Kitchen Cabinet Makeover


Most of my projects have been done in my home. I love the freedom of knowing that first and foremost I only have to make myself happy and maybe a distant second my husband :). This project however was one of my first remodels for a friend. Obviously this is a little more nerve-racking in the beginning because now there’s a new number one to make happy.

I got started on this project after a friend of mine saw the recent makeover of my own kitchen. She asked if I could make her kitchen look like mine. She had just bought her home and wanted to make some upgrades before the family moved in. Along with the cabinet work I would do, they also decided they would get their floors redone and upgrade to granite counter tops. These two items she had contractors install. She made great choices that really work well with the cabinet makeover I did. She went with a rich espresso engineered hardwood for the flooring and a Romanix granite countertop.

As I designed how the kitchen would look I knew I would be adding bulk and definition to the sides of the cabinets. This required me to work with the granite company. I needed to ensure they added extra inches around the edges to compensate for the added thickness of the cabinets. It’s an easy mistake to make, so take note if you plan on doing something similar in your own home.

Below you will see the canvas that I started with. At the point of this photo the flooring had already been torn out. Also, you can see where they accidentally pulled off the back of the island. Not a big deal, since I new I would be reinforcing it with 3/4 inch plywood. The kitchen overall had a good base layout and size for this style project.


Starting with the bottom

So, since a lot of cabinets are made with melamine on the sides, one of the first things I do with a project like this is cover them with 1/4 inch sanded plywood. I do this for several reasons:

  1. It fills in the thin gap between the side and the face, giving you a flat surface to work with.
  2. It gives you a wood surface to paint rather than painting the melamine and hoping that it doesn’t scratch off.
  3. It allows me to cut the 1/4 inch board the hight that I need to allow a smooth looking transition for the added height (see top cabinets).

After I cover the sides with plywood I begin adding the molding as you can see in the 3 photos below. For molding I like to use primed pine. It has a finished look to it. The other reason is because if you use MDF in a space that has water (aka kitchen, or bathroom) you run the risk of the base of the cabinets getting wet and MDF hates to get wet. There is NO way to fix it with out ripping it out. Such a pain! Another Tip about molding is that Home Depot jacks the price of their molding to compensate for other things in the store being underpriced. I get mine from a lumber store. It can be as much as half of what Home Depot charges. I also like to build out the molding so it has a column appearance. One of the main reasons for these columns is the upgraded appearance. The other reason is for added support of the granite top.

One thing to remember is that your base molding needs to be higher than your baseboard by about a 1/4 inch. This is important because the baseboard will be added in at the end on top of the finished floor. This will add another 1/4 inch to its height. The baseboard helps hide the gap of the flooring at the edges. Below you will see the baseboard has not been added yet as that happens only after the floor has been installed. You will need to add a runner board flush with the cabinets where the existing toe kick is so that you have something to nail the base of the baseboard into so that it can be reinforced. I just use scrap pieces of wood, liquid nails and a few finish nails to tack it straight into the floor. This allows you to nail the baseboard into something. Also make sure that your baseboard comes up to the bottom frame of the cabinet, and the top of the toe kick so you have something to nail into. Make sure it clears the cabinet doors though. This measurement is what decides my baseboard height for the entire project.


You will also notice that I completed this project in 2 phases. The bottom cabinets first and the top cabinets second. I did this for two reasons. One, the family was thinking of maybe ordering new, taller cabinets and were trying to make a decision on that. The other reason was I needed to get the base cabinets done before the flooring was installed and I was on a very short timeline to do so. Shout out to the flooring guys for moving up their install date by a week and screwing me out of my time to work. Classic! Always remember… In construction, it’s never about the other guy. Every man for himself. If you want them to come later, they can’t. If you want them to come sooner, they can’t. End of rant.

New counters were installed along with the finished floors. Once they were completed I added the baseboard and painted the base cabinets to finish them off. At this point I also removed all the door faces and drawer faces and painted them. It is very important to be organized in this process not all doors and or drawers are interchangeable. I use ziplock bags and a permanent marker to keep all hardware organized. I mark each door with a number, and I mark the bag of hardware with the same number. I also include whether it is a top or bottom hinge. This saves me a ton of time later. You’re welcome!


Time For The Top Cabinets

Now it was time to work on the top cabinets. Depending on the height of the ceiling sometimes you will take them all the way to the ceiling however, the owner and I, decided that, in this case, taking the cabinets all the way to the ceiling would be excessive, so we only added about 16 inches instead.


Liquid nails, clamps, and patience come in handy here. To help my friend visualize what the end look would be, I completed the molding on the far left cabinet first (see photo below), so as to show my friend the finished look. We made one change from this picture. We both agreed that the top was too top heavy. We removed the top piece of molding. The photo below also shows the beginning work to enclose the fridge and extend out the cabinet above it. To do so, I took the cabinet off, broke apart the box saving only the frame, and built a brand new box that was the depth of the fridge. This helps to give the cabinets even more depth and keeps the fridge from looking awkward like they do in so many homes.


Once the molding is complete it’s time to add the paint. Paint changes everything. Make sure you caulk all seems and fill all nail holes to create a seamless look. This is a very simple concept that most don’t know how to do. It’s much easier than you may think and has such a dramatic effect everyone should know how to do it. I will be making a video tutorial in the future to show the basics.

As the kitchen began to come together we decided that the kitchen window was missing some pizzaz, so we added molding around the window to help frame it out better and help it pop with the rest of the kitchen. It made such a huge difference. Also by adding the baseboard we filled in the toe kick to the original cabinets. By doing so it gives the cabinets a more furniture feel. However, the sink is one of those places that I feel still needs a toe kick, so I used a band saw to create a beautiful arched cutout. I also filled in the sides so that food would not make its way back behind the baseboard (very important).


In the end the project turned out simply beautiful. Here are a few of the finished photos. As you can see they are still deciding on a style of backsplash to finish out the look.







5 Comments on “Kitchen Cabinet Makeover

  1. I love my kitchen! Thank you again Jen! You are so incredibly talented!

  2. awesome job! it looks beautiful! could you add any details on how you painted the cabinets? did you spray? did you sand first? what kind of paint? thanks!

    • I did spray the doors only. I clean the doors with TSP and rinse off well and let them dry a few days. I do this when the doors are removed. I then sand it and prime it with kils about 3 coats. sanding lightly between each coat. Then I painted it with sherwin Williams Pro Classic usually about 2 coats. Its self leveling paint, which is nice. Make sure that you paint the final coats on the inside of the doors first. when I flip them to paint the face, I place a sheet or something cloth down so as not to let the backside get messed up. You don’t have to spray them you can also use a small sponge roller to help with brush marks. spraying is ideal, but not always available to all. I am still learning to use my new spray rig. 1 year later, 4 kids and it still looks beautiful. No chips. That said use semi gloss paint. It wipes clean easily.

  3. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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