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How to Refurbish Wooden Cabinets

A Quick Guide to Giving Cabinets a New Look


How to Refurbish Wooden Cabinets
Photo © Jami Delia

Restoring your current cabinets is a way to save a lot of money when redoing your kitchen or bathroom. If you're up for the DIY task, be prepared to set aside a lot of time and patience to get the job done.

You'll need the following:

  • drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting
  • sandpaper, electric sander and/or sanding blocks
  • primer and paint or pre-stain conditioner, stain and polyurethane
  • new knobs, hinges or pulls (if not refurbishing your existing ones)
  • paint brushes and/or paint sprayer
Doors and Drawers

Before you begin refurbishing your cabinets, you must remove all doors and drawers. When removing doors and drawers, label each one so that you know where they go after you complete the refurbishing process. Write descriptions on removable labels or use different colored labels to indicate where each door and drawer goes.


A simple way to refurbish cabinets and to give them a new look is to replace or refurbish the hardware, such as hinges, handles, knobs and pulls.

Remove all hardware before you begin sanding, painting or staining your cabinets. If you plan on refurbishing or reusing your hardware, set them and any associated screws aside in individual piles. I recommend storing each pile in plastic freezer bags and labeling them. This will help you stay organized and remember which hardware and associated screws goes with which drawer or door.


Wooden cabinets can crack, dent or chip over time and with continued use. Use wood filler to repair any cracks and wood putty to fill in any dents.

After applying the wood filler or putty, let it dry and harden. This can take a few hours to a day. You must make sure the filler or putty is completely dry before you proceed. After it dries, gently sand over the repaired area to smooth out the surface.


Sanding cabinets can be the most tedious and time consuming task when refurbishing cabinets. If you have the time and do not have an electric sander, sand the cabinets, doors and drawers by hand with sandpaper and/or a sanding block.

Sand the surfaces to remove any old gloss, polyurethane and paint. This will prep the surface for a new coat of stain or primer. After sanding, wipe all of the surfaces off with a tack cloth or vacuum to remove all sanding dust.

Prime and Paint

If you plan on giving your cabinets a new look, paint them a color of your choice. Before picking out your paint, be sure to select the right kind of primer and paint that is suitable for your cabinets. Look for paint that is easy to clean for kitchen cabinets or one that repels water for a bathroom. Check with your local paint retailer or home improvement store for a selection and to purchase a sample.

After you select the color and type of paint you want to use for your cabinets, purchase the coordinating primer.

Painting cabinets is a time consuming process that may require few or many coats of both primer and paint. If you have a paint sprayer, move the cabinets to an outdoor area and paint them or block off a room with plastic sheeting.

Refer to A Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Cabinets for more detailed information on painting cabinets.


Staining wood cabinets can give your kitchen a classic, traditional look. After sanding your cabinets, apply a pre-stain conditioner, then a stain of your choice and polyurethane to seal the stain.

Refer to Tips for Applying Wood Stain for tips on staining wood.

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