Matching New Doors to Re-Faced Cabinet Frames

Pros offer various approaches to getting frames and doors to match each other, and the customer's expectations. August 30, 2007

I'm being asked to quote a kitchen refacing job. The homeowner (husband) has recently married and the wife wants a different look. The cabinets are only ten years old and in great shape. They want to keep the same layout but change the door style and go with a much darker stain. The exterior is an overlay face frame maple with a light fruitwood stain under what looks like a conversion varnish and the interior is white melamine.

From a finishing standpoint, if I keep the old maple cases and just "refinish" them, what's the likelihood I'm going to get a good match with the new doors/drawer fronts? Or would I be better off veneering the old cases so we're applying finish to all new wood?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I reface around 10-25 kitchens per year. This is my method. After agreeing on a color for the kitchen I mix a batch of no less than 1 gallon of gloss lacquer for shading. I remove the doors take them to my shop and work on them. When they are finished I go back and work on the frame. Make sure you sand the doors and the frame with the same grit paper.

Apply a base stain and then shade the doors and frame with the same amount of coats. If you do exactly to the frame what you've done to the doors you will get the same color but it must be done in the same process with the same procedure.

From contributor B:
That's not exactly the case here. The boxes will be the old color. If you are going to get new doors, then they will be whiter or raw. The problem is to match the doors to the boxes. The other problem to make the boxes darker, like they want them. Lighter to darker is not a problem. Get the boxes to desired color, and then match doors to boxes. This is accomplished by toning, glazing or combination of both. Your expertise in this area will determine which way is the best way. If you have no experience in matching like this then you will have a learning experience involved or you will have to get a more experienced finisher to help you out.

From contributor C:

I think I would reface the cabinets. That way is more sure of color and finish match (color, sheen).

From contributor D:
The likelihood of you matching the older maple cabinets to the newer doors and drawers really depends on your skill as a wood finisher. Since you’re going for a much darker stain than the original, the margin for error is in your favor. A good job of stripping off the older finish will certainly have an effect on how well the new finish adheres to the cabinets and the framework.

From the original questioner:
I'm expert at cabinetmaking but you guys are the finishers. It sounds like it can be done but not advisable unless you know your stuff. I do most of my own finishing in-house -you know, wipe-on, wipe-off stain and then grab the gun and seal it up but that's about it. I just thought I'd pose the question to see if this was something I could do myself. I think I'll get some quotes on the finishing and see how those compare to applying my veneer that I'll prefinished in-house.

From contributor A:
If you strip the frames properly and make sure they are clean and well sanded you should have no problems matching the new doors. I strip, brush off with a steel wire brush, strip again, wash off with Steel wool and lacquer thinner, and then wash off with a clean rag and clean lacquer thinner, then I sand. Your wood will be like new. If wood is badly stained I use oxalic acid to clean. Regardless of what you do you are going to have to shade and possibly cap some areas with new veneer if they are badly damaged. I usually cap the toe kick because it's not worth the effort to strip.

From contributor E:
I reface about 15 - 20 wood kitchens a year - new doors - new fronts - new moldings - new wood over wood veneer, etc. This gives those of us who wipe and spray a consistent finish. Create a schedule and follow it for everything. Don't let the finishing stop you - with time you will gain experience and speed! Those who finish can make a decent living.

From contributor F:
I agree with Jeff and the others who recommend refacing the frames. In my opinion it's a lot less work and will yield better results. Jeff also mentioned a product called Wood over Wood. That's the only thing I will reface frames with anymore. It's also fairly easy to finish as well.

From contributor A:
I agree totally that capping even the frames is a hell of a lot faster but for some reason most of my clients prefer to have them stripped vs capped. Maybe I should stop giving them the option.

And by the way, I don't mean to change the topic but I usually use the iron-on veneer and it's been working very well. What do you all use?

From the original questioner:
Why don't we expand on that a little further? Anybody want to chime in on their experiences with cabinet refacing veneers? Do you use PSA or contact cement? Prefinish or finish on-site? I've used the 10mil. paper-backed PSA and also the Wood-On-Wood laminate w/PSA mentioned above. Both products made by Formwood. My main concern is how long will the PSA hold up. So far no problems here.

From contributor F:
I use the regular Wood on Wood and attach it with StarStuk spray contact cement. I finish everything in the shop and use a hand-held Virutex laminate slitter to cut out the strips. I cut everything a little wide and trim with a laminate trimmer where I can and a straight edge and razor knife where I can't. I keep two trimmers set up - one with a straight cutting laminate bit with a bearing and another without the bearing. I like the ones without the bearing although I have to change them often because the Wood on Wood starts to fuzz on the edges. The bit with the bearing is handy when running against an edge that's already covered.

From contributor A:
I must try the PSA backed veneers. It's always better if you can avoid spraying in the house - too much taping!