How to renovate kitchen cabinet doors?

Kitchen cabinet doors get a lot of wear and tear. Paying a professional to renovate or refinish kitchen cabinets can be expensive. Refinishing your own kitchen cabinet doors is a fairly easy DIY project. You'll need basic power tools, a few supplies and enough space to refinish the cabinet doors. And, unless you want to make a drastic change in stain color, you don't even have to remove the old finish from the doors. Here are some steps to follow when refinishing your kitchen cabinet doors.

Unscrew the cabinet doors at the hinges

If you are just refinishing the doors, leave the hinges attached to the cabinet boxes. Empty the cabinet drawers and remove them as well. Remove knobs and handles. Use an electric drill or screwdriver to speed up the process.

Clean the cabinet doors

Scrub the cabinets thoroughly with a strong degreasing cleaner, such as trisodium phosphate (TSP). Use a scrubbing sponge and a toothbrush to remove accumulated dirt in the grooves and corners. Remove all traces of grease and dirt: unless the surface is completely clean, the new finish will not adhere well to the cabinet doors, ruining your finishing project. Rinse and let dry.

Fill any holes or cracks

Fill holes, cracks and dents in cabinet doors and drawers with carpenter's wood filler in the color closest to the original wood. Let the putty dry, then continue.

Sand the cabinet doors and drawers

Sand the cabinet doors with an electric sander and 100-grit sandpaper for initial sanding. Sand the corners and grooves with sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Finish by hand sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper or a medium-fine sanding sponge, sanding in the direction of the wood grain.

Clean up the dust

Remove sanding dust from cabinet doors with a vacuum cleaner attachment or a "sticky" cloth (a sticky cloth that picks up even the finest dust, available at most paint stores). Make sure all dust is removed before refinishing the cabinet doors.

Apply the wood stain

Using a fine bristle brush, generously apply the stain to the surface of the cabinets. Wait 5 to 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a clean, lint-free cloth. Wait for the stain to dry.

Apply the varnish.

Wait about 24 hours for the stain to dry before varnishing. If you are doing both sides of the doors, wait about 8 hours before turning the doors over and staining the other side. Apply at least two coats of compatible varnish or polyurethane, using a high quality sprayer or brush. Lightly sand the cabinets between coats for a smooth, durable finish.


A warm garage is the perfect place to install sawhorses and refinish doors. If you're doing it in a basement or other enclosed area, use fans for ventilation and to dissipate noxious fumes. Keep all screws and hardware together in a container. Number each cabinet door and drawer. Using a permanent marker, write the door numbers in the space that will be covered by a hinge and mark the back of the drawers.

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