Kitchen cabinet makeover

Do tired cupboards let your kitchen down? A cabinet refresh is an uncomplicated job that can totally transform your space.

Good news, you don’t need to do a complete reno

It’s amazing what some paint, new handles and a trim can do. Some days it’s not easy to get inspired about dinner, and a kitchen with cabinets that are more shabby than chic doesn’t help. The good news is, if your kitchen is timber or laminate, you don’t need to do a complete reno to give it new life. It’s amazing what some paint, new handles and a little trim can do.

black, white and timber kitchen

Identify the cabinet

First, establish what finish is currently on your cupboards: are they stained or painted timber, laminate or maybe 2pac? No matter the answer, there’s a smart solution with varying degrees of difficulty. Timber doors can be stripped or sanded before being painted or stained, while laminate doors can be given a coat of paint that’s fit for purpose. Don’t forget, you’ll also need to do the frames, end panels and the like. As a professional finish, 2pac needs specialist handling.

white and timber kitchen bench

Put a handle on it

Changing outdated cabinet pulls and knobs has the same effect on a kitchen as a statement necklace over a basic black dress. Matt black is a striking finish with long-lasting appeal, while metals such as copper and brass, and tactile materials such as timber can add warmth. Use Blu-Tack to attach new knobs to cabinet fronts before you screw them in, so you can make sure they’re perfectly positioned. If the new handles don’t match up to the existing holes, fill them with wood filler, sand and retouch, and drill more holes to fit your new hardware. 

white kitchen bench black handles

Choose a colour scheme

A cabinet refresh is a great opportunity to give your kitchen a new look. While white kitchens are eternally popular, they can be blinding in a too-bright space. Off-whites and greys offer an on-trend riff on classic neutrals, while Kaboodle’s Lisa Mayski says, “Bolder and more striking colours such as black, rich greens and navy are making their way into kitchens.” Look to adjacent rooms in an open-plan space, as a consistent palette gives the space a sense of flow.

black and timber kitchen

Find a finish

Choosing a gloss or matt finish is more than just a matter of taste. Kitchen cabinets need to be durable and easy to wipe clean, which makes a gloss finish more practical. But if your cabinet surface is less than perfect, a satin finish better disguises dents and imperfections than a full gloss. For a super-slick finish, use a paint sprayer rather than a regular brush or roller.

white kitchen bench

Clean, sand and prime before you start

Preparation is also key to a great finish. Clean the cabinets thoroughly, removing all grease, then take off the cupboard and drawer fronts and mark them so you can match them up again at the end. Remove handles or knobs and sand; whether it’s laminate or timber, in good nick or not, you need to rough up the surface so the new paint can stick. Apply the appropriate primer and then lightly hand-sand again. Now you’re ready for the final colour!

Add new trim

If the cabinet doors look flat and uninspired, trims can make a big impact. To attach them, use a table saw to cut 6mm-thick plywood sheets into 6cm strips. Measure strips to fit the vertical sides of your door fronts and attach with wood glue, then small nails. Cut and attach strips to the top and bottom in the same way, then fill any gaps with wood putty before sanding, priming and painting. A similar decorative effect can be achieved with timber mouldings for a more traditional look. 

Pro tip: Before tackling any paint job, get the right safety kit: goggles, a mask and latex gloves. 

white kitchen drawers

For tougher tasks:

Modern kitchen cabinets often have a 2pac finish, which is robust but difficult to change. A 2pac kitchen can get a new colour upgrade, but, like respraying a car, it needs expert attention and a controlled environment, so can be quite pricey. 

If your cabinet doors are beyond saving, consider getting new ones. Check the door and drawer panel measurements carefully, as standard sizes may be able to be matched seamlessly. If your cabinets are a non-standard size, there are options such as Kaboodle’s Cut to Measure offer for doors and panels, which might be all you need to refresh your kitchen.

Give your cupboards a refresh

Whether you have decided to refresh your existing cupboard doors or think it's time to get new ones, your local Bunnings has all you need to get the job done.

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Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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