Cabinet Door Replacement - The steps from ordering, to job completion

The steps from ordering to job completion

Now that you have made the decision to remodel or reface your kitchen cabinet doors, there are a few steps critical to realizing your goal of making the kitchen the show-place of your home.

An outline of these steps follow and are explained in detail below the outline.
1. Determine whether you want stained or painted cabinets and doors.
2. Select the replacement cabinet door style.
3. Select the wood type for your project.
4. Measure your cabinet openings and calculate the door and drawer front sizes.
5. Select the manufacturer and order your new cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
6. Prepare the cabinet boxes for the new finish.
7. Finish your new doors and fronts to match your refinished cabinet boxes.
8. Hang the new doors and attach the new drawer fronts.

Now, lets go into detail on each of these points.

1. Determine whether you want stained or painted cabinets and doors.

Assuming you do not wish to strip the paint or lacquer from your existing cabinet doors, the choice between stain/Lacquer and painting new cabinet doors will determine your wood choices. Doors that will be painted are made from materials that take paint well and offer a stable base material for painting. We use Soft Maple for the frame and MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) for the panel.

Doors that will be stained or lacquered with a clear finish are available in many different woods. We offer doors in Alder, Oak, Maple, Hickory, Knotty Alder, Knotty Oak, and several other woods.

2. Select the replacement cabinet door style.

This step is actually fairly quick and easy. A visit to the local Home Depot will give you an idea of the door types available. For a larger selection Google cabinet door manufactures. The Google search will return mostly websites operated by resellers or middlemen, but you will see a few actual factory-direct manufacturers. The oldest web supplier, and one of the largest cabinet door manufacturers in America is Cabinetoors.com.

The factory-direct web suppliers will save you from 30% to 50% off the retail chains and offer much quicker delivery. Keep in mind that the retail chains do not make the doors they sell, they buy them from the same manufacturers you will find on the internet, increase the price, and sell them to you. Another step in the door selection process is to select the hinges you will use. Modern hinges are a world apart from the hinges of yesterday. Most are hidden and well made, with a few actually made in America. The Blum line of hinges are made in America and are used by the majority of Custom Cabinet Makers across the country.

The advantage of selecting the hinges while ordering the cabinet doors is that you can have the new doors bored for the hinges and avoid the danger of a drilling error. The web manufacturer will also offer the hinges at a comparable price as the retail chains, but give you a higher quality hinge made in America.

3. Select the wood type for your project.

If you are staining the doors you will want the doors made of the same wood as your cabinets. So the stained boxes and the stained doors will match.

If you are painting then order the cabinet doors in Paint-Grade. Paint-Grade doors will be made of materials that take paint best. Usually this means the doors frame will be made of Poplar and the doors panel will be made of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). MDF paints well and is more dimensionally stable than wood, so it is less affected by humidity swings. Because MDF is slightly brittle it is not usually used to make the doors frames, but for the panels it is superior.

A little information about staining difficult woods might help avoid some problems. Maple and Alder are not easy woods to stain because these woods have variable density across each board. This variable density causes the less dense areas to absorb more stain than the harder areas causing a blotched look. Although it is beyond the scope of this article to cover wood dyes, those wishing to stain Maple would be wise to research wood dyes.

4. Measure your cabinet openings and calculate the door and drawer front sizes.

When measuring for new or replacement kitchen cabinet doors, the type of hinge you intend to use will influence the door sizes.
If you plan to use your existing hinges simply measure your existing cabinet doors and order doors of the same sizes. Be sure to order your doors with an outside edge that your existing hinges will fit. If you wish to have us supply the hinges we will insure that the hinges you receive will fit the doors you order.

If you plan to use our Top-Quality, Blum Inserta, Clip-top hinges with 1/2-inch overlay, your hinges will ship with your order.

To insure your new doors are perfectly sized for use with our hinges, the door size measurements are figured as follows:

On single doors simply measure the cabinet opening size and add 1-inch to both the width and height. For instance, if the cabinet opening size is 12-inches wide and 24-inches high, the door size will be 13 x 25.

On wider cabinets with two doors (butting in the center), measure the width of the opening, add 1-inch, then divide by 2.

Height is figured the same as for single doors. Just add 1-inch to the opening.

For instance, if the opening is 28 inches wide and 30 inches high, each door width would be 28 + 1 = 29 divided by 2 = 14 1/2-inches wide.

