Should I try to reface my kitchen cabinets?

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I hope everybody in here does not filter out all G-Mail users... :o)
My wife and I were thinking about installing a new kitchen. We are procrastinators so, of course, it has taken us a long time to pull the trigger. now all this *crap* has happened and I don't want to go through the hassle of getting a home improvement loan, especially when I am looking at a kid in college in less than two years and another one on his heels. Now isn't the time to take out any sort of loan.
But the problem is that we *REALLY* need to do something with the kitchen as it can't stay the way it is for much longer. We at least need to buy some new appliances. The wife wants new cabinets as the ones that are in the house are ugly and old and cheap and, well, plain nasty. Most of our, ahem, discussions over the past year-and-a-half have been over what we want in a cabinet: I want wooded ones that are stained and sealed and she wants them to be painted white. The easiest thing to do now would be to paint the stupid ones we have white but I don’t think that is an option.
Did I mention these cabinets were cheap? Well, they are covered with a thick laminate that makes it look like a real dark oak and it is shiny and looks just like Formica (probably because it IS Formica). I know of no paint that would stick to it so I have not even tried to paint them.
But today I got a "Eureka!" moment that I think will work but I am not 100% sure...that is where I need help. What if I found decent 1/4" plywood and skin the cabinets using small brads and paint the stupid things white? I don't want a white kitchen but this seems like it will save us a lot of money. I think I will need to buy new door and drawer fronts as I am pretty sure I will not be able to removes the molding that goes around the perimeter and everything is wrapped in that awful Formica crap. Throw a new Formica countertop on, slap some paint on the wall, and install a new light fixture and you have a new look kitchen (sort of) that will last 8-10 years.
Not a permanent solution but it may take 8-10 years to get out of this mess we are currently in economically. We almost need additional cabinet space as well as countertop space but if we lived with what we have this long, we can live a little longer with what we have.
I will have to buy twelve standard size doors, two smaller doors, five small drawer fronts, and two larger drawer fronts. We will need a few sheets of paint grade pine plywood (would luan work??). New hardware for the doors and drawers. New appliances. A new countertop. And some paint. I figure I can get away with only a fraction of what we would spend if we did it right.
Will facing the cabinets in this way be worth it? Or am I just kidding myself? I don't see that it would be that hard. Should I oversize the pieces and then use a router to trim around all the exterior sides and inside the openings? Or would I cut everything to size correctly before I start?
My last problem may be a doozie. I am not 100% sure but I am reasonably sure, that my countertop was connected to the cabinets using Liquid Nails. I have always been afraid to really look hard because I was afraid I may be right but I think I feel the stuff up there and I am cringing thinking I may not be able to change that countertop....
If they used Liquid Nails, is there a snowball's chance in hell that I can remove the countertop??
TIA
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Might finally be a valid reason for that old saying of "putting lipstick on a pig" that's got so much press lately. ;)
CAUTION: no one here (although some will sure try) can give you a definitive answer until the state of the underlying cabinets themselves is known. Read the last half of that sentence, two or three times, carefully!
ONLY then can you begin to work on a solution. If the cabinets (we're talking the actual boxes themselves) are truly "crap", they might not even stand up to your proposed retrofit.
Your best option is to call in local cabinetmakers/refinishers for a professional bid. It should not cost you anything, and by getting three or four _written_ bids (specifying all the work to be accomplished, including finishing and cleanup), you should have a better understanding of the real state of your cabinets and what can realistically be done with them.
Caveat emptor: watch out for fly-by-night folks, look for longevity in the business, and by all means check out _required_ references.
That is your first step. Let us know what you find out, then the advice you get may actually have a chance of being something you can use.
Just my tuppence, as both a builder and kitchen cabinetmaker/installer ...
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...now now.......
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[ snipped good advice]

