it is time-consuming, and it requires a skill level akin to that of a woodworker. There are basically a couple of alternatives at this level.
Wood veneer is a man-made product that allows you to change the wood grain and color of your cabinets. If your cabinets are made of good quality wood, but you want a new appearance, you can change the wood surface from one type to another. Your old birch cabinets can be transformed into cherry, as an example. After you apply the veneer, you will need to stain or paint the new surfaces. Stripping painted cabinets, applying a wood veneer to the boxes, the doors and the drawer fronts and staining them will give the kitchen an entirely new look that rivals brand new and much more expensive cabinets.
Another resurfacing alternative, laminate, is a lot like veneer, in that it is very thin and flexible, and offers the potential for a significant change in the final look of the cabinets. But laminates are made by compressing a number of layers of paper and incorporating another material, usually some type of plastic. Melamine is a wood composition board with a finish similar to laminate. The laminate manufacturing process has become so sophisticated that the products can simulate a wood grain very closely.
If you like challenge and want to make a real impact on the cabinets in your kitchen, resurfacing with either wood veneer or laminate is the best alternative.