Our Blum hinges have plus/minus 2 millimeters of adjustment which will allow enough side adjustment to have a gap of up to 1/8-inch between the butting doors. If you live in a high humidity climate you may want to subtract an additional 1/16″ from the width of your Butt Doors.

So, do not be intimidated into thinking it is difficult to figure door sized from openings. Just take the measurements and order the door style of your choice, or give us a call and we will talk you through the entire process.

5. Select the manufacturer and order your new cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

The internet has made it possible to find sources for the do-it-yourself re-modeler to buy custom sizes of cabinet doors.

The majority of Cabinet Door Websites do not actually make the doors they sell, and because they need to make a profit, they price the doors on their website higher than you will pay if you can find the actual manufacturer.

Way back in the mid 1990's Western Cabinet Doors, Inc launched the first website, Cabinetdoors.com, offering custom sized cabinet doors on the internet. Western Cabinet Doors is a large manufacturer of Cabinet Doors, supplying hundreds of styles of doors to thousands of Home Builders, Custom Cabinet Shops, and Furniture Manufactures across the United States.

Today you can purchase their products on Cabinetdoors.com and choose from hundreds of door styles in dozens of wood types. You can browse all the cabinet door possibilities and price your new doors by entering your custom sizes and choosing your wood. Even the cost of Fedex shipping to your home is shown before you enter your credit card.

Compare the prices of other websites and the big-box stores to ours. Not only will you save 30% to 50% but you will get the same quality and guarantee we supply to luxury home builders across the country.

Our quality is superior, our product is made in the United States, and our production time is between 12-15 days.

Whether you want traditional cabinet doors, mitered doors, Raised Panel doors, or specialty doors, we make the largest selection in the industry and we have been supplying thousands of users for over 35 years.

Cabinetdoors.com is not just a website re-marketing cabinet doors, we are the manufacturer and we stand behind our product.

6. Prepare the cabinet boxes for the new finish. Cleaning, sanding, and painting:

While painting existing cabinets is much easier and faster than staining, there are still some critical steps that are necessary to obtaining a professional finish. Here are some tried and true rules of thumb that relate to painting Kitchen Cabinet Doors.

  1. The first is the Prep-Prep-Prep rule. That means that every hour spent preparing the cabinet box or cabinet door for painting saves two hours in repainting.
  2. The second is the 5-F rule. This rule is Fine Finishers Finish Firewood First. It simply means that experimenting with your finish on scrap wood can prevent ruining a door with a failed finishing attempt.
  3. The third is always break all sharp edges with fine sandpaper before painting. Sharp edges will not hold paint and will give the dried paint an unpainted spot to absorb moisture.
  4. The forth is to keep in mind that all wood types will expand and contract with changes in humidity. The paint will slow these humidity-caused wood movements, but no paint is totally moisture-proof, and paint will not stop the movements. This humidity-movement of wood presents another potential issue for the painted cabinet door. When the paint dries, it will no longer have the elasticity to move with the wood; so it will crack, usually along the glue joints where the Stiles & Rails join.
  5. The fifth relates to the hardness of the paint-grade wood. The softer the wood, the more easily it will dent, if hit with a pot or frying pan. The dent in the wood may be slight and hardly noticeable, but dried paint does not dent without cracking. The weakest link in any painted cabinet door is not the door. Regardless of the wood type used, the weakest link is always the paint.
  6. The sixth practice covers the method of application of the paint. The desired look from painting a cabinet door is usually a high gloss finish, similar to the finish on a piano. A finish of this quality will certainly require a highly experienced finishing professional, and a dust-free spray booth. This does not mean you can not achieve an excellent finish, but it does mean you are not likely to get this piano-finish with a paint brush in your driveway. To get a professional looking finish you will need to spray-on the paint. Not from a Krylon can, but from an compressed-air, or airless, spray painting system.
Now for the step-by-step process that I have learned through years of both success and a few failures.

Lets get started by working through the process step-by-step.

This process covers both the cabinet boxes and the cabinet doors. Because the doors are more critical these instructions focus mostly on doors, but apply to the boxes as well.

Lay the door on a flat surface and lightly sand the door with a flexible-foam sanding sponge (I like the 3M sanding block sponges best) or 220-grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand With-the-wood-grain on the front, back, and sides.

