Please help with updating cabinets!

chi83September 3, 2013

I'm new to the Kitchen forum, and I'm hoping to get some help here! We just closed a few days ago on a new house that we love. However, the kitchen is outdated, and I'm looking to find some ideas!

Here are the facts:

1. We are absolutely changing the counter. It might be hard to see, but it's white tile and there are chips and cracks throughout. We will likely get Quartz. We have about 80 square feet of counter space and were quoted $8k for a quartz countertop from Home Depot.

2. We would like to keep the same layout because we love the hardwood floors and don't want to have to replace the flooring with cabinets that don't exactly fit the current layout. And the kitchen is somewhat long and narrow so there aren't many options without a really expensive remodel project.

3. We think the cabinets look really outdated, and this is where I need the most help.

So about the cabinets...

We figured our options were either to buy all new cabinets, get the existing ones refaced or try to DIY a fix. I don't want new cabinets because of #2 above. I don't want to just stain or paint them because I'm not a fan of the cabinet door style.

We had someone from Home Depot come out the other day to talk to us about refacing our cabinets, and he quoted us $23k for our 70 linear feet of cabinets. I have no idea if that is a fair price or not.

We were also told that our cabinets have solid wood frames and we should keep those because new cabinets from Ikea/Home Depot are made of particle board.

Anyway we don't really want to spend $30k+ on updating this kitchen if we don't need to. It would be great if we could get it in the $10k-$15k range, including the countertop. We want something that looks nice and elegant but we don't need super high end as we won't get all of it back when it's time to sell.

So what I'm considering now is throwing out all of the cabinet doors, sanding down the frames/bases and staining those the medium brown/cherry color that we are aiming for. I would then buy some unfinished cabinet fronts and stain those the same color. And of course put in new hardware, hinges, etc. I think we have the skills to do this but my concern is that since the cabinet base and the doors will be different kinds/colors of wood, we won't be able to get the stain to match. Has anyone ever done this? Am I crazy? I have included a picture of the type and color of cabinet door we like.

Below are pics of the kitchen. It's not as long and narrow as the angles make it look but it's definitely galley-style on one end and more open on the other.
Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and I don't really know where to start or what to ask.


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Just paint what's there to update it. A nice white, or even a grey or soft green would really update the space without breaking the bank. You could DIY it for under $500 or pay 10x that to have a pro do it.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 10:59PM
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1st two pics look like ?whitewashed oak or something.....then the 3rd pic looks like a grayish stain ? Would be important to know the species/veneer center panels or not/what is the finish? Are you opposed to a painting of these cabs? I would not attempt the sanding/staining/replacing with raw doors and "match the stain" project you allude to. Painting, is where my thoughts would tend for this. How about white base cabs and some new mdf doors atop with glass can order these painted to match what you do on the bases at Scherrs [or a contrasting color]...and even paint the frames yourself, if ordered "paint ready"...and source the glass locally which saves you money.I can see all white cabs and a dramatic counter and backsplash...the floor is setting the stage for a basic but semi-dramatic or strong statement somewhere and I think the counters/backsplash might be the spot for that touch.I would put simple stainless hardware of a transitional style in a basic white galley kitchen and spend the bulk of your budget on counter and backsplash.....go look and fall in love with some counters/backsplash and you'll see why white cabs will be a great bet. Do you have a granite yard near you?....I don't think that Home Depot or Lowes have the full array of quartz or other materials that are around kitchen shops and showrooms.....

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 11:16PM
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Your kitchen does not look bad at all. The door style is really not that dated. I agree with Greendesigns that you should consider painting your cabinets. Even if you hire someone (which I would do) you certainly could get them painted for a lot less than HD wants for resurfacing.

The cabinet stain color you are considering is nice but I am not sure that it is a good choice with your beautiful gray floor. A light color paint and some nice pulls would make your cabinets look very sharp and up to date.

Depending on where you live and what you like you might be able to find a granite for less money than quartz. I used an entry level granite (verde peacock) for my custom natural cherry cabinets and it looks great. No one that has seen it thinks the granite is low end.

