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HOW TO


CABINET UPGRADE
REMODELING A KITCHEN can be a major expense. If you are generally satisfied with the layout of your existing cabinets, you can save a lot of money-and get a brand new look-by simply refacing the cabinets.
Parts of the cabinets to upgrade/replace
include:
• Doors and drawer faces
• Pulls, hinges, and hardware
• Finishes (paints, stains, clear finishes)
Replacing an old countertop to match the look of your upgraded cabinets is a good way to rejuvenate your kitchen (and take advantage of newer countertop materials). Some older countertops don't need to be replaced, just resurfaced.

FITTING DOOR & DRAWER FACES
Cabinet doors and drawer faces can be made to fit flush with the face frame, or to overlap it (Fig. 1).
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While inset doors require great precision and careful refinishing of cabinet frames, overlapping styles are easier to install and can hide out-of square openings. Full overlay hinges also allow the door to completely cover the face frame or, on European frameless cabinets, the edges. Concealing these perhaps less-than-perfect surfaces can be an advantage when you are doing a face lift. This page deals primarily with the overlay style.
While inset and lipped doors require pulls or speciality catches, overlay doors may be opened with handles (pulls) or, on contemporary styles, by simply pulling on the exposed edge. Wherever possible, choose a hinge that allows full 180 degree opening.
DESIGN OPTIONS
When deciding how to change the look of your kitchen, consider the following suggestions:
• Visit kitchen showrooms and pick out cabinets (especially doors and drawer faces) that you are attracted to.
• Look through kitchen books and magazines. Photocopy or clip out examples of workable styles. Focus on changing the colors, style, and overall look of the cabinets (not their layout).
• Compare costs of replacement options.

Iron-on wood veneer is an easy way to cover plywood edges. Veneers are available to match most species of hardwood plywood.
FACE MATERIALS
The easiest way to upgrade cabinets is to change cabinet doors and drawer faces. You can buy prefinished doors and drawer faces in a wide range of styles from home stores or kitchen cabinet manufacturers, or you can make your own.
Choosing Materials. Although new faces can be made out of solid wood, most do-it-yourselfers prefer using plywood or particleboard. Manufactured sheet materials are easily cut to any size, and are more stable than solid wood.
Plywood is available with face veneers made out of softwood as well as common hardwoods, including oak, birch, maple, walnut, and cherry.

Use carpenter's yellow glue to adhere solid wood edging to plywood panels. Make the edging about 1/4inch wider than the thickness of the panel. Hold the edging in place with masking tape until the glue cures. Then use a handplane or sandpaper to bring the edging flush to the panel surface.
Particleboard by itself is unattractive and easily damaged, but sheets of particleboard with a melamine veneer are relatively inexpensive, durable, and easy to clean. This material looks like plastic laminate and gives a sleek "European style" look to your kitchen.
The exposed edges of plywood and melamine-veneered particleboard are unattractive and easily chipped and dented. You can cover the edges with strips of solid wood or iron-on veneer tape. Veneer tape is made out of real wood, including common hardwoods, as well as different colors of melamine.


Door/drawer faces layout on plywood.
Estimating Materials. Follow these steps to estimate the materials you'll need to make your own door and drawer faces.
• Measure the height, width, and thickness of all drawer and door openings. Add 1/4 inch or more in all directions for overlapping faces. Round off sizes to whole inches.
• Draw a plan showing how the existing cabinets look from the front and side. Mark your measurements on the plan.
• Determine if the new doors and drawer faces will fit exactly like the old ones (flush versus overlapping).
Note:
Cabinet frames that are out of square are best replaced with overlapping faces.
• Calculate the surface areas in inches (length x width) for each face and add the totals.
• Convert square inches to square feet by dividing the total by 144 (the number of square inches in one square foot).
• Divide the total square feet by 32, the number of square feet in a standard 48 sheet of plywood or particleboard.
Note: If using plywood, lay out and cut door/drawer faces on a standard 48 sheet of plywood (Fig. 4). Drawer faces are usually oriented with the grain running horizontally; orient doors so that the grain runs vertically.
• Add 15 percent to the total for waste and mistakes and round up to the nearest whole 48 sheet.
• Order two hinges and one pull per door or drawer face (pulls are optional).

Calculating Amount of Edging. If you will be covering the edges of doors and drawer faces with solid-wood trim or veneer tape, calculate the amount you'll need:
• Add the length and width of each door and drawer face. Multiply by 2.
• Add all totals and divide by 12 inches.
• Order edging in lineal feet.


CUTTING DOORS & FACES
A table saw is the best tool for cutting doors and drawer faces from particleboard or plywood. Use a carbide-tipped blade designed for sheet goods. Melamine-veneered particleboard can easily chip, so use a blade designed to cut smoothly through the surface.

Table Saw Preparations. Large sheets are hard to handle and cut by yourself. Get some help, and use a table saw with at least a 24-inch table surface. If you have a smaller bench saw, make a temporary plywood extension table supported by sawhorses. Shim the table to the right height. Clamp the extension to both the saw table and sawhorses. (Fig. 5).

A table saw extension made of plywood and supported with sawhorses.
This extension allows you to safely cut a full 4x8-foot sheet without it falling off the table after a cut. Rub paraffin wax on the plywood extension surface so the sheets slide easily.

