How to Skin Cabinets

Written by sal marco
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Cabinet skins are a thin vinyl covering with an adhesive backing. Skins come in a variety of colours and styles, ranging from solid colours to faux wood. Manufacturers photograph real wood or scenes and print the pictures onto the vinyl skin. Adding skins to cabinets revives and refreshes surfaces to give old or worn sturdy cabinets a fresh new look. Skins are an inexpensive alternative to refinishing or replacing existing cabinets.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Grease-fighting detergent
  • Wood putty
  • Flexible putty knife
  • 240-grit sandpaper
  • Tack rag
  • Utility knife or craft knife
  • Metal straightedge
  • Squeegee
  • Hand-held hair dryer

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove cabinet doors and drawers from the base. Use a screwdriver to loosen and remove the screws holding the doors and drawers.

  2. 2

    Remove door handles and drawer pulls. Wash the doors, drawers and framework with a grease-fighting dish detergent.

  3. 3

    Fill in cracks with wood putty. Press the putty into the cracks with a flexible plastic putty knife and allow to dry fully, usually 1 to 2 hours.

  4. 4

    Sand the doors, drawers and framework with 240-grit sandpaper to smooth wood putty, level high spots and remove the shiny finish from the pieces. Wipe the surface with a tack rag to pick up all sanding dust.

  5. 5

    Lay the skin on a flat surface with the good side facing down. Place the doors and drawers on top of the skin with the finished side facing down. Trace around the drawers and doors with a pencil to create an outline.

  6. 6

    Move the drawers and doors off the skin. Add 2 inches to the outline in all directions. Cut the skin with a utility knife or craft knife. Place a metal straightedge along the line and use the straightedge as a guide to ensure straight lines.

  7. 7

    Place the door or drawer on a flat surface with the finished side facing up. Peel back the edge of the skin, match it to the edge of the door or drawer and press into place with a small rubber squeegee. Push out all the air bubbles from under the skin. Pull back the protective coating 1 to 2 inches at a time and press the skin in place with the squeegee. Continue to pull the protective covering back and press the skin to the substrate with the squeegee until the skin covers the entire surface.

  8. 8

    Wrap the skin around the edges of the door or drawer. Trim away excess with a utility knife.

  9. 9

    Place heavyweight paper over the framework and trace a template onto the paper. Cut out the template. Place the template over the skin and cut out around the template with a utility knife or craft knife. Bond the skin to the framework using the same method as for the doors and drawers.

  10. 10

    Set a hand-held hair dryer on a low heat setting. Move the hair dryer over the entire surface while smoothing the skin. Begin at the edge of the drawer or door and move the squeegee up and down. Overlap the second pass by 1/2 inch. Continue to heat and press until you smooth the entire surface.

  11. 11

    Reattach hardware and reinstall doors and drawers.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice applying scrap skin to scrap surfaces before attempting on your cabinets.

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