Remove any residual grit with a clean cloth (tack cloth is best) or a vacuum.

Next comes what is probably the most important step in the entire process. Sealing and priming the wood.

The priming coat, is also called a sealing coat, or a Sealing indicating coat. These are essentially the same thing. The purpose is to seal the wood so that the final paint will adhere evenly and also make it easy to spot uneven areas in the wood while it is still easy to correct the blemish. Primer can be applied by brush or roller. I like to use a roller for the bigger areas followed by a good quality brush for smoothing and painting the finer details on the cabinet doors. You will not need the $25 brush but do not get the $1 brush either. Expect to pay $6-$10 for a good, fine-bristle brush. Try not to get paint all over the brush, dipping only about 1/2-inch to 1-inch into the paint is best. Also, between coats you can place the brush in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out, and avoid cleaning it until the end of each day.

Any hardware or paint store will have a wide selection of sealer/primer and paint for your doors. Be sure and match the primer with the paint you plan to use. If you are going to use latex (water based) paint, use a latex primer. If using an oil based paint, use an oil based primer. Also try to use a primer with a drying time of 30 minutes or less. White primer works best because it will show the uneven areas of the door better. This allows you to spot (and correct) the areas that need filling before painting.

Once the first coat of primer is dry you will be able to see some small, uneven areas, scratches, or dents in the wood. Now it is time for the filler. This is the most important step in obtaining that perfect painted finish.

All hardwoods have voids, which cannot be seen until it is primed. I use a filler to fill all of these spots. The two types of filler I have used with success are Bondo 907 Glazing and Spot Putty and Elmers Wood Filler Max White. The Bondo putty works best, mainly because it is an orange color than makes it easier to see where you have filled. The Elmers is white. Fillers must be sanded smooth after drying and then sealed with primer before painting to prevent the color from bleeding through.

After filling, sand the filled areas (use the 3M sponge to keep your fingers from sanding dips in the filled areas), wipe the dust off, and apply one last primer coat.

When the primer has dried, give the doors a light sanding and wipe them clean of any dust. If the final inspection does not show any unfilled scratches or small voids, you are ready to paint.

Now comes the actual painting, which is actually the easiest phase of the project. But without going through the priming-sanding-filling-priming process, there would be little chance of obtaining a truly great painted cabinet door.

Using the same technique you used with the primer, use the roller for the large areas, and paint brush to smooth and paint the smaller and detailed areas.

There is no need to sand between paint coats but it is a good idea to insure there is no dried paint on the brush that could work its way into your finish on the following coats.

Although the finish may look good after one coat of paint, two coats are normally applied to assure durability of the finish. Just follow the directions on your paint (and primer) and follow the drying time recommendations.

Here is a link to the CabinetDoors.Com Blog where you will find several other posts on finding, sizing, ordering, painting, and staining Unfinished Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors.

7. Finish your new doors and fronts to match your refinished cabinet boxes.

Stripping and re-staining:

Because new raw-wood cabinet doors will not require any stripping and only minimal touch-up sanding, most of the refinishing work is avoided. To start the staining process I prefer minwax. Minwax makes a good selection of stains which are super easy to apply. Once you have selected your stain choice just follow the directions on the can. Stains are forgiving so do not worry about a disaster. A tip is to stain the backs of a few drawer fronts first. This allows you to experiment in an area that will not be seen.

After the staining is completed it is time to apply the lacquer. Again Minwax offers a large selection. Minwax Polyurethane is a good choice to go over the Minwax stains. Another tip; use the Polyurethane from a can and not the spray cans. The caned Polyurethane covers much better and makes a mush smoother finish.

It is important when finishing the doors to apply equal Polyurethane to all sides of the doors. Unequal coverage will result in uneven moisture absorption or loss and will contribute to future warping.

8. Hang the new doors and attach the new drawer fronts.

The process of hanging the cabinet doors is actually straight forward. I have found it useful to attach a straight piece of wood to the bottom of the cabinet to rest the door on while aligning the hinge mounting bracket for drilling. Just clamp the straight edge so the door bottom will extend 1/2-inch below the cabinet opening. Using a long straight edge will insure all the doors are perfectly aligned.

Here is a useful video showing the hanging of canceled hinge cabinet doors.

Sign up for our newsletter: