Kitchen Cabinets: Keep Them Or Kill Them?

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It’s difficult to know when it’s the right time to say goodbye to your kitchen cabinets. If I were a mobster, I’d say it’s important to know when the people around you support your cause or make life more complex. If you spend more time frustrated and feeling murderous of your cabinets, and you put a lot of effort toward trying to make things better then it might be time to put an end to your relationship.

Yes – I know it’s a little dramatic to suggest you should kill your cabinetry. We can outline a few key points Tony Soprano might consider when deciding if someone on his ‘team’ was ready to be put out to pasture, mafia style. Surely we can all learn a little something from an Italian in the kitchen.

Whaddya Made of?
Not all cabinets are made alike. Test the strength of your cabinets. Are they real wood? I’m far more inclined to keep an old-timer in the kitchen and on my crew if they’re made of strong mettle. Wood cabinetry that’s well built can survive many an era, unless the layout is limiting your lifestyle. Look to keep well-built, wood cabinetry.

Could a Little Rehab Help?
Get to know your cabinets and their faults. Some are more grievous than others. Is there water damage or peeling paint? A good cabinet through the years has benefited from a little rehab time. If your cabinets are in good structural shape, but have surface damage, consider keeping them on the team. They might just need repainting, resurfacing, and a hardware update. They’ll be grateful for the second chance and serve you well going forward.

Are They Being Used to Their Fullest Potential?
If you’re convinced your cabinets just ain’t cutting it on your crew, you could consider upcycling them into another part of your house, like into a desk or a work zone or into your garage. While you explore your options on replacing them, decide if they might be right for someone else. Groups like Habitat for Humanity, Diggers’ List, Craigslist, and Freecycle could be a kinder way to send your functional cabinets on to another team.

Past the Point of No Return – Where to Bury the Body?
Every mob boss has to know when it’s the right time to take out one of their own. If you absolutely cannot live with your warped, damaged, despicable cabinets, know how to dispose of them properly. If you can’t send them on to greener pastures, be kind and whack ‘em in a classy fashion. If you can’t reuse or upcycle, make sure you recycle all wood and plastic components that can be properly disposed of.

Are you thinking about putting a hit out on YOUR cabinets?

Comments (22)

  1. Vicki Lamb says:

    The quality of my cabinets isn't so bad, but the bottom cabinets don't have shelves! What can I do?

    • Laurie_March says:

      Hi Vicki!

      There are so many ways to add functionality to lower cabinets that don't have it. A handyman can make some shelves for you, or you could explore adding in some pull out racks too to make things more functional.

      Here are a few great ideas to poke through:

      There are videos and photos there that can give you some inspiration!

  2. Marie Martzall says:

    Dont get rid of those cabinets give them new life. I love old that you bring back to life. Hgtv has gave me so many ideas and I'm hook on watching your shows. So people keep your old cabinets and watch the shows and bring some new life back into them! Great shows love you guys :-)

    • Laurie_March says:

      Marie –

      I'm hooked too! My DVR is full of HGTV shows :) Those Property Brothers are pretty hunky, no?

      I love bringing things back to life too. Sometimes it doesn't take a whole lot of money – just some elbow grease and some great inspiration!

      Thanks for watching and reading.

  3. LaNell says:

    Had metal cabinets in one house I bought years ago. A 1950 built house. Sad on my first tour through,
    'well, those will have to go'. But after moving in, I quickly learned to appreciate them. But, when I got
    ready to take the doors off (and there were SEVERAL) and the drawers out to sand and then spray paint
    them in my garage I was shocked at the weight of that first upper cabinet door. Years later, when I
    flipped the house, I told the buyers 'If you ever want to remodel the kitchen, please do let me buy the cabinets from you'. Well, they still have the house, and they still have the cabinets. There IS no quality like what was in those.

    • Laurie_March says:

      LaNell it's so true!

      So many things were craftsman made years ago, and the things we make today don't always reflect the same level of quality that might be sitting in our kitchens today.

      I bet you set them straight on how awesome the cabinets are!

  4. Jessica says:

    The builder installed Laminate cabimets, they look awful. I need to know if that type of wood can be painted.
    Please help!

  5. Laurie_March says:

    Hi Jessica!

    I'd love to feature your comment later this month as my Q & A for the week.

    I hope you'll stay tuned for my answer!!

  6. Linda says:

    I want to keep my old cabinets and have them painted or resurfaced. What are the options and what should I look for in hiring someone to paint or resurface them?

  7. Ana says:

    We are getting our kitchen cabinets refaced, how can I find the best counter tops to match?

  8. Glenda says:

    I had new kitchen cabinets custom made about 5 years ago. They are all wood with medium maple finish, which I like, but the corners of the doors and drawers are sharp. They didn't put in adjustable shelving, I had drawers added to the bottom of the cabinets, which was an after thought, so it also looks like an add-0n, I just wanted drawers for more storage space. I am just wanting to renovate my kitchen, but right now, we don't have the money plus I am 68 years old and probably don't have too many years to enjoy what I really want. I go to the kitchen each morning and just want to keep on walking. I now want an open concept to the dining room, but I don't know where to start. My husband and I aren't able to do the renovating so I would at least like a new floor and new refrigerator to match my other black appliances. If you want an expert job, don't go with the cheaper of the estimates. Just wished I had known for sure what I was getting, and I would have gone with a reputable place and know exactly what I am getting. I felt rushed when we were discussing the cabinets. TAKE YOUR TIME!!

