Repainting Old Kitchen Cabinets (and Making a New One)

I recently completed a kitchen remodeling job that was centered around keeping the existing late 1950’s kitchen cabinets.  As is typical for the era, these were built in place with open backs (the plaster walls serve double duty as the cabinet “backs”).  The boxes were constructed with a combination of plywood for the sides, drawer boxes, and drawer fronts, and solid lumber for the face frames.  The doors were all plywood with the period-typical 3/8″ lipped edges and exposed hinges on the front of the cabinets.

1950's kitchen cabinets

The kitchen with old countertops removed.

The scope of work involved replacing all the hinges with new concealed and adjustable hinges, replacing 3 upper doors with new glass panel doors, building a new matching cabinet over the cooktop to accommodate a microwave/exhaust hood attached to the bottom, and painting everything with multiple coats of semi-gloss Swiss Coffee.

Building the new doors with glass panels was a matter of matching the dimensions of the existing doors. Instead of plywood, the new doors were assembled from poplar with pocket screws, leaving the center panel open to allow a piece of glass to be glued in place with clear silicone.  The new microwave cabinet was also assembled using pocket screws from poplar (face frame), MDF (sides, top, and doors), and birch veneer plywood (bottom).

The new cabinet with a 3" filler attached to the left side.

Once all the new doors and microwave cabinet were finished, I installed the new cabinet and sprayed all the cabinets, in and out, new and old.  As with any paint job the prep work is more important and time consuming than the actual painting.  Always take proper precautions around sanding dust and keep everything extremely clean prior to painting. If the prepped surface isn’t smooth and clean you’ll never get a good painted finish.

During painting, with the new cabinet installed, center top of photo.

In order to paint all the doors I set up a temporary spray booth in the home’s carport.  This allowed me to suspend all the doors from 2×4 braces and spray them all at once.  It should be noted that I drilled holes for all the new hinges prior to painting in order to minimize handling of the finished doors.  Once all the paint was dry the cabinets were reassembled with the new hinges and hardware, granite countertops were installed, and new appliances were put in place.  The final product was an old kitchen made new again.

paint booth, repainting kitchen cabinets

Spraying the doors in the "paint booth."

The finished product (backsplash not installed yet).

glass cabinet doors

The finished product, with the glass doors at the top.

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4 responses to “Repainting Old Kitchen Cabinets (and Making a New One)

  1. This is a great article, thanks a lot for sharing, this valuable information, right from the beginning till end it was really informative. Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me!
    This is what makes the web so great. We can find so much info on things we like.

    Regards,
    Sy “Kitchen Improvement“Reza

  2. Hi,

    I have the same cabinets with the exposed hinges – I want to use a concealed hinge – what kind of hinge did you use?

    thanks!
    Maria

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