Layout and Cutting:
• Lay out the cut lines for your faces on a full sheet of the material you're using. It is often best to cut your first pieces slightly oversized. You can later cut the individual pieces-which are easier to handle-to exact size.
Note: Carefully examine the factory edges of the sheet. They should be straight and unblemished. If they are rough or dented, you'll have to plan your cutting so that you can rip these edges, leaving a smooth surface for the edging.
• Clear away any debris, cords, or other obstacles that you could trip on while operating the saw.
• Provide adequate ventilation to the area and protect living spaces from fine dust.
• Wear eye and ear protection, as well as a good dust mask or respirator.
• With the saw off, check that the blade is square to the saw table (perfectly vertical). Set the blade height about 1/4 inch more than the thickness of the material. • Position the sheet on the saw table, away from the blade.
• Start the saw. Allow the blade to reach full rpm before running the sheet through. Make the cut, using a helper to help to catch the offcuts.
Note: Allow the blade to cut on its own. Do not force the sheet through the saw. Prevent binding and kickback by feeding the sheet straight and evenly.
• Test-fit the first piece (remember to allow for edging). Adjust the saw fence if necessary.
• Cut all same-sized pieces before changing the fence position.

ADDING DECORATIVE MOLDING
You can use decorative molding to dress up the face of solid panel doors and drawer fronts. An attractive molding to use is "base cap" which usually is used atop wall baseboards in traditional house trim.

• Lay out the position of the molding's inside edge onthe panel as shown in Fig. 6. An easy way to do this is to set a combination square to the desired distance from the panel edges. Place a pencil against the end of the square's ruler (Most combination-square rulers have a notch for this). Run the body of the square along the panel edges to mark the layout lines.
• Cut and install the molding pieces. Use a back saw and a miter box to make the miter cuts on the ends of each molding piece. Cut one of the four pieces. Pre-drill the molding so it won't split, then attach it to the panel with glue and brads. Cut an adjoining piece to fit and attach it. Continue until all four pieces are attached.

INSTALLING DOORS
• Remove old doors. If you are reusing the hinges and the new door will be the same size as the original, leave the hinge attached to the face frame.
• If you are using new hinges (Fig. 7) and covering the face frame with an overlapping door, remove the door and hinge from the face frame. Patch the face frame, if needed, before installing a new door.

Hinges contribute to the overall look of cabinets. Replacing surface hinges with hidden ones, for example, can make the cabinets look entirely different.
• Add edging to the door and attach two new hinges on the hinge side of the door. Space the top and bottom hinges equally 2 to 5 inches from the ends, depending upon door size (flush-fitting doors skip this step).
Note:
Use the screws that come with the hinges and make sure that they do not penetrate through the front door surface.
• Build a jig to hold upper cabinet doors a set height off the countertop (Fig. 8). Most upper cabinets are positioned 15 to 18 inches above the countertop. (Flush-fitting doors need a support to hold them off the countertop when swung open and not yet secured to hinges.)
• Align the door and mark the hinge locations with a pencil. (Flush-fitting doors are set inside frame and checked for fit. The door may need to be recut to fit.)
• Slide the jig outward to support the door at least half-open. Swing the hinges from the door to the face frame. Drill a pilot hole and install one screw in each hinge. (Flush-fitting doors have hinges already on face frame. Carefully swing door open and mark location of hinge plate and attach to door as above.)

A jig is helpful for holding the door a set height off the countertop.
Note: Adjustment holes in hinges are elongated to allow for minor adjustments.
• Close the door and test the fit. An overlapping door will hide any imperfections in the face-frame opening. The door should look even and in alignment with neighboring doors. (Flush-fitting doors may need to be cut at irregular angles to fit. There should be a 1/8-inch reveal around all edges to allow for easy swing.)
• Double doors should have an even reveal between the meeting edges, approximately I/8 inch (same for flush-fitting).
• Base cabinet doors are mounted the same way, but use shorter jigs to hold them in position.

INSTALLING DRAWER FACES
New overlapping drawer faces can easily be secured to existing flush-fitting faces. You don't have to remove the old drawer faces; simply screw the new faces over the old ones.
Flush mount drawers are more difficult to replace. Often the drawer is held together by the face and you may need to rebuild the entire drawer from scratch or add on an overlapping face.
The procedures below describe how to cut and mount new overlapping faces over existing flushfitting faces:
• Cut drawer faces to cover existing flush-mount faces and overlap frame (allow for edging, if necessary).
• Apply edge trim.
• Plane or adjust old drawers so that they glide easily. Remove pulls, catches, and other obstructions.

Detail of an overlapping drawer to an existing flush-fitting drawer face.
• Put two pieces of double-stick tape on the face of each old drawer face. Align the new overlapping face over the old face and stick the two together. Carefully check the overlap and alignment and adjust if necessary.
• Remove the old drawer and set it face down on the back of the new face. From inside the drawer, screw through the old face into the back of the new face (Fig. 9). Size your screws so they don't penetrate the surface of the new face. Use 2 to 4 screws, depending on the size of the face.
• Continue installing drawer faces working from the bottom to the top. Maintain an even reveal and make sure there is sufficient space between doors and drawers for fingers if pulls are not used.


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