  9. Glenda says:

    If I could get Meg, Drew and Jonathan, or Kitchen Cousins to come to my house to help I would love it. I know that is impossible, but I watch HGTV every night; in fact, that is about all I watch on TV. If I happen to miss it on the early shows, I stay up late to watch it later that evening. My husband tells me he wished I had never heard about HGTV. My cousin had a focal point built in her house, and I said 'how in the world did you come up with this design?' She said HGTV which was about four years ago. I have been addicted to HGTV ever since. Just wanted to express my view on how much I love HGTV.

  10. debbie says:

    I have laminate cabinets with the wood grab bar at the bottom of the cabinet. No funds to remodel the kitchen.
    How can I fix them–they are 40 inch tall cabinets. The layout of the cabinets and drawers are great for the space.

  11. bOB cAYER says:

    I have an all metal Youngstown kitchen, circa 1950, which is in fair;y good shape except for rust on the
    cabinets under the sink. How would you suggest repairing them, and would you advise doing so, or getting an
    all new kitchen set-up?

    Also, how do you repaint them for a spruce-up ?

  12. Celeste says:

    I like my cabinets circa 1970 and the layout but the below sink doors need refinished. How do I do this and match the finish to my other cabinets?

  13. patricia says:

    What can be done for cabinets with laminate centers.. the framework is real wood ..

  14. DRayne says:

    When you say wood, are you including plywood? Our old cabinets are made of sturdy plywood, with incredibly plain doors without hardware and in need of slide-outs, etc. to make them more functional. I'd like to add some molding and use a coating system to make them vanilla white. Add some hardware, too. But am I better off replacing the doors entirely with something more suitable for a country kitchen? And then painting or coating the cabinets themselves to match?

  15. Eve says:

    I have a galley kitchen and want to paint the cabinets black with white counters..Or should I go with white cabinets and blankets?????What do you think will look better???? Eve

  16. Renee says:

    What can be done with a 42" stove space when the cabinets are metal. New stoves are not as wide. I also need to put a microwave over the stove, but the space there is 42" too.

  17. Deborah says:

    I also have laminated cabinets in my kitchen that despirately need resurfacing. I don't want to replace the cabinents. I would rather paint them but I'm not sure of the type of paint to use.

  18. John says:

    I am a professional cabinetmaker, and I finish all my own cabinets. I'd like to offer a few quick answers, and hopefully clear up a few misconceptions…

    First, the term "laminate" gets used a lot these days, and it's easy to see how people can get confused talking about some parts of cabinetry as being "laminate" when they look like "laminate" flooring! In cabinetry, "laminate" is used pretty much exclusively to describe melamine-coated particle board (MCP). That's the bright white stuff with the hard-as-nails coating that weighs 100 lbs per sheet that is often used for cabinet boxes (not the greatest, but bright and easy to clean) as well as internal shelves – again, not the greatest, especially for wider spans as it will sag almost immediately with any weight, but useful and convenient (and cheap!) This material can be painted, but only with proper surface preparation (i.e., cleaning and sanding to offer "tooth" to the bulletproof finish) and a paint that will (a) adhere well, and (b) stand up to kitchen use. Household interior paint will not do the trick. A spray enamel is a better option. Talk with a reputable painter or local cabinet shop (one with an in-house finishing crew) to get a good looking, long-lasting finish on laminate. Just know that when / if the new paint chips off, you will see bright white (or whatever pattern / color laminate you currently have) peeping out at you! Depending on what you are looking to change to, it may simply be quicker and cheaper to order new doors and drawer fronts made in a style you like. Patricia – what you most likely have is flat 1/4" plywood panels set in hardwood frames – "frame and panel" doors. There's nothing really wrong with that, unless you simply prefer the look and feel of a solid wood panel. The doors can be retrofit with solid wood panels, but it will require cutting/routing out the current panels (lots of noise / sawdust, just in case you're thinking of DIY) and then fitting new panels (which will have to be finished to a near-exact match) into the door frames and tacking them in using narrow strips from inside the doors. Again, this is a time-consuming process, and in this business, time always adds up to $ faster than we'd all like! If that's not your situation, I apologize for solving your non-problem in advance!

    As far as finding countertops, I'd recommend going to a reputable local dealer who specializes in those materials; you'll find they often also offer flooring as well. They will have HUNDREDS of samples of many materials, and should ask you 20 questions (+/-) about how you use / abuse your counters, budget, overall design likes/dislikes, etc. to point you to a few you should be able to take home, just like paint swatches. Might cost a little per sample, but worth it to look at in your home / light.

    Best of luck to everyone here – and I'll admit to still (8 years after moving in) living with cabinets that feature white MCP construction inside and a dark "Cherry" finish we don't much care for! There is a plan in the works, but we've found that you really have to live with a kitchen for some time to find not only the things wrong, but the really good, lasting solutions that will result in a kitchen you'll enjoy for years to come…

  19. pamdesignsblog says:

    If you absolutely have to replace them and they are in fairly good condition like ours were when we remodeled our kitchen, remove them carefully. We found places to re-install them in our house like the garage and laundry room. The ones that were not reused were sold on craigslist. If you don't want to go to the trouble of storing them until they sell, you can donate them. Sometimes organizations like Habitat for Humanity or some religious charities may take them. You can also post a free add on craigslist's "free" column.

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