It seems as if every other article on remodeling your kitchen tells you to paint your cabinets. This is a good option if you have painted cabinets already; however painting over cherry, oak, maple, birch or any other expensive hardwood can be a mistake. If your hardwood (or softwood) cabinets have become dull, worn, scratched or covered in layers of grease, you can bring them back to new with very little effort. Most wood cabinets will come clean with a mild detergent with luke warm water and a soft rag. Clean the inside of a cabinet door to insure that the detergent isn’t going to damage the surface.
Once you have them cleaned, you can use a commercial wax to bring back that factory finish that looks so good in the showroom. If you have water damage to an area and the wood has turned white (much like a piece of furniture left outside or in a basement) you can take mink oil (like the kind you shine shoes with) and rub it into the wood, allow it to set for thirty minutes or so and then take a hair dryer and “melt” the wax into the wood. Once you have that done take a soft towel (not your wife’s best towel) and buff the wood to a like new condition. You can actually use this method on all of your cabinets, but test it on the back of a door first.
I here what your saying; how does cleaning my cabinets give me a new kitchen? It doesn’t. If you don’t like the look of your wood cabinets as they are you can make some simple changes to enhance their look. Take the doors off of your upper cabinets and cut out the center of the door leaving the outer “frame” of the door. Route out the back of the door to accept a glass pane. The glass inserts can be clear or frosted or you can have a pattern sandblasted or etched into the glass for a custom look. To hide the fact that you have cut the doors you can add an accent by painting a “shadow” around the glass. To take this a step farther you can add the same painted accent to the lower doors as well. To add another dimension to your new glass fronted uppers, install LED lights to a color that works with the rest of the kitchen. (If you have all red appliances, use red LED’s etc.)
If this doesn’t work for you and you have wood cabinets but want a different look. If you’re willing to spend a little more money and time you can have new doors made in whatever wood type and finished to taste. To change the fixed areas of your cabinets take veneer to match the doors and install it over the original wood. This can be done by anyone, it is a tedious project but the results will be worth it. This is all that is involved with cabinet refacing companies. If you decide that you want to hire a refacing company make sure that the do the return edges inside the cabinets, you don’t want to open your cabinets and see the old wood on the side of the stiles. (a stile is the little piece of wood standing between two cabinet doors)
If that isn’t what you want, you can always paint. Before you decide to paint your cabinets try and decide what colors you want to use for curtains or the colors of your wall finishes. Once you know what colors you want to accent with, take the cloth or wallpaper or paint chips and visit a paint store. Paint stores have charts with colors (duh) along with accent colors that work with those colors(oh), this will give you professional looking options to choose from. Try and stay away from bright colors or pastels as they will decrease the value of your home. Unless you plan on staying in the home and that is what you want, just be prepared to repaint before you attempt to sell. Nothing will make your home look cheaper than a set of badly painted cabinets.
You have decided to paint your cabinets, now you have to decide “how” your going to paint them. Unless your a professional painter do not paint them with a brush. Before you begin remove everything from the cabinets and clean, clean and clean them again. Make any repairs that are necessary and unless you plan on using the same hardware (pulls, hinges) fill the holes and sand flush, this may take more than one application depending on what type of filler you use. Remove the doors as you are going to paint these in another room (preferably in a garage or basement) or in the case of a last resort, outside.
Beg, borrow, steal (please don’t steal anything) or rent a paint sprayer that you can use. Choose your paint color in a latex enamel for durability and a primer that is compatible. If your cabinets have a slick finish you should “rough up” the finish with as fine a grain sandpaper as is available. If you use a course sandpaper you will have scratches in the finish, this defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it? Prime the cabinets, doors and the inside of them as well unless you just don’t want to. I am assuming that you know what to tape off and cover to prevent over spray everywhere.
Now that you have primed your cabinets you can begin to paint. I suggest that you practice on a similar surface material to perfect your technique before you actually paint or prime for that matter. When painting your cabinets don’t try and get them perfect with the first coat, it is better to put on several light coats than one or two heavy coats. Allow each coat to dry before adding another coat. Once you have the paint job to your satisfaction, add a coat of water based polycrylic for that cleanable surface like you find on factory finished cabinets. Reinstall the doors and choose a hardware type to suit your new look. If your cabinets have a fold out hing then a standard hing will not work, make sure you use the same type of hing.
