How to Reface Kitchen Cabinets

Allen Lyle removes the cabinet doors.
Allen Lyle removes the cabinet doors.

There are several steps to refacing cabinets, but it is a DIY-friendly project if you take your time and do things the right way. Plus, you can save money by refacing an existing set of cabinets rather than starting from scratch with new cabinets.

    1. Remove the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
    2. Prepare the surface of the cabinets. Sand down high spots and fill in low places with auto body filler.
    3. If the cabinets are covered with glossy paint, wipe down the surface with a de-glosser. This will also help remove any dirt or grease.
Covering the existing cabinets with wood veneer.
Covering the existing cabinets with wood veneer.
  1. Cut out pieces of veneer to cover each cabinet surface. This can be done with a straight edge and a utility knife or in some cases a table saw. Each piece of veneer should be large enough to overhang each exposed edge by about half an inch. Pay careful attention to which direction the wood grain should travel.
  2. Apply a coat of contact cement to the back of each piece of veneer and to the cabinet surface. The cement on both surfaces needs to dry until it’s tacky before you put them in place. Depending on conditions this can take from 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Slowly tilt each piece into position and press it down flat with a roller. This will strengthen the bond and remove air bubbles. Once these surfaces connect you cannot reposition the veneer, so make sure you get it right the first time!
  4. To trim the overhanging edge, pull a sharp utility knife along the cabinet edge to cut the veneer flush with the adjoining cabinet surface. If you have a router, you can also use it to do this job with the help of a flush trim bit.
  5. Smooth the edges of the veneer using a mill file. Move the file in one direction, from the veneer toward the cut, so you don’t risk peeling up an edge.
  6. It’s best to work from the outside to the inside of each cabinet. So cover the sides first, then the vertical pieces (stiles), before cutting the horizontal pieces (rails). Because the rails have finished veneer on either end their length must be cut precisely.
  7. Once all of the surfaces are covered, the veneer can be stained and coated with a sealant like polyurethane before you install new doors to complete the cabinet facelift.

Watch the video for details.

After staining, adding a coat of polyurethane, and installing new doors and drawer fronts, the cabinets look brand new.


  1. Today’s show was great to get ideas from. And for saving money. My husband and I are slowly updating our home. He likes doing the work himself. I am very glad I was able to see this show today. Thanks for ideas.

  2. As a 30 year Factory Rep for a leading veneer manufacturer I feel compelled to advise that a roller is not the best tool for the refacing project. Instead a scraper tool with a hardboard blade will apply more intensive pressure which is needed to marry the two glue lines. Scrapers are available from the veneer distributor or manufacturer. A soft cloth can be wrapped over scraper blade to prevent marring of prefinished veneer. Also don’t be in a rush to put the two glue lines together. Contact cement needs adequate time for solvents to evaporate. Better to wait little longer than not long enough.

  3. Hi I read your article about refacing cabinets I would like to know where you get the new doors .I would like to know this because trying to replace or reface bathroom vanity and which are in hard to find sizes since they are 20+ years old.
    Thank you for your time
    Karen Schindler

  4. would like to replace windows around my home
    how do I pick a contractor?
    How do I know how to pick windows for home and the area I live in?
    Do not want to change my windows and it does not improve the look of my home

  5. I miss seeing the show on cable. I’m in Hedgesville WV with no local TV stations. would love to see you on DISH cable again.


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