As most of my business is word-of-mouth, I still get the odd request for a reference. These days I'm cocky enough to ask them: "would you like a good reference or a bad reference?" When I see them mull that over, I usually see a light come on in their head...and they 'get it'.
The requests I do take seriously, is when they ask to see my work. Then I gladly send them to some of my customers. Most of the time, I will have installed the same colour they are interested in.
I also send them to see any of a dozen displays at several local kitchen and bath dealers. That is where I suggest they buy the taps, or sinks if they don't like the undermount sinks that I have on display in my showroom...such as it is..
The underlying message is that it is a good idea to ask for references unless you run into a smartass. <G>
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I also had some old cabinets. Mine were made of Philipine Mahagony. Not only that, they were carpenter made on site. I covered the sides with 1/8 ash. I removed the face frames and replaced them with ash. I bought new doors to replace the old ones. The original countertop was tile which I replaced. It would have been cheaper to remove the old cabinets and replace them with new. It would also have been quicker. Jim
I hope everybody in here does not filter out all G-Mail users... :o)
My wife and I were thinking about installing a new kitchen. We are procrastinators so, of course, it has taken us a long time to pull the trigger. now all this *crap* has happened and I don't want to go through the hassle of getting a home improvement loan, especially when I am looking at a kid in college in less than two years and another one on his heels. Now isn't the time to take out any sort of loan.
But the problem is that we *REALLY* need to do something with the kitchen as it can't stay the way it is for much longer. We at least need to buy some new appliances. The wife wants new cabinets as the ones that are in the house are ugly and old and cheap and, well, plain nasty. Most of our, ahem, discussions over the past year-and-a-half have been over what we want in a cabinet: I want wooded ones that are stained and sealed and she wants them to be painted white. The easiest thing to do now would be to paint the stupid ones we have white but I don’t think that is an option.
Did I mention these cabinets were cheap? Well, they are covered with a thick laminate that makes it look like a real dark oak and it is shiny and looks just like Formica (probably because it IS Formica). I know of no paint that would stick to it so I have not even tried to paint them.
But today I got a "Eureka!" moment that I think will work but I am not 100% sure...that is where I need help. What if I found decent 1/4" plywood and skin the cabinets using small brads and paint the stupid things white? I don't want a white kitchen but this seems like it will save us a lot of money. I think I will need to buy new door and drawer fronts as I am pretty sure I will not be able to removes the molding that goes around the perimeter and everything is wrapped in that awful Formica crap. Throw a new Formica countertop on, slap some paint on the wall, and install a new light fixture and you have a new look kitchen (sort of) that will last 8-10 years.
Not a permanent solution but it may take 8-10 years to get out of this mess we are currently in economically. We almost need additional cabinet space as well as countertop space but if we lived with what we have this long, we can live a little longer with what we have.
I will have to buy twelve standard size doors, two smaller doors, five small drawer fronts, and two larger drawer fronts. We will need a few sheets of paint grade pine plywood (would luan work??). New hardware for the doors and drawers. New appliances. A new countertop. And some paint. I figure I can get away with only a fraction of what we would spend if we did it right.
Will facing the cabinets in this way be worth it? Or am I just kidding myself? I don't see that it would be that hard. Should I oversize the pieces and then use a router to trim around all the exterior sides and inside the openings? Or would I cut everything to size correctly before I start?
My last problem may be a doozie. I am not 100% sure but I am reasonably sure, that my countertop was connected to the cabinets using Liquid Nails. I have always been afraid to really look hard because I was afraid I may be right but I think I feel the stuff up there and I am cringing thinking I may not be able to change that countertop....
If they used Liquid Nails, is there a snowball's chance in hell that I can remove the countertop??
TIA
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On Thu, 2 Oct 2008 11:10:11 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I think you should compare replacing the existing with middle to low end cabinets. It might actually cost less. And they would be new.

Not necessarily possible (post router trim) with the cabinets installed.

Common practice with HPL tops is to use screws into gusset plates in the corner. Look under and see if that is not the case. You might be surprised. It took me about ten minutes to remove mine.

