How To Reface Kitchen Cabinets

Refacing kitchen cupboards will create a new look and allow you to update your kitchen at a reasonable cost compared to installing all new cabinetry. Refacing cupboards and cabinets is not difficult and can be a fun project. There are many different ways to refinish your kitchen cabinets. You can repaint them, or simply install new doors and drawer fronts. You can also exchange the old hardware for new updated styles. There are many different styles of self-sticking veneers available in wood grain patterns as well as colors, and you can also install RTF (rigid thermofoil) foil on the face frames of your cabinet boxes. RTF foil typically does not come with self-adhesive backing. In this article, we will address refacing kitchen cabinets with self-sticking veneers.


  1. Cover all floor surfaces with drop clothes to protect the finish.
  2. Remove all doors and drawers, including hinges and drawer pulls.
  3. Clean your cabinets with a solution of TSP or dish detergent and warm water.
  4. Do not soak the wood. Simply wipe it down and let it dry.
  5. Sand the surface of the face frame with 100 or 150 grit sandpaper. All you want to do here is rough up the surface lightly to promote good adhesion.
  6. Remove the dust with a vacuum and a tack cloth.

Update your old kitchen cupboards with a fresh new application of veneer.

Update your old kitchen cupboards with a fresh new application of veneer.


  1. Install plywood on the end panels of the cabinets in a pattern and color that matches, complements, or contrasts with, the veneer. Use a good quality adhesive and 2d finishing nails. Countersink the nails and fill the holes with wood putty or filler. Sand before finishing.
  2. Sand the edges of the plywood end panels that are adjacent to the face frame flush and smooth.
  3. Cut the veneer ½” wider than the stiles (the vertical face frame members) and 2” longer. Cut the veneer so that the grain runs lengthwise.
  4. Butt the top of the veneer strip against the top of the stile. Remove a little of the backing and press the veneer strip in place allowing the extra width and length to overlap the sides equally.
  5. Next, cut strips of veneer for the rails (the horizontal face frame members). Overlap the ends of the rail strips over the stiles veneer pieces.
  6. Trim the veneer where the rail piece and stile piece overlap at the same time.
  7. Gently pick up the overlapped end of the rail veneer piece and remove the stile veneer waste with the point of a razor knife.
  8. Lay the rail piece down and press it in place.
  9. Work all the air bubbles out by pressing the veneer in place with a smooth wooden block.
  10. Trim the veneer with a razor knife or a laminate trimmer and the proper bits.
  11. Do each opening one at a time.
  12. Install door hinges and doors, centering the doors in the door openings.
  13. Install the door hardware.
  14. Install the drawer fronts. If the drawer is a four-sided box, remove the old drawer front and install the new one in its place. If the drawer is a three-sided box, cut the overhanging edges of the old drawer front flush with the sides, top, and bottom of the drawer. Reverse the drawer, install the new drawer front on the back end of the drawer box, reverse the drawer slides, and reinstall the drawer.
  15. Install the drawer pulls and door knobs.


Cover the edges of the face frame first for a complete and professional look. Use the same technique as for the face frame.

You can trim the veneer with a pair of tin snips and a fine file if you do not have the laminate trimmer and bits.

Veneer is designed to stick to a finished surface. It will not stick to raw wood. So, for raw wood applications, apply a light coat of spray lacquer or varnish first for extra adhesion. Let it dry thoroughly before applying the veneer.

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