How to Restore Damaged Kitchen Cabinets

Written by myra smith
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How to Restore Damaged Kitchen Cabinets
Restore kitchen cabinets for a new look. (kitchen image by Rich Johnson from

Damaged kitchen cabinets are a lot less expensive to restore than replace. All the dings and scars that mar the cabinets' appearance will become assets when restored by applying an antiquing glaze. Minor imperfections removed by sanding and other preparation steps give cabinets a good surface for refinishing with stain or paint. Loose hinges and pulls are a simple fix. Not only will your cabinets look new, you will have no more problems with doors sagging. New hardware will give the restored cabinets an up-to-date appearance.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Paint thinner or white spirit
  • Rags
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Tack rag
  • Stain
  • Paintbrushes
  • Polyurethane
  • Primer-sealer
  • Roller
  • Paint
  • Antique glaze

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    Staining Damaged Cabinets

  1. 1

    Remove the cabinet doors and mark the back of each door for location. Set up a work area where the doors will lay flat. Empty and remove drawers; it is much easier to work on them standing on end. Remove all hinges and other hardware.

  2. 2

    Scrub the surfaces of the cabinet doors and drawers with paint thinner or white spirit to remove all traces of dirt and grease.

  3. 3

    Sand the surfaces of the doors and drawer fronts. Use 220-grit sandpaper for sanding. A palm sander makes sanding the flat surfaces easier. Fold a sheet of sandpaper and use the folded edge to sand crevices and grooves. Sand and prepare the cabinet frames in the same manner as the doors and drawers.

  4. 4

    Wipe all the sanded surfaces with a tack rag or a rag dampened with white spirit to clean off all sanding dust.

  5. 5

    Wipe or brush stain onto the cabinet surfaces, and allow the stain to dry. A second coat of stain can be applied if the finish is not dark enough.

  6. 6

    Apply two to three coats of clear polyurethane to seal the cabinet surfaces. Install the cabinet doors and drawers after the polyurethane is thoroughly dry.

    Painting Damaged Cabinets

  1. 1

    Clean and sand the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Clean the sanding dust off the surfaces and apply a coat of sealer-primer. Cover flat surfaces quickly with a good quality paint roller. Use a paintbrush for door edges and for working the primer into crevices and grooves. Use long smooth strokes to avoid brush marks.

  2. 2

    Apply a minimum of two coats of good quality gloss or semigloss paint. Use oil-base or acrylic paint to achieve a harder, chip-resistant finish. Allow the paint to dry the recommended time between coats.

  3. 3

    Apply two coats of polyurethane to seal and protect the restored cabinets. Water-base polyurethane dries faster than oil-base, allowing you to install the doors and drawers quicker.

    Antique Glazes for Damaged Cabinets

  1. 1

    Clean, sand and paint the cabinets the desired base colour. Do not sand out all the scars and dings on the damaged cabinets. The antiquing glaze will be heavier in these areas, giving the cabinets a well-used appearance.

  2. 2

    Brush or wipe on the antiquing glaze. Wipe the glaze off to leave lighter and darker areas on the cabinet surfaces. Allow the glaze to darken the scars and dings. Experiment until you have a look that pleases you. Remove the glaze with white spirit if necessary.

  3. 3

    Allow the glazed cabinets to dry thoroughly and apply two coats of clear polyurethane.

Tips and warnings

  • Cabinet pulls and knobs restore with a coat of spray paint.
  • Tighten hinges and pulls by filling oversized holes with toothpicks soaked in carpenter's glue. Break the toothpicks off even with cabinet surfaces and replace the screws.
  • Faux finishes will give cabinets a different look.
  • The cabinets cannot be used for two to three days during the restoration process.

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