Another option for refinishing your cabinets is the rustic look. If you ask nicely you can often remove a few boards from an older barn to make new doors out of. To totally change the look of your cabinets use graph paper and lay out your cabinets on paper so that you know exactly how they go back together. Remove the doors and set these aside as you will use these as patterns. Install temporary jacks behind the stiles, these will hold up the top as you remove the face of the cabinets. Now you can remove the stiles along with the top and bottom facia on the outside, there is no need to remove anything besides the front. Now using your layout rebuild the facia and stiles to the original plan, once this is done you can build new doors using your rough material.
How many times have you opened someone elses cabinets and been faced with a horridly ugly liner paper? It could be that you are faced with this nightmare in your own home. I came up with the perfect solution to this, it isn’t the cheapest fix but it is the best fix. Part of my family is in the sign business so I have access to a lot of different types of materials. One day I wanted to re-line our silverware drawer and I happened to stumble across a roll of magnetic (the type used for truck door signs) and decided that since it had a clean white surface that is easily cleaned I would try it. It is the perfect cabinet liner as you can not only line the bottoms of your drawers, you can also line the sides. Talk about a clean white surface that stays clean and white, this is it. It will cost you about .18 cents per square foot but is worth every penny.
Now that you have changed the look of your cabinets inside and out, it is time to change the countertop. One of the cheapest options for countertops is laminates. (laminates are often called by the name brand Formica) Laminates come in thousands upon thousands of colors and are not as hard to work with as most people believe. If you decide to laminate your countertop make sure you do your homework as even though it is a simple process it can be tricky. One false move with the laminate once the glue is in place and you can ruin an expensive piece of material. Yes, I have done it, four hundred dollar piece of specialty laminate ruined, however it was my first attempt. Maybe I will write an article on laminate installation.
Another simple, inexpensive option for countertops is concrete. At my home page you can find a good article on concrete countertops and there installation. If your scared of concrete countertops the DIY option of choice is tile. Tile comes in more colors, sizes, thicknesses and options than I have room for. It can be an quick and easy method to change the look of your kitchen in no time. Do your homework if your not familiar with tile installation because you don’t want your tiles lifting when your mother-in-law visits, it will make you look bad. Once again there is an excellent article on tile installation at my home page, it will tell you almost everything you need to know.
Why stop there or begin there for that matter, lighting can change the look or mood of a room. Lighting can be the simplest method to achieve drastic results. If your cabinets do not go all the way to the ceiling, you can add accent lighting above the cabinets. You can also add accent lighting below your cabinets. Don’t go overboard as doing both can be overwhelming, however it can be done in moderation. If you use one LED every sixteen inches or so above and below it can give you a modern look for almost nothing. Use a transformer plugged into a socket as the battery type can be difficult to change or so inconvenient that it doesn’t get done.
If you want to use fluorescent lights and don’t want a light fixture in the middle of the ceiling you can build a trough around the edge of the room that comes down to the top of your cabinets. Leave the top eight inches of the trough open to allow light to “bounce” back from the ceiling. This can actually work in almost any room and if you add a molding to the top of the trough where the gap below the ceiling begins you can get different effects. Painting the inside of the trough (which should be finished light colored drywall) can change the mood of the room. You can experiment with colors easily over the course of a week or so to find the color that sets off your room.
If you have a unused wall and you need more storage space you can cut the drywall out from between two studs and install a shallow shelf. Trim around the outside border of the drywall and wallah, you have extra storage space. Do not do this on an exterior wall as you will increase the rate of heat exchange costing you more in heating and cooling. You can use this same technique above your base cabinets and make “pocket” shelves around the kitchen. Don’t do it all the way around, do it once or twice around the room, in the back of the pocket place a quarter inch piece of ply or pre-finished panel before you build the shelves.
Crown molding and baseboard are two over looked finishes that can add class to a room for a small investment. If you have never installed either one of these before, don’t panic as you can buy corner blocks which allow you to install the moldings without making complex compound cuts. You can paint the moldings to match the cabinets or accent them to the wall coverings, the choice is yours. Most people would be pleasantly surprised to see how much molding can add to a room. The difference can be night and day. I could go all day writing about what you can do to change the look of a room, but I digress. If you look at your options and decide what is best for you and your budget you can make those changes with the look of a professional without the cost. Whatever you decide to do, do your homework.