When you walk into a kitchen, what’s one of the first things you notice? The cabinets. Weaved into the interior design and function of the room, these essential storage units cover the walls of your kitchen and can have a major impact on the aesthetic appeal of the room. When your kitchen cabinets start to look run down, it can affect the entire look of the room and, in some cases, even impede the function of your cabinetry.
Depending on the age and condition of your kitchen cabinets, replacement may be a good option. But if your cabinets aren't that old or their problems are mainly cosmetic, there are a few steps you can take to refresh the look and function of your kitchen without completely replacing them.
If you're contemplating a kitchen refresh or even a total renovation, one of the first tasks of any kitchen remodel is to get an idea of what's out there. Just like any other space in your home, the kitchen is subject to trends and fads. Some come and go quickly, while others are more timeless. What you choose should depend on what you like, as well as your budget. After all, if you're on a tight budget, you may want to choose something that won't go out of style quickly and look out of date in a year or two.
Gone are the days when all of your kitchen cabinetry had to match. Contrasting dark and light cabinets is a trend that's catching on fast — and for a good reason! Consider doing darker lower cabinets and lighter uppers. Or, you can match uppers and lowers while using a contrasting kitchen island to change things up. This is especially good news for homeowners looking to refresh existing kitchen cabinets because it means there's less pressure to make sure everything matches perfectly.
Cabinets are an important feature in any kitchen, but upgrading your countertops can really allow existing cabinetry to shine. Consider a high-gloss quartz or granite to pick up the natural light flowing into your kitchen. Incorporating lighter countertops into a kitchen with dark cabinetry can also help brighten up existing cabinets and make your kitchen feel lighter and cleaner. In contrast, if you have lighter cabinets, consider adding dark countertops to offset the lighter colors above and underneath. Darker granite or quartz countertops offer a high-class look, but even a wood-grain countertop, such as a butcher block, can provide a beautiful and eye-catching complement to just about any kitchen.
Take a few moments to think about why you want to upgrade your kitchen cabinets. Is it just the way they look, or are you searching for more space? In some cases, adding shelving or storage drawers to existing cabinetry can improve the form and function of your kitchen, making it more liveable. If you can't do anything to your existing cabinets, consider incorporating a kitchen island or another piece of furniture to improve function and storage.
When's the last time you cleaned your kitchen cabinets?
Cleaning your kitchen cabinets, much as you would the countertops or appliances, is an essential interior maintenance chore that can revive the room’s appearance. Over time, grease, grime and food can build up on your kitchen cabinets, creating a greasy sheen or subtle discoloration that takes away from their original charm.
Depending on the material of your cabinets, you’ll need to tackle this cleaning project carefully. For real wood cabinets, use an oil-soap wood cleaner and gently wipe down the cabinets with a rag. This will cut through the grime without damaging the wood. Laminate cabinets are less sensitive, so you can use an all-purpose cleaner.
How often should you clean your cabinets?
For more details about cleaning cabinets, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cleaning and Caring for Finished Cabinetry.
Replacing older or outdated kitchen cabinets can be expensive. Check out some of our best DIY cabinet refresh ideas for ways to upgrade an outdated kitchen without breaking the bank.
Cleaning cabinets is important, but a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for your cabinets, especially if your goal is to brighten or modernize your kitchen in a cost-effective way. Painting your cabinets a bright, neutral shade will create the illusion of a larger and more contemporary space. Again, before tackling this project, make sure to study the material of your cabinets and do your research for the best paint type. It's also a good idea to confirm that your cabinets are structurally sound before you go through the expense and effort to paint them.
One mistake homeowners often make is assuming that you can paint cabinets the same way you'd paint a wall. But there's a little more to it than that. To paint cabinets properly, you'll need to select the right kind of paint. There's an ongoing debate over whether oil-based or latex paint is better for cabinetry. Latex paint drys faster and is easier to keep clean, but it takes longer to cure, meaning your cabinets will be more susceptible to damage for the first few weeks after you've painted them. On the other hand, oil-based paints create a stronger and smoother finish. Regardless of which paint you choose, be sure to do your homework and select the paint that will be best for your kitchen and your expertise before you begin.
Properly painting kitchen cabinets also requires the right tools. Professional painters recommend using a sprayer for cabinets because it produces a smoother, more even coat. However, if you don't own a paint sprayer or you haven't used one before, that can be an expensive and messy proposition. If you don't have easy access to a sprayer or want to avoid the mess, opt for synthetic bristle brushes. To get the edges and crevices, you'll want to have a 3-4" wide square brush and a 2.5-3" angled brush on hand. A foam roller is also helpful for the sides and edges.
If you like the existing wood grain cabinet doors and drawer fronts in your kitchen, rather than repainting or replacing the units, consider refinishing the cabinets to bring life back to their natural appearance. While this process often requires professional servicing, your cabinets will look good as new when the project is complete. This option will also help you achieve a high-end, customized look to your cabinets, instantly boosting the room’s appeal.
One of the great things about this option is that you'll most likely only need to do the faces of the cabinets to get the most out of this refresh. Stripping the old stain or lacquer and replacing it with a shiny new coat is a great way to bring life back into your wood grain kitchen cabinets. Adding that glossy look also helps them to reflect natural light and make your kitchen appear brighter.
This option is a good one if you've recently purchased a home with cabinets that didn't get a lot of TLC from their previous owner. You can purchase self-stick veneers to place over the top of the old cabinet facing to give them an updated look without much mess or expense. This option works best with partial-overlay doors, but it's doable with full-overlay doors too.