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I agree with Senor Swing. Especially the part about the cabinets NOT withstanding the work you propose. You should investigate exactly what you have now, and then figure out exactly what the cost of materials will be to get what you want to extend the life of the cabinets.
To expand on his thoughts a bit, if you put a nicer door on the carcass of old cabinets, it will probably be heavier. Heavier means new hinges, which you no doubt considered. But will the stiles hold a heavier hinge? I have worked on cabinets that have MDO and some kind of HDF that was cut into styles and have been foiled (low pressure laminate covered - probably what you have) and they won't hold larger or more aggressive screws.
Most of the cabinets have been designed, and yes, actually engineered so that all parts are no stronger than they have to be. If you "guild the lilly" with nice new cosmetic like doors and drawers, or possibly even just faces alone you might discover just how cheap they are if the extra weight pulls the cabinets apart.
If I were you, I would consider a cheaper option. Find someone that sprays coatings, not paint, coatings and have them come take a look.
Contrary to popular belief, coatings will stick to plastic (again, no paints I know of). They make coatings that stick to anything. As long as it isn't that HDPE or its cousins, you will be fine. BUT, you will wind up with a solid color, no wood grain. But hey... white is in again anyway!
As a sidebar, I am beginning a full kitchen cabinet refinish next week. The cabinets are dark oak that are quite ugly. But the cost of similar quality to these well made 20 year old cabinets was more than the owner could bear. Her cheapest estimate for removal, rebuild, finish and installation was 23K. Solid doors and drawer fronts, solid oak rail and styles, all custom made just like the old stuff. With that number in mind, we are refinishing them all.
Here's how:
- Wash all components clean - Sand everything - Spray one coat of primer - Spray three coats of Coronado high resin industrial coating on each component (this stuff can be used on wood, fiberglass, metal, just about anything. Not badly priced for what you get, expect about $55 a gallon)
With new quartz tops, removal of the old wall paper, updated cabinet and door hardware to brushed nickel and a little crown molding, it ought to look great.
To find someone that can apply industrial coatings if you don't want to take a whack at it yourself, it is easier than you might think. If you have a tub/ceramic tile refinishing company of repute in your area, call them. Sand down the plastic as needed to suit them yourself to save money.
They have the proper primers, surface prep materials, etc. to get it done right. They may be able to apply their finish right over the top of the cabs and components as their finish is no more than another high resin epoxy coating. Sturdy enough to stand hot water, soaps, cleaning, etc., it could be the ticket for a few years.

Only you will know when you find out. If you are having the tops replaced, you might want to have the top guys take a look at it for you. They see anything you can imagine (including someone like me that used to glue and screw multiple layers of plywood to cabinets and THEN put the plastic on) almost every day.
As always, just my 0.02. Okay, maybe a nickel this time...
Good luck!
Robert
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wrote:

AS do I.

The trick is to make a kitchen look like a $ 23,000.00 kitchen for under $ 10K rather than spending $ 23K for a kitchen that looks like a $ 10K kitchen, which seems to be the case lately. If you're diligent, and ask around, you can do miracles for under $ 10K. $ 5K for cabinets, $ 5K for a top... and a bit of sweat equity.
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"Robatoy" wrote:

The OP should try hard to find someone like Royce Stanton locally. Royce is local to us here in Houston and the miracle he performs on kitchens just by refinishing/painting has to be seen to be fully appreciated:
http://brightkitchen.com/splash.htm
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On Oct 2, 2:10 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Swing and Nail give good advice. Lately, I have been doing some countertops for customers who took the plunge and bought some Ikea kitchen cabinets. It surprised me to see that, if installed properly, the quality is certainly good value... aka a lot of bang for your buck. You can do the design right on line and they'll ship it all flat, to your door. They are not (and how could they be) the same quality as many of our Wreckers could build, but if your time is worth anything, take a close look at Ikea. (I shudder at the thought of suggesting Mill's Pride from Home Despot, but even that product can look good if installed properly.)
Lipstick on a pig, gilding the lily, and my favourite (translated from Dutch) a flag on a manure barge.
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Lipstick on a pig. I actually never thought of it in that sense but you are exactly right.
Somebody said to look at the state of the underlying cabinet. They are structurally sound and even the laminate is not peeling in all but one door under the sink which probably gets used more than any other door in the kitchen.
But whenever somebody else said that a lot of stuff is built to only hold whatever door is already there and that hit me right between the eye. I was thinking about replacing the doors but now I am not so sure anymore. I do believe he is right and my lipsticked pig would fall flat on its face in the mud.
I have been looking at alternatives like having somebody spray them but then I would be getting into money that would be better off being used to buy new cabinets.
I tried to talk the wife into letting me make them because it can't be that hard to build a box. I was going to buy all the doors and drawer fronts because I am nowhere near good enough to build that stuff. But she was adamant that I don't make them. She doesn't think I cannot do it but, it's, a, because I start all projects like a house on fire and then I am the world's greatest procrastinator. Plus I don't have enough room in the house to store the wood or, orse, the cabinets as I build them.
I sort of like the Ikea idea. I jsut want it to be "good enough" for the time being (if I can talk her into it). She sort of, kind of, would let me paint the existing ones but buying cheap Ikea ones would make her hair stand on end. But maybe...maybe... I like the Ikea idea because they have to be cheaper if they all come in pieces and I put them together. And I like Ikea crap better than Home Depot crap any day of the week.
As for the counter top, there is a smallish butcher block on top of one of the cabinets right now instead of the counter. I am 112% sure that thing is glued all the way around with freaking Liquid Nails. I know counters are supposed to be screwed to the blocks in the corners but from many others things I have seen in this house over the years I wouldn't be surprised if this guy used liquid nails all the way around the tops of the cabinets. I have never had any experience in ripping off something that has been glued down with that stuff....
I am going to look at Ikea now. Thanks for the suggestion. Somebody else said it right: The new cabinets will still be cheap but they will be new.
Thanks a lot!!!
busbus

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I sort of like the Ikea idea. I jsut want it to be "good enough" for the time being (if I can talk her into it). She sort of, kind of, would let me paint the existing ones but buying cheap Ikea ones would make her hair stand on end. But maybe...maybe... I like the Ikea idea because they have to be cheaper if they all come in pieces and I put them together. And I like Ikea crap better than Home Depot crap any day of the week.
********************************
Something to think about...
I have been asked (many times) over the years to repair/reinforce some kinda cheapie furniture/cabinets/etc.
I got quite good at it. Although I don't like that kind of construction, it is often the only viable financial option. As such, I will do my best to make it work by making it strong.
The first rule of making cheap stuff strong is NO RACKING!! It can't wobble or move in any way. I will put in diagonal bracing, nail and glue some doorskins to the back, install corner braces, etc.
I admit that I have not done this with kitchen cabinets, but I did do with garage cabinets. Whatever the level of engineering is on a particular cabinet, ir it is a cheapie, it can't hurt to make it stronger.
Many of the projects that I did twenty years or so ago are still going strong. And this is the cheap disposable stuff with a expected life of five years or less.
It is not my first choice of doing things. But it works.
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wrote: [snipped for brevity]

Preeeeecisely. A faithful client of mine asked me once what she'd have to pay for a garden-style bench for her foyer. I quoted her: "between 200 and 1200." She immediately understood and asked me to do the best I could with $ 400.00. It ended up being $ 200.00 worth of cedar and an afternoon of my time. Simple, straight forward, no time invested in finishing. Done. A Chevy in a Cadillac market, because that is all she wanted.
Had another one the other day: "How much for a 30" wide bookcase with 5 shelves?" Me: "What is the price of a car?" Him: "Nothing fancy, but solid oak." Me: "about 1200 to 1500" Him: "OVER A THOUSAND??? I can get one at The Brick (Canadian brown box chain) for $ 300.00!!!" Me: " GO to The Brick!!" (then, under my breath, "arshole") Him: "What was that?" Me: (louder) "Have a nice day!"
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On Oct 2, 7:12 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote: [snipped informative reply]

It is not all crap from Ikea. Sure, it is made to hit a price point, but the stuff I have been seeing has been totally credible. The finish on the doors was as good as the finish I have been seeing from so- called kitchen outfits like Merillat, KitchenCraft etc. ( That is not to say that KitchenCraft does have a line of products where it looks like somebody actually gave a damn .. but at a premium)

[snip countertop dilemma]

Ikea makes designing and ordering really easy. Rip out the old, assemble and install the cabinets one by one. No cluttering up your work space.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

...and toward more colorful speech: spit shining a turd.
    nyuk,     jo4hn
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Snip

