Kitchen cabinet doors -- repair? replace?

Alice JohannenMay 5, 2012

We have a kitchen that is just FILLED with 23-year-old custom oak cabinetry. We have 40 raised panel rail & stile doors that are showing their age either through finish wear & tear, by sticking badly in the summer and/or by literally coming apart at the seams. We looked into replacing the cabinets but holy cow. The quote of $35K (uninstalled, and nevermind the countertop and other things we want to do ...) has us thinking we should refinish and call it a day. I've seen the discussions on gel staining them and think going with a dark espresso would be great BUT here are my questions:

A) Should we even consider repairing the doors? My husband has said he'll take them apart and reglue them, but ... is that advisable/possible? That wouldn't solve the summertime sticking problem ...

B) But if we replace the doors (we'd get flat panel, which we heartily prefer over raised panel), could we hope to match them to the boxes in terms of stain color if we get unfinished wood? We'd gel stain the existing boxes, which are already stained. Short of PAINT, how could the new doors be matched to the old, restained boxes?

Thank you for any advice you can offer!

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The nice thing about gel stains is that allows you to stain over material thats already been stained once before. Now if you buy new doors you have a couple options. You can stain them and depending on the stain could very well turn out very closely to the gel stain. Or you could do the extra step of staining the new doors the original color before gel stain and then gel stain them. Thats a bit redunant but could give some peace of mind knowing everything went thru the same steps.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 1:00PM
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You can buy new doors inexpensively enough it make trying to repair the existing ones silly.

Be aware gel stain is actually a form of paint. It is not a true stain. That has advantages and disadvantages. Easy to apply, relatively easy to remove(strippers/etc.) It does let some of the wood grain show.

However, if you buy new doors, the maker should be able to come very close to matching what you have now.

If you got unfinished wood, it would be possible to stain to match the existing color---IF.

If you have the original stain recipe used on the cabinets. Most manufacturers use a blend of colors and different finishes. To match, you have to do the staining/finishing basically the same as the originals.

I have a bit of experience in color matching on trim. I installed some rough cedar trim in a factory built house(not a mobile---this one had a real stone fireplace and two by six inch wall studs). The factory sent extra trim, but did not stain enough. I tried for two days to match the color---got close---but way off. Called the factory and they gave me the recipe---had four colors---of the same brand I was using. I had gotten two right. Would have never even tried one color and then there was the different amounts.

So. My advice would be to save some frustration and get new doors. Have them match stain/finish and then even if you use gel stain, the new and old will match well.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Alice Johannen

Thank you both for your response. The current cabinets were actually stick-built by a local woodworker (now deceased, sad to say), and the cabinets were a special formula determined by the previous owners. I believe we have a small jar of it somewhere and my husband thinks it might have the formula written on it (I hope!). But the cabinets were stained 22 years ago, so I'm sure there must be some sort of aging/patina at this point. I would hope we could get the new doors close enough, though, to then gel stain it all so it looks so close no one can tell that the boxes and doors are from different eras.

It's daunting to think of how huge the project is -- 40 doors, 28 drawer fronts. I might be done by 2015 ...

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 5:45PM
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Any pigmented stain would be a form of paint, because they are both pigment, binder, and solvent. It's just the proportions that make it one or the other. You can thin down paint and use it for stain; I have done so. Usually quite a savings if you need a gallon of white stain.
Conestoga makes and sells doors of the highest quality (they make doors for Omega Dynasty).

Here is a link that might be useful: Conestoga Door/Drawer page

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 10:48AM
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If you go on Conestoga site they have a finish section where you can pick any wood and change the color by clicking the different colors. You can't buy directly from them but maybe they can supply you with a cabinet shop in your area.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Alice Johannen

Thank you for the information about Conestoga. We'll definitely take a look. I'm so conflicted about whether it's worth it to do all this replacing or whether we should just spend a little more and get new cabinets that don't require all this work. We have two kids (teenagers), a dog and are both working full-time jobs, so we don't exactly have a ton of time. We're thinking of having a contractor do the staining for us, but ... that might erase any savings we'd get over just replacing the cabinets. We won't know until we get all our quotes.

Is it worth keeping and restaining the old boxes if we have to pay someone else to do it? What do you think?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 6:53AM
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One thing you need to remember - if you get ALL new doors and drawer fronts in the closest possible stain to your existing color, then you only have to deal with matching the cabinet ends and frames.

If it were me, I would order my doors in the stain I wanted and have a "pro" strip and stain the frames. I would not put gel stain on new stained factory doors. Gel stain is a great product when you are wanting to give something old or ugly a new facelift, but NOT ON NEW CABINET DOORS! Order a sample of the door first, so the pro has something to practice his matching skills on.

On the other hand, with that many doors and drawers to be replaced, I think I would definitly price complete new installation of cabinets vs door/drawer replacement. You may find that there would not be that much of a price difference. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 12:16PM
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You need to look into refacing...

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 1:31AM
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I realize it's a year since you posted originally, but if you haven't done anything yet, check out Their prices are good and they have been mentioned on some blogs

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:18PM
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