Cabinet door knobs and handles are a sadly overlooked design element that can make a huge difference in both the look and functionality of your kitchen cabinets. With endless options to choose from, including sleek metals, antique ceramics and natural wood knobs, you can add a unique flair to your cabinets, making the design custom to your personal taste.
In some cases, you may be able to choose replacement hardware that lines up with the existing holes. But if your cabinet doors didn't have hardware before or you're looking for something a little more dramatic, you can select something that covers up the old holes or use a template to guide the drilling of new holes.
However, just as with painting or staining existing cabinets, adding new hardware won't help if your cabinetry is in poor condition. Sure, it's cheaper than buying all new cabinets, but it's not the best use of your money if the problem is more than just aesthetics. Before you spend money on all-new hardware, inspect all of your cabinets carefully to ensure there aren't structural issues that need to be addressed.
Adding new hardware can really upgrade the look of kitchen cabinets, but it's not just about design. A hardware upgrade can also help make cabinets more functional. But choosing the wrong hardware can lead to discomfort or frustration in the kitchen. Before you select that gorgeous set of knobs or handles, test them out. Practice grabbing them just like you would in the kitchen. Do they feel good in your hand? Is there any pinching? Does it feel strong enough to stand up to constant use for years to come? Ensure that the hardware you like will be practical to use every single day.
Kitchen islands are both practical and pretty. When you add an island to a kitchen, it can draw the kitchen's layout together while also providing additional storage space that may be lacking in your existing cabinets.
Sometimes homeowners assume that the only way they can add a kitchen island to an existing design is to find one that matches their cabinetry. This isn't true! In many cases, a contrasting kitchen island can play off the existing kitchen design and soften what's already there. For example, a butcher-block island that's open underneath may make a kitchen look homier, especially if you have stone countertops and stainless steel appliances. Don't be afraid to experiment with a different design or color.
Your kitchen lighting might not be doing you any favors. If your light fixtures are outdated or hung in the wrong place, they can make your kitchen cabinets look old and dark. Replacing or adding lights to your kitchen is a great way to achieve a new look and make things look more modern, especially if your cabinets are already a lighter finish. Installing undercabinet lighting can make a huge difference and add some drama to your existing kitchen decor — and it makes it easier to see while you're cooking too!
Before you redesign your entire kitchen, take a look around. Is there an empty wall that could use a sideboard or hutch? Do you have a window with space underneath for a bench seat? Adding cabinetry can be both beautiful and functional, creating a fresh, new look in your kitchen and providing additional storage and space to cook. While a decent furniture piece or set of cabinets may cost you several hundred dollars, it's certainly cheaper than gutting your kitchen and starting over.
Many people mistakenly believe a sideboard or other piece of freestanding furniture needs to match their existing cabinetry. However, purchasing a new piece of furniture for your kitchen is a great opportunity to find something that complements what you already have and gives it the update it needs. For example, if you have dark cabinetry, consider a lighter sideboard. Or, if your cabinets are white, look for a sideboard that's painted a dark color or stained in a darker wood stain. Furniture today comes in a wide array of colors and stains, but if you can't find just what you're looking for, it's relatively simple to purchase an unfinished piece and then finish it exactly how you want it.
If you're handy with tools, you can also consider purchasing unfinished cabinetry and putting it together to create exactly what you want. Add unique hardware and feet on the bottom, and you have an inexpensive, simple custom piece ready to take your kitchen from good to great!
Cabinets that won’t close or show severe signs of damage can age your kitchen, even after you’ve taken care to refresh the space. Replacing any damaged cabinet doors or drawer fronts can restore your kitchen to its original glory. Some sources – such as Cabinet Doors ‘N’ More – even offer individual replacement cabinetry components, providing you with the cost-effective opportunity to upgrade only those cabinets with critical damage.
How can you tell if your cabinet drawers and doors need to be replaced?
If you find yourself without the space you need to store dishes or cook dinner, refinishing cabinet doors won't solve your problem. If a kitchen layout is ineffective or won't work for you, then it's time to look into a renovation that will allow you to reconfigure your cabinets. What does this look like? If your cabinets are too high to reach what you need or doors slam into each other if you open more than one, that's a good sign that your kitchen layout isn't functional. If drawers make noise when you open them or get stuck rolling along the track, that might also mean the layout isn't working.
If your cabinets are swollen, show signs of mold or don't close properly, they could have water damage. Refinishing a cabinet or replacing the door won't get rid of water damage, and you'll continue to have problems. If you can identify the source of the leak and correct it quickly enough, you may be able to repair or replace the part of the cabinet that's been damaged, but if a leak has been left unattended for some time, the damage may be too extensive to repair.
Push on the sides of your kitchen cabinets. If they feel soft or flexible in any way, the structure of the cabinet itself is likely compromised. Simply putting a new door on this existing box will only cover up a big problem. Take some time to look at the cabinet box — the sides, top, floor and framing. If these parts show signs of damage, cracks or mold or are becoming soft, it's time to replace the entire cabinet and not just the door.
If your kitchen cabinets have been around for a while, it's a good idea to check them out to determine whether they're structurally sound. Older custom cabinets were built to last, but even solid wood doesn't maintain its integrity forever. If you own a home with old cabinetry and it's showing its age, then it might be time to replace it altogether.
For new, replacement cabinet doors, drawer fronts, drawer boxes and all of your cabinet remodeling needs, turn to the leader in the online kitchen cabinetry industry – Cabinet Doors ‘N’ More. You can order as little as one cabinet door front for a quick repair or a multitude of cabinet components for a large-scale project. Whatever you need, we have the custom, high-quality replacement cabinet doors, drawers and drawer fronts you need for your DIY project.
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