Good luck with you kitchen updating. You are lucky to have such a nice expanse of countertops and so many cabinets.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 11:35PM
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You haven't said what type of wood your cabinets are. Can't quite tell from the pictures, but they look like they're whitewashed or pickled oak. If so, it might be hard to sand them down enough to get rid of the finish. And on any end surface that might be veneer, you would probably have to replace those.

We did what you are proposing. Our cabinets were clear coated maple. We had them sanded down and put on new doors and drawer fronts. We also had some new cabinets built. The first "refinisher" almost ruined them. We ended up having another guy come in and stain them. Maple is tricky to stain. You may have better luck if yours are oak, but you won't end up with the color and grain pattern on the sample door you have in your photo. That looks like a different wood. Our cabinets turned out nice, but after watching the guy stain ours, I know we would not have had the expertise to do it well. I would think long and hard before doing it again (and would probably go with paint).

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 4:00AM
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You could have them resurfaced. Still expensive when you consider that you will have the same boxes. But, much cheaper than a total reno.
You say the floors are hardwood, so I am assuming they are a dark brown? Does your brown cabinet choice blend well with the floor?
For updating, a creamy white may be the way to go. I would look in to professionals to see the cost. They take the doors and drawers to their factory but hand paint the boxes.
This looks like a nice kitchen and by updating you certainly can get many more years out of it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 7:55AM
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You can also buy new doors to fit the cabinets that are there and have everything painted to match.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 8:45AM
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Your house looks brand new with good attention to quality finishes, until you get to the kitchen. I think that if you paint the cabinets and replace the countertop, it will look better, but it will still look dated and out-of-place in your open floor plan. $8000 is an awful lot of money to put onto old cabinets. We didn't want to get involved in a whole kitchen remodel either, but I couldn't live another day with the white tile. But we had to accept the fact that it didn't make sense to install quartz when we knew we'd have to replace the oak cabinets in five years anyway.

You may like the floor plan, but it could function much better with new cabinets. I think you'll get tired of opening all those doors that today would be drawers. You have only one drawer stack with shallow drawers. Drawer glides are so much better now too. You may want a better stove and exhaust hood someday. You have plenty of room to put a microwave elsewhere. When you unload the DW, how far do you need to carry the dishes to put them away?

If it were me, I'd start planning for a long-term solution. I think you could have a spectacular home with the kitchen matching the rest of it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 10:42AM
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You would be amazed at how replacing the doors and drawer fronts and then getting it all painted will change the entire look of your kitchen. New doors aren't that expensive. This is what I did in my 1991 golden oak kitchen. I had them professionally painted which is a bit pricy, but they came out great and I know I couldn't have done them myself.

I would say, do not let HD do this. I first considered a HD reface and some guy came into my house, made me sit through an extensive sales pitch, even about financing, and tossed out a ridiculously high estimate. I ended up going with a KD at a local kitchen/bath shop and everything got done within my budget.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 10:56AM
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I suggest the prices you were quoted were completely absurd. Your price for quartz works out to be $100 a foot. Were you doing an exotic edge on the quartz? I suggest that you obtain a price directly from a quartz fabricator. Find the quartz material you want, check the manufacturer's website and they will list all the qualified fabricators in your area. Get a price from them and cut out the additional middle man. HD will only screw the job up anyway.

The kitchen isn't that large. For less than $23k you can have completely new cabinets. When a contractor says 70 linear feet that means base and upper cabinets combined, not 40 feet of base cabinets and 30 feet of uppers. I don't think you have that many linear feet if you only have 80 square feet of quartz.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Thanks so much for all of the suggestions. I am carefully considering each and every one.

I honestly never considered painting as it seemed that it would lock us into continuing to paint once the counter is on. I don't know a whole lot about different wood but I think it's some sort of whitewashed oak. There's definitely a white tinge over the cabinets.

The floors are a very dark brown. I typically like dark brown cabinets but it would just be too much with the dark floors.

May_flowers, the house was actually built in 1992 but it has some beautiful updates. The kitchens and bathrooms are the only original features left and they don't match the rest of the house. I agree 100% with the function of new cabinetry. We went to Ikea last weekend and just seeing the different drawers and pulls and options made me want to customize the kitchen. That was one benefit of the refacing - they were going to turn a lot of the bottom cabinets into drawers and make it a lot more useful and functional.

