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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Welcome, Stacy of New Hampshire to The Money Pit with some questions about refinishing kitchen cabinets. What’s going on? What do you want to do to them?

    STACY: Well, I’m looking to possibly update my kitchen.

    LESLIE: OK.

    STACY: And I didn’t know what a better choice would be; to reface them or replace them. They’re very old; kind of the old-fashioned look and I was looking to get a little more modern.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, do you know what they’re constructed of currently?

    STACY: I don’t – well, they’re solid. I believe they’re solid wood as far as the inside part, but I think the top, the actual cabinet front part, is …

    LESLIE: Like the doors.

    STACY: Yeah, it’s more like a pressed type ….

    TOM: Typically, it would be the other way around. Typically, the doors would be the solid wood and the fronts would be solid wood but the cabinets may be plywood or some sort of a composition wood. But if it’s all wood, you know, you have some options. You could refinish them as they sit now, basically by replacing the worn finish that’s on them. But if you want to dramatically change the color, painting is not a bad idea. We just took a kitchen that we worked on, this project where we did a kitchen makeover, and it had cabinets. Those cabinets must have been there – what? – from the 1950s? The old birch plywood boxes of that …

    LESLIE: Oh, they had to be. And they were probably like home-made. (chuckling)

    TOM: Well, yeah, by a carpenter that was hired to come to the house and build them. I mean that’s how old they were.

    STACY: OK.

    TOM: But we painted them and changed the hardware and they really looked great.

    STACY: Well, that was another option. We were thinking of painting them. Now what is your suggestion as far as if you’re doing like a darker cabinet? I mean a darker countertop. Obviously, you’d want to do a lighter cabinet, is that correct?

    LESLIE: Stacy, if your cabinets, the boxes themselves, are in pretty good shape but it’s the doors that stylistically are not what you’re liking or sort of are too retro for you …

    STACY: Right.

    LESLIE: What you can do is refinish the body of the cabinets themselves; strip down the stain; get to a raw wood surface if you want to put a new stain on it. Otherwise, I would use a liquid sanding just to sort of scuff it up a little bit.

    STACY: OK.

    LESLIE: Get rid of any dirt and debris that’s on there, prime them and paint them. And then what you can do is buy new doors from, you know, IKEA or a home center that sort of matches the look that you’re going for. And you can do full overlay or split the box and make it so that it’s two cabinet doors to one space or even go with the library style doors that open upward. I mean there are a lot of choices if you want to keep what you’ve got and just sort of enhance it.

    STACY: Mm-hmm. Now, price-wise, is that more expensive or – you know, which is the better – I guess it kind of depends what you’re picking. But I’m looking to spend the least, I guess. So I didn’t know whether I should just replace them or …

    LESLIE: Well, replacing them is going to be, by far, the most expensive.

    STACY: OK.

    LESLIE: Refinishing them on your own is going to be the least expensive. And sort of doing a combination of the two, in between, will be a good middle of the road. Of course it depends on the type of door that you choose.

    STACY: Right.

    LESLIE: You know, Tom and I have both worked with IKEA cabinets and they offer a clean, very modern look that comes in interesting finishes. You could even sort of mix and match and do a painted cabinet box with a stained wood door. I mean there’s a lot of options and, you know, how were the prices, Tom, on the cabinets themselves?

    TOM: Not so bad. Let’s see. I spent about $600 on four cabinets and some pretty cool options for those cabinets. So it wasn’t terribly expensive. You know also, the big box stores – you know, Home Depot; Lowe’s; places like that – they have a pretty good supply of a decent quality, sort of generic kitchen cabinet. But by far the most cost-effective way to change that look of the kitchen is to do a refinish on those cabinets; change the hardware.

    On our website, Stacy, at MoneyPit.com, there is an article. If you go to one of the search boxes and search for Cheap Tricks for Cool Kitchens, there is a story there with all sorts of tips on how you can improve the look of your kitchen without spending a whole lot of money. So hopefully that gives you a few ideas.

    STACY: Yes, it does. I’ll check out the website.

    TOM: Thanks very much for calling as at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

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