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How To Update Kitchen Cabinets Without Replacing Them: 5 Easy Steps!

This is a very simple tutorial on how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them.

It will show you step by step the process of updating your actual cabinet structure doors and drawers with new ones that are more modern, stylish, or even just plain different from what they had before.

You can use this method for any type of cabinetry in your home, including but not limited to pantries, laundry rooms, mudrooms, kitchen sink, bathrooms, etc.

Step 1: What Tools Do I Need?

You need only basic tools such as drill/driver, screwdrivers, hammer, tape measure, pencils, rags, sandpaper, wood glue, nails, screws, hinges, drawer slides, doorknobs, handles, paintbrushes, spray paints.

However, if you don’t have all these items already, then it would be best if you buy them now because some of them may become necessary later during the project.

Step 2: Measure Your Cabinet Doors & Drawers First

Before starting anything, we first must make sure that our measurements are correct so that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

We want to ensure that when we install the new fretwork on cabinet doors and drawers that there won’t be an issue fitting them into place.

So let’s start measuring. Start at one end of each piece of furniture and mark where its center point is located using a compass or other tool.

Then move over to the opposite side and repeat the same steps.

Once both sides are marked, take note of which way the marks face.

This will help us know whether the pieces should go inside or outside once installed.

Now that we’ve measured, cut off the excess material around the edges of each piece.

Be careful not to remove too much though since we still need to fit those pieces back together again after installation.

For example, if you removed too much material from the top edge of a drawer front, then you’ll have trouble sliding it back into position.

Also, remember to keep track of the direction of the cuts so that you can reverse them when installing the new parts.

Step 3: Sand The Existing Pieces Smoothly With A Hand Sander

Now that we’re done cutting off the extra material, it’s time to smooth down the rough surfaces of the old pieces.

Use a handheld orbital sander to get rid of any sharp corners and bumps.

Make sure to work slowly and carefully with the sander until no visible scratches remain.

It might also be helpful to apply several coats of polyurethane finish onto the existing surface before doing this step.

That way you can see how well the finish hides small imperfections.

After finishing up with the sander, wipe away any dust particles left behind by the machine.

Step 4: Remove All Screws From Each Piece Of Furniture Before Installing New Parts

This next part requires patience but it’s worth it in the long run.

Take your time removing every single screw holding the cabinet door or drawer shut.

You don’t necessarily have to unscrew the screws completely; just loosen them enough so they come free without breaking.

When you’re finished, use a Phillips head screwdriver to tighten them back up.

Don’t forget about the ones hidden underneath the bottom shelf as well. They could cause problems if you leave them loose.

Once all the screws are loosened, slide the new pieces into their respective locations.

Remember to match the markings on the fronts of the base cabinets with the corresponding holes on the backs of the new pieces.

And finally, reattach the screws that were previously taken out.

Before tightening them back up however, check to make sure that none of the newly added hardware has been damaged while being moved around.

In case something does happen, simply replace the broken parts immediately.

Step 5: Apply Polyurethane Finish On Top Of Old Surface

After completing Step 1-4 above, now it’s time for another coat of polyurethane paint.

But instead of applying it directly onto the wooden cabinets, let’s first sand it down lightly.

If you want to do things right, always start with a basic cabinet lighting touch.

Otherwise, you may end up ruining the entire project because you applied too much pressure.

So try starting at half strength and gradually increase the amount of power used during application.

As soon as you feel like there isn’t more room for improvement anymore, stop adding additional layers of polyurethane.

Once everything is dry, clean up the excess using a damp cloth.


It doesn’t matter whether you choose to install the new doors yourself or hire someone else to help you out.

Either way, remember to follow these steps exactly. Otherwise, you’ll risk damaging both the furniture itself and its surrounding area.

So take care not to scratch anything!

Scott Buckley

Scott Buckley

I'm Scott, a Woodworker by day and book geek by night. I love making things out of wood. While I have and still, on occassion do, work with metal and plastics, I find them to be cold and somewhat boring. Wood is warm and I feel close to nature with it. I started as a means to help like minded creative folk to answer burning questions. I hope you enjoy reading and learning, and always feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions!

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