Thanks so much for all of the advice so far. I'm going to include a few more pictures so you can get an idea of the style of this house as I don't really have an eye for what goes. There is a lot of brown wrought iron on the landings and stair banisters that I love, and it needs to complement the kitchen. I want to keep it elegant and classic looking but not too modern, but also not outdated. :) The furniture pictured isn't there anymore.

We haven't even moved in yet so I think we will live with it for a few months to figure out if the layout works for us, or what we would ideally change. We already bought a new fridge and plan to buy a new range. Neither of us has ever owned a home before so we're pretty new to this entire process, so we're trying to gather information and ideas so we have plenty of time to figure everything out before we decide.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:25AM
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Thanks beverly, I didn't see your response before I replied. I will take some measurements this weekend!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:27AM
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Lovely home! How long do you plan to stay there? I think you need to consider the value of the home in your decision. A cheap solution may cheapen the value.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Thank you! That is where we are struggling a bit. This house is already one of the most expensive in this development because it's the only one with the loft option that could be turned into a 5th bedroom. So even with original kitchen/bathrooms, it was priced equivalent to the 4 bedrooms with updated kitchens and bathrooms.

His fear is that if he puts in a $50k kitchen, he's only going to see a small fraction of that in returns when it comes time to sell since the house is already one of the more expensive ones. He's worried the neighborhood won't support the extra cost/value. He does realize though that if we don't update it, it may hurt resale value significantly. The decision now is whether to make it a more simple update or put the money into a real one and risk only getting some return on it.

I should add I plan on starting a home-based baking business next year, so I need to consider that as an argument for an optimized kitchen, even if we lose money at the end of the day. We still get the benefit of living in it and there's value in that!

It's just us right now but we plan on starting a family in the next few years, so there's plenty of room to grow. We're in our 30's so we don't see this as our forever home but I could see us here for at least 5-10 years depending on school districts and such when the time comes.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 12:04PM
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I think if you choose wisely, you could have a great kitchen to complement the home that would be a bit more functional than all those doored base cabinets.

Here are 2 vignettes I took photos of on my last trip to IKEA.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Since you're starting a baking business, you should think of your kitchen as your tools of the trade, and not just worry about resale value. For example, I grew up frugally and never bought high quality kitchen equipment. I remember my hand mixer died in the cookie dough one Christmas Eve, and we rushed over to a close-by kitchen store to replace it. They only sold Kitchen-aid, and it was $70. I balked and my DH said, "You need good quality tools in the kitchen." It dawned on me that he always bought the best tools for himself because he's of the mind to "pay once", so I agreed to it. I think a lot of husbands don't look at kitchen appliances and tools the same way they look at their shop tools or their "toys"--TVs, etc.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Sometimes its not about the money back, but of how you will enjoy the space. Sometimes too, we stay in places longer than we think we will.
I say go for what you can comfortably afford to do. With a home business running out of the kitchen, I agree with may_flowers that you need good quality.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 2:58PM
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We had our boxes painted and bought new doors and drawer fronts because our cabinets were in good condition. It made ALL the difference in the world. That way you can pick a new door style if you want.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 5:23PM
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This should not be too bad.

I was in a similar position to you. My doors were very similar. Not sure how sturdy they are, but we had builder grade doors that felt flimsy to me.

I did a complete rebuild as I wanted nicer and wider appliances. I was able to keep my same floor as I did not change the toe kick layout - I just changed the cabinets which sit on top of a toe kick ladder.

But I think you can easily order new doors/drawer fronts without a complete rebuild. To give you an idea, I ordered paint grade maple doors and drawer fronts for around $2,700. I had them all predrilled for concealed hinges and also routed with finger pulls (overkill, but I think the finger pulls give the doors a nice rounded look). I think I spent another $1000 on hardware - clip hinges/slow close mechanisms, and knobs/pulls. My kitchen is a similar layout but wider - so, hope you might be able to get the doors cheaper.

I'll echo the paint - I think that might be the easier route than a reface. You are probably going to need a good two coats of primer. We hired a painter (I hate painting and it hates me, lol) But, if you DIY'd the paint, it'll will be time consuming but much much cheaper.

