How to Update Kitchen Cabinets without Replacing Them Featured image

How to Update Kitchen Cabinets without Replacing Them

If you’ve been thinking about what to do with your existing kitchen but aren’t completely invested in changing the cabinetry altogether, then don’t worry- there is still hope. It takes a lot of time to change a kitchen if you’re looking to upgrade and transform outdated kitchen cabinets, but there are some subtle tricks you might not have considered that work just as effectively without doing a full redesign. Here’s why:

Ways to Resurface Your Existing Cabinets

We’re not talking about replacing existing kitchen cabinets, but giving them new life with a different look that will give the appearance that your kitchen cabinets are replaced. There are many ways you can do this without having to work yourself to the bone. In reality, home improvement centers offer many modern materials that will allow you to change the look of cabinets making them look very different from how they appear now. Whatever d├ęcor style you’re after there are endless ideas to obtain the cabinets that will best complement your kitchen.

Resurface wooden kitchen cabinets


There are a few different routes you can go to update an old kitchen and this includes repainting your cabinets. The paint, however, must be the kind that’s going to be durable enough so it doesn’t come off so easily. You will also need to examine your existing cabinets to see what kind of cabinet material they’re made from. If they’re made from wood and covered in paint, this is very simple for repainting. All that’s needed is to sand them lightly so the next paint layer will adhere a lot better.

If you have cabinets that are covered with a laminated plastic surface, these can also be painted with light sanding involved. Just be sure to check with your home improvement center as to the type of paint that sticks best to these surfaces. Perhaps bring a picture to show the person so they can determine which kind of paint will work the best. Another good tip is to remove the cabinets before painting them so it makes the job easier.

As for color, choosing a base color will make a big difference when you want to give old colors new life. Bright and cheerful colors are striking and modern, but you might decide to keep things simple by sticking to the style of cabinets you already have. The best advice is to enhance what you have currently to bring out the best quality and surface detail that isn’t hiding anything.

Adding extra details

After painting your cabinets, you might want to bring out the little details a bit more of your existing cabinets. If you have raised panels or a decorative cabinet frame, it might be more appealing to bring out this detail further with weathering, stressing, or inlay colors to help make these lines more prominent. After a base coat is painted, a variety of techniques can be used to add washes, sponged highlights, or deep shadow colors.

You might further want to give these surfaces a particular sheen including high gloss or simple satin matt finishes. Not only does this help to protect the painted coating, but the clear finish will act as a barrier that makes your cabinets more durable and easier to clean. Before you paint, if you have flat cabinets, you can glue decorative trim around the border to give the appearance of an inlaid panel.

Most home improvement centers have decorative strips made from compressed wood fiber that is cut out like a picture frame and glued to any flat surface using universal adhesives. These can then be painted over adding a new and exciting exterior look for boring old cabinets with little detail. As mentioned before, it’s a lot easier to add these kinds of detail when the cabinets are removed and laid flat on a working table or surface- first.

Changing the handles

It’s amazing how much a new knob or pull handle will update and change the outer appearance of kitchen cabinets. With so many varieties of handles to choose from, you can swap out old hardware without having to drill any new holes too. Just be sure to pick the right pull handle that’s the same distance between existing holes so it can attach in the same way. Most of these handles have screws on the inside of the drawer or cabinet that allows them to be removed.

This way, the colors you diced to change on the outside of a cabinet can further become more pleasing and compliment the different colors that are added. Just the handles or knobs by themselves will help transform the theme of your kitchen to something more modern, or further back to traditional styles.

Using adhesive vinyl covers

Another example of giving cabinets an instant new color or pattern is from self-adhesive vinyl coverings. At nearly any home improvement center, they are selling this type of vinyl wallpaper that can be attached to nearly any smooth surface. Even if your cabinets have a somewhat smooth surface, these rolls of decorative patterns have a powerful adhesive backing that sticks like crazy.

upgrade with vinyl

Each cabinet door should be removed and lightly sanded to get the best stick possible. It’s a little bit like wrapping a Christmas present but a lot less messy than using paints. The result is a surface that is just as colorful and detailed due to the technology of printing. Some of these vinyl rolls even have simulated wood texture to make the surfaces look more realistic. This type of covering always works best on flat cabinet doors rather than ones with a lot of surface detail.

Change or update kitchen lighting

One last detail to update is more illuminating than anything else but will give your cabinets a dramatic appearance with lights underneath hanging cabinets. These decorative touches will add more light to counter space and give a dramatic effect that makes your kitchen appear classier. Easy to install kits are found at all home improvement centers and come in all sorts of cabinet accent lighting varieties.

upgrade lighting

There are continual strip lights, spotlights, and even color-changing lights that can be adjusted to the right shade for decorative moments. Because they can enhance the value of existing kitchen cabinets, it will immediately give more appeal to what is already in your kitchen. In combination with upgrading the outside of your cabinets with new colors or hardware and lights, it can look as if you spent way more than if you replaced your cabinets otherwise.

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