Cabinetry Conundrum: Part II

(Part I of this dilemna can be found here.)

Math has never been my strong suit, but today I am feeling the pain of this equation.

Between our kitchen, dining room and living room, we have a total of 32 cabinet doors to refinish.

Normally, this wouldn’t be so bad. Many tutorials I’ve read online take about a day to refinish their cabinets. You may remember, I took down my cabinet door, oh, about five months ago.

The problem with our cabinet doors is that the hardware had been coated with several layers of paint over the decades and had to go.

2 hinges x 4 screws + 1 knob + 2 magnet = 11 screws to be unscrewed per door

11 screws to be unscrewed x 32 cabinets = 352 holes

Now, those 352 holes drill through 3 surfaces: the cabinet base, the interior of the cabinet door and the exterior of the cabinet door.

192 holes x 3 surfaces = 1056 holes

8 drawers x 2 pulls with 2 screws each = 32 holes

1056 holes + 32 holes =  1088 holes to be filled with wood-filler and sanded

I have never been more grateful for a small kitchen.

Now that we had our 1088 screw holes filled and sanded, we began to paint. While (as you’ve seen) we filled, sanded and painted the bases of our cabinets a few months ago, the doors have sat in our basement for a few months. I used Minwax High Performance Wood Filler to fill all the hole about a month ago. You will need to fill the holes from the front and the back. (Unless you don’t care that the interior of your cabinet door looks like death.)

A few tips:

On Wood Filler:

On any type of hardwood surface you should fix cracks/holes with wood-filler (not spackle!). Wood-filler smells terrible and should be used in well-ventilated areas.


1. Mix the 2 pastes together with a plastic spoon and toss it when you’re done. There is no cleaning off this substance.

2. Mix a small amount and work quickly. Although the can says you have about 15 minutes to work, the substance starts to harden in five. Work quickly and make small batches more often.

3. Scrape the holes before you fill them. You will want a flat surface to scrape against to remove as much excess filler as possible. More build up = more sanding.

On Sanding:

1. Wear a mask and sand in a ventilating area.

2. Circular motions work better than long straight ones. You don’t want to sand dips into your cabinet doors.

On Painting Cabinets:

1. Before I removed by cabinet doors from the wall, I labeled them with painter’s tape according to their location. When I started to paint, I laid them out on a large drop cloth in order. This way there is no second-guessing which cabinet goes where.

2. Wipe down the cabinet doors before painting. The more dust (from sanding) that is left on your cabinets, the less surface the paint has to stick to.

3. Use a dense foam roller. They sell kinds that specifically say “FOR CABINETS!” on them. They make a huge difference in the final topcoat.

4. I mixed some Floretrol into my paint. It’s supposed to thin the paint out and prevent brushstrokes from drying into your finished surface..

5. I painted them (Valspar Swiss Coffee) with 4 or 5 thin and even coats, letting them dry in-between coats. (For those of you wondering: 5 coats x 2 sides x 32 doors = 320 coats.)

I was hoping to have some pictures of the cabinets hung up in the kitchen (so, sadly the “after” photo isn’t ready), but we have run into more hinge problems (read: we put 2 up and they don’t shut). Hopefully they can be resolved. Otherwise I am burying these cabinets in the backyard six feet under.

We have purchased new hardware. Did you know it will cost you about 15x more to get to hardware than to refinish your cabinets?

As for putting the cabinets back up?

Only 192 holes left to be measured and drilled correctly (32 doors with 2 hinges and one knob + 8 drawers x 2 pulls each).

We’ll tighten 192 screws and then we’ll be in business. That is, after we find hinges that will work.

Not that I’m counting or anything.

Moral of the story? If it is possible, in any way, keep your cabinet door hinges.

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