I would say not more than $4-5K to change the look completely (not including your countertops or changes to appliances)

Below is a link to my kitchen before and after. We did a swiss coffee finish with ORB fixtures.

Best of luck to you,


Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Kitchen Reveal

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 5:28PM
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So if we were to get new cabinets, are there ways to ensure we can get the exact same footprint? We really don't want to put in a new floor and we figured it would be unlikely for the cabinets to be the exact same size without doing a completely custom build, which I imagine is very expensive.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 5:58PM
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Yes, you can, and I did. And I changed the width and some depth to my cabinets to accommodate new and wider appliances - all without changing my slate flooring. This also included an island as well.

It's all in the toekick as I stated above. My toekick is independent of my cabinet boxes. You build the toekick to the dimensions of your existing floor layout - it looks like a giant ladder on the floor. Then, you lay your boxes on top of the toekick. If you look at my rangetop cabinet picture, you can see how the cabinet sits on top of the toekick.

You can also see how my original island sat on the toe kick as well in one of the demolition pictures.

Hope that makes sense. But if you are considering changing all of your boxes, then the expense is going up! I have read on this site that IKEA makes some nice cabinet boxes and then you can mount your own doors to these.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 6:08PM
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Before/after videos online so I wouldn't have to post so many pictures. (First two of grandson, skip to videos 3 & 4) Https://
1. Experimented (Mar. 2013) inside one door; days later it passed scratch test. Eight months later cabinets like new. I had all materials from previous project so cabinet project cost nothing.
2. Removed doors, drawers, knobs, very light sanding outsides only, very little ebony stain, one coat semi gloss poly clear coat. Took 4 days,
3. Bought and stained oak molding for soffit, light oak, then ebony; perfect match. Cut scallops off the over-sink trim, and tossed the railing on hood vent and soffit. Spent money on labor and material to finish project.
4. Blue storm laminate FX180; large pieces were costly but I had no expensive corner cuts (so no seams), saved $$ using plain edges, more realistic anyway. PS got moving packet from post office and used the included Lowes 10% off coupon (on countertop).
5. A friend removed and repurposed old countertop (no removal or dump fees).
6. Designed my backsplash and had it put over the old laminate back splash. Large tile over stove was $300 display, I paid $50. Plus I saved on glass tile that would have been used instead.
My kitchen isn't as dark as it appears in videos.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 12:37PM
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I agree with the other posts, I think painting them would give you the most impact with the least cost. I wouldn't get new doors and try to stain them to match, they won't match up exactly, unless you completely strip the frames down to bare wood, a lot of work and mess! To hire a contractor for a reface will cost at least as much or possibly more than new cabinets, due to the labor involved. We wanted to update our kitchen without disturbing the foot print also, we opted for a DIY reface, which we've only just begun the prep work on, but doing it ourselves should save us quite a lot. If you decide to paint, and get new doors too, you can buy paint grade doors which should be a little cheaper.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 2:56PM
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Live in it for a year before you do anything.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I would not hesitate to experiment with very lightly hand sanding (try fine grit can always bump up to a medium grit if needed...once the wood comes off, it cannot be put back on, and remember to sand with the grain) and restaining a sample door with a darker stain especially since your finish is so light. Doing just the inside is a good option to see how the process works and how the final treatment looks Make sure to avoid stain and varnish/poly mixed together...I have never seen this done with results I liked.

At least for me, this kind of kind of "refinishing" has always worked out well on pieces of solid/veneered wood furniture. Just do some research and some sample attempts. Painting cabinets and getting professional looking results can be "tricky." It can certainly be done, but it is so noticeable when it is done less than "perfectly." I also think a stained/poly or varnished do-it-yourself finish will be more chip/nick/scratch resistant over the long haul.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:05AM
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I would look into gel stain (General Finishes or Old Master?) and see what can be done. For starters, I'd do a little test and see what it looks like after 2 or 3 thin applications.

I fit's really pickled with white paint, you could also try paint stripper rather than sanding.

Here is a link that might be useful: staining pickled oak

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 10:45AM
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