Besides that, how many homeowners want to pay for that kind of quality? Truthfully, how many would actually appreciate it?
Years ago, I gave up. I try to educate the clients on their proposed services and goods to be provided by my company, and give them a clear look at the differences in what they can get from me.
I would love to be the craftsman that hand selected every stick of wood, cut every joint by hand, selected the best plywood, and only used hand rubbed finishes that required multiple coats.
That's not the market I serve. Folks want a good job for a good price. And more often than not, they are concerned about getting the job finished on time. Maybe more so than just about anything else.
I have a doctor that has me do work around his house, and for some time was doing work at a country club. They asked me for "ballparks" up front, and that was that.
All of my business is referral, but with money being what it is and many customers that watch those HGTV shows I still wind up in competitive situations. I certainly have an edge, but never take the business for granted.
And I learned along time ago to adjust my personal expectations and pricing. I have a responsibility to myself, my company, my vendors and sometimes employees to make sure I get work that will pay all the bills. As many here know, that stream needs to flow continuously. I always try to remember an old contractor buddy of years ago that used to chastise me with "quit trying to sell Cadillacs in a Chevrolet market".
His point was well taken. Sometimes people actually know what they want and have their mind set on a budget, quality, experience, reputation be damned!
(I shudder at the thought of suggesting Mill's Pride

Couldn't agree more. About ten years ago I stepped in to finish a home that was being built by a homeowner. He was doing the "sweat equity" approach and trying to do everything he could himself. With a garage full of tools at home, he thought he was set.
He got the wall up and rocked and ran out of gas. We were hired by his lender to trim the house out and finish odds and ends of woodwork.
Part of that included hanging and finishing the cabinets he had purchased. These were straight from Home Depot, and they were some kind of oak mix, actually well built and solid, but raw and unfinished.
I shot a light undercoat of dark mahogany toner on the cabinets, then topped it with a slightly heavier coat of dark walnut toner (greatly thinned stain). I shot a coat of shellac on them, then two coats of poly.
They really looked great. They had a nice warm hue to them that was kind of a chocolate/brick red color. You couldn't tell they were oak unless you got close enough to see the grain. I don't know exactly what wood they looked like (chernut?), but they looked really nice.
Good finishing can make up a lot of ground in appearance if you have something to start with, even if it isn't much.
Robert
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Well, I for one DO appreciate the quality. Problem is that I now got the wife understanding the differrence and she is willing to pay for it. Well, truth be told, I would, too, but not with a kid going to colled in less than two years and another on his heels.
Not to mention the fact that the Average Joe is gong to have a hard time prying money out of the local banker. :o)
So now I am backing off. I have to if I want to eat. And I am angry yet relieved that I didn't pull the trigger on this project sooner. Both of us are procratinators and sometimes that is good. We also get every last mile out of everything we own and now we are at a point that the fridge and dishwasher are almost unusable because of the state they are in, despite all the patches I have made to them.
Bottom line is that there is one doggone thing that has really held us back and that is the fact she wants a white kitchen and I want lightly stained wood because, to me, painting wood is a cardinal sin. But maybe I will succumbto her wishes for a white kitchen and maybe I can talk her into cheaper cabinets again. She was there at one time but dummy me showed her the real difference between the junk in Home Depot versus what a local cabinet shop can do.
Correct me if I am wrong but white kitchens will not stand up as well as plain wood, right?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Depends upon what is underneath the white paint, but one thing should be glaringly obvious, every little cooking splatter will stand out like a sore thumb.
Not to say we have a dirty kitchen, but a couple bits of last nights dinner might still be on the cabinets today, and it isn't a big deal, if we had white, however....
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FrozenNorth wrote:

Also depends on what kind of "white". White melamine will take a beating. So will white 2K polyurethane or white catalyzed lacquer. Yeah, it will show dirt, but the dirt generally cleans off pretty easily. White Home Depot latex, not so much.
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On Sat, 4 Oct 2008 08:39:11 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Maybe, maybe not. White shows dirt more, but it has been used in countless kitchens and has held up very well. My personal experience with clear finishes on wood kitchen cabinets is that most shops use a rather thin layer that doesn't hold up for more than a year or so near wear point (knobs, by the sink, etc.). A *good* finish of any type will hold up fine.
For painting bookshelves (not quite the same thing, I know, but I've not finished a kitchen cabinet in 25+ years) I strongly recommend a high-end oil-based alkyd enamel paint. I use Benjamin-Moore. You have to allow it to dry for at least a week and is best to let it cure for a month before using it, but it produces a high-gloss, very durable and washable finish.
Just a quick check back on your project - are these manufactured home cabinets? If so, you probably can't do anything to improve them. Most of them are absolute minimal junk and not worth even a coat of paint.
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
Definition of a teenager: God's punishment for enjoying sex.
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