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Advice for update of old cabinets on a budget

25114 Views 14 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Bltyler
I am trying to update our kitchen on a limited budget. I have older oak colored cabinets that have a straight line groove design running down them horizontally. Was originally planning to paint/glaze them a darker color (not quite as dark as java but along those lines - the color of the little table you see in the middle of the kitchen) but was told that probably wouldn't look good with my cabinets. Then decided to fill in the grooves but it was suggested I just leave them and paint them a light color.

THEN I discovered the pattern was not all the same on the cabinets so now I cannot leave the grooves because it would drive me crazy that they are not all the same (notice the difference in the cabinets to the left and right of the window - what the heck!).

Need advice on the best method of filling the grooves - wood filler (currently have Elmer's Wood Filler Max), bondo, or something else. What's the best method for prepping the grooves before filling.

Also, I'd like to go with the darker color on the cabinets and lighter walls (will be getting rid of wallpaper) but would it be better to go with a lighter color cabinet? (Pictures below - but be prepared - my kitchen really needs a makeover) My kitchen is rather large and has a breakfast area with a bay window that lets in plenty of light. Has anyone used the Nuvo Cabinet Paint or the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation kits?

Regarding the walls, was planning on stripping the wallpaper before painting because everyone said that was best. I have begun taking off the border which hasn't been too bad. Last night I started on the wallpaper and discovered it is stuck hard and fast and they did not prep the wall with sizing before they put it up. Is it still best to take it down and repair any possible rips in the sheetrock or would it be better to paint over this wallpaper.

Last but not least, I've seen several posts regarding other older kitchens that suggest getting rid of the scalloped valance, however I have a mounted florescent light behind it and I don't have the money to redo lighting right now. Some suggested just cutting off the scallop and leaving a straight edge there. Any thoughts on that?

(And, yes, the curtains will be going too...)



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You can replace the doors and drawer fronts and completely change the looks. You could cut the valance in a slight radius or an eye brow.
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Would like to replace the cabinet fronts but it's not in the budget

I would love to replace the cabinet fronts but I'm afraid that's not in the budget. You'll have to tell me what an "eyebrow" cut is like. I'm definitely a newbie at this.
Wow, I've seen kitchens where the base and wall cabinet doors were different, but nothing like what you seem to have. Short of replacing all the doors, I don't see any way to update. I don't think filling the grooves is a viable option. Perhaps you could settle on a door style and replace a few at a time as budget allows. And I'd get rid of the valance altogether; it's so 1950s.
For budget get plywood and cut your own drawer fronts and doors, then paint it all.
Make then into false mission style (look)
Router more groves
Then get thin moulding say 1/8" thick by 1.25 wide. or whatever you like. Put it on the fronts around the outside mitreing the corners.
paint it all.
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quite a few people just paint hte existing and put new drawer pulls and knobs on
For filling grooves, I would use Bondo, not wood filler. Trick to Bondo is overfilling the grooves -- heaping it up proud, then rough sanding almost flush, then fine sanding flush. Once paint is on you'll never know it was there. Patience is definitely required though.

For painting, don't use any random latex or acrylic off the shelf. Your doors will stick closed and makes noises when you force them open (this is called "blocking" in the paint world). You want a non-blocking paint such as an oil based enamel. I also recommend using paint thinner and multiple coats, the thinner will help make the paint self-level so you don't get brush strokes.
You keep mentioning there's no budget to do what has been suggested. Sometimes it's appropriate to just save up for a while before renovating.
Doors arent difficult to make, and drawer fronts are super easy. All you need to do for drawer fronts is get a long 1x10, use your existing fronts to do measurements for the new ones, cut them out of the 1x10 and router the edges. If thats too thick you can cut it in half with a table saw. For doors, you can either cut them out of plywood as a slab door, using your old ones for measurements, or you can do what i did and cut out the middles from plywood and make a raised frame from 1x3's. I put four pieces of 1x3 into a square the size of door i needed, then filled in the empty middle with 1/2" plywood attached with pocket screws. theyre sturdier than any premade door ive ever seen. I put it on the cabinet and opened it all the way, then slammed it shut with all my strength and it didnt even wobble.
it will cost me $90 +Tax for nine doors. Not sure on the drawer fronts yet cuz i dont know how many drawers yet or their sizes but it wont be more than $20.
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You don't say where you are located. I know here in the Twin Cities we have a remodeling outlet store (Building Materials Outlet) that has stacks of cabinet doors. Check and see if your area has something similar.

Check your local Habitat for Humanity Restore too, my local ones have tons of cabinet doors, although they arent the same :(
I like Mae-ling's idea. Especially if making all new doors & fronts is too intimidating to you.
The only other thing I could think of would be to buy & cut veneer in the color you want to place over everything. It's probably more expensive, than the other options.
I would guess that filling the grooves might be the most difficult option you have.
Tylernt, has given you the best advise, given your
choices because of limited funds... Fill in the groves, sand and paint
according to his directions. Cut the scallop over the sink to a
straight line.

You have a great space there, nice big windows, nice looking floor,
but the rest of the kitchen is so poorly laid out. The stove is too
far from the sink, the fridge is crowded in the corner...There
are many design flaws. I'm not saying that to be mean, just pointing
out that you should work with what you have -- to make it nice and
fresh and livable, until you can afford to go further.

It will be a big improvement, I think you will be happy until
you can really update.
Good Luck.
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Hi, I'm a newbie too. After reviewing your pictures I have several suggestion.
Have you thought of removing some of you upper cabinets and put in shelves? It looks like you have a country type look. You could put up painted shelves using corbels or metal brackets.

I would "TSP"your cabinets before you use "Bondo" that will get rid of any dirt and grease. Be sure they are dry before you start filling in your grooves. Make sure to use eye and nose and mouth protection when you sand the Bondo down. That
Stuff is nasty!
Have you thought of painting the upper cabinets a lighter color than your bottoms? That is a real popular trend right now. Go to They have many rooms you can look at for ideas.
As for wallpaper. I have put up and taken down more than I care to remember. If you have assess to a hand steamer that would be the best. although, the steam function on you iron might work just dont touch the wall with the iron. First score your walls with a scoring tool. Then wash with warm water that has alittle fabric softener in it. Let the mixture sit on the wall Then steam them. The paper should comes off fairly easily.
Hope that helps and good luck.
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