How to update kitchen cabinets using decorative molding

Updated July 20, 2017

Like all furniture, kitchen cabinets go out of style and get worn out or damaged. The good thing about kitchen cabinets is that they don't change their shape and function. However, you can still change how they look. There is really no need to change your entire kitchen cabinet system if you want to upgrade their look. You can revamp kitchen cabinets with decorative moulding strips.

Measure your kitchen cabinets and the areas where you will install the decorative moulding. Measure the sides of your cabinets using a PVC non-adhesive tape. Apply the tape onto the sides of the kitchen cabinet doors, where you want to install the moulding. Tape around 1 to 5 inches away from the outer edges of the cabinet doors, depending on what you want. You can add more tape to widen the width of the moulding measurements. This will allow you to picture the finished look and help you decide on the width of the moulding strips.

Choose the material and the style of your moulding and purchase the necessary length of the strips, using the measurement that you took as a guideline. Be sure to buy at least 10 per cent more materials than what you need. You can use the excess material for cutting practice or as replacements when the kitchen cabinet moulding is damaged.

Remove the cabinet doors. Detach the hinges of the doors with a screwdriver.

Clean the surface of the cabinet door. Scrub the surface with a soft sponge and warm water with multipurpose cleaner. Do not apply too much pressure when you scrub the cabinets. Don't use too much water either, as it may seep through the wood. Wipe the kitchen cabinets with a clean cloth. Let the cabinets dry completely. Otherwise, the adhesive will not be as effective.

Treat the surface of the cabinet doors. Rub sandpaper onto the surface of the doors. Then wipe the cabinet doors with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

Cut the moulding strips into the measurements that you took in Step 1. Use a mitre saw to cut the corners of the moulding strips into 45 degree angles. Cutting the moulding strips into 45 degree angles will fit the strips together perfectly. Only flat moulding strips can be joined in straight, 90 degree cuts.

Apply primer to the cabinet door's surface using a thick paintbrush. Apply the same primer to the mouldings, as well. This will tie in the look of your updated kitchen cabinet. Allow both the door and the moulding to dry completely.

Mark the areas where you will install the mouldings on the cabinet door. Position the mark where you previously taped the PVC non-adhesive tape.

Apply wood glue at the back side of the moulding strip and carefully place it on the marked area. Hold the moulding for a minute or two, and then use a nail gun to securely attach it to the door. The nails used to attach the mouldings should be shorter and thinner than regular nails. Continue attaching the rest of the crown mouldings to the kitchen cabinet doors until all mouldings have been attached.

Apply wood putty in the nail holes to conceal them. Using a caulk gun, apply caulk along the line between the moulding and the door surface. Let everything dry for 4 to 6 hours.

Paint the cabinet doors and the moulding with a thick paintbrush. Let the cabinet doors dry for at least 6 hours and then reattach the cabinet doors to the kitchen cabinets.


When choosing moulding, consider the finish you want. Finishes come in clear or solid stain, oil-based paint, latex and varnish. If your moulding strips are not made of wood, it is best to use latex paint. Also consider changing the knobs or adding metal elements to the doors to upgrade your kitchen cabinets.


Protect your hands with working gloves and protect your eyes with eye goggles when using a mitre saw.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • PVC non-adhesive tape
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Multipurpose cleaner
  • Warm water
  • Sponge
  • Cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Mitre saw
  • Pencil
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Wood glue
  • Nail gun
  • Nails
  • Wood putty
  • Caulk gun
  • Caulk
  • Paint
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About the Author

Based in New Jersey, Michelle Raphael has been writing computer and technology articles since 1997. Her work has appeared in “Mac World” magazine and “PC Connections” magazine. Raphael received the George M. Lilly Literary Award in 2000. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from California State University.