Rebuilding Existing Cabinets

Bottom line: it's not worth modifying existing cabinets when you can build new ones more easily. September 7, 2006

I have a customer who needs some cabinets resized. These are older factory cabinets, made from particleboard. I tried to talk him into new cabinets, but he is stuck on these pieces of crap for some reason. Is there a way to take apart the doors without busting them up too bad? I've got to shrink them up by 2 inches.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I realize that this doesn't answer your question directly, but I would spend more time helping them to understand that rebuilding cabinets is usually just as expensive as making new ones. And this is not just a sales pitch. When you consider that your shop is set up for making cabinets, and you are most productive in your shop, it makes little sense to spend a bunch of time in the field without the benefit of your shop. If you are a one man shop, you need to be charging as much for field work as shop time. Your overhead continues no matter where you are. When I run into situations like this, I am quite frank with them and tell them that it would be easier to replace than to re-fit, and the price reflects that.

As far as taking apart the doors, be careful. What happens if you break them? Who is responsible, and are you charging for this liability? Again, when you consider all the time and energy, it may be easier to make new.

From contributor B:
I'd tell them, "Thank you for your interest, however I'm not interested in wasting my time and your money."

From contributor C:
Bid the job two ways:

One to "fix it"
One to "replace it"
Make the "fix it" one the same as the "replace it" one and leave it at that.

From contributor D:
You could certainly make the doors narrower by ripping them just inside the stile on the table saw and then sliding out the panel, cutting two inches off of it and then shortening the rails. The problems you will run into is that you will need to have a shaper set up to replicate the panel, rail and stile profiles - provided you have cutters in the exact profile that the original doormaker used.

Then, unless they are only clear-coated, you will need to get the stain matched, blend in the raw parts to match the rest of the door, and re-spray it to a uniform finish, hopefully without getting fisheye or adhesion problems from whatever products they have used to clean them over the years. Then you need to make sure the sheen is the same as the sheen of the existing cabinets or they will stick out like a sore thumb even if everything else is dead on. I would tell them they either need to reface the kitchen, replace the kitchen, or have the cabinets painted when you are done with the refab job.

From contributor E:
I tried the rebuilding of cabinets on one job, and it took longer than to replace them. When someone asks me now to do that, I simply say it is cheaper to replace. Beside, you are no longer wedded to the existing layout. You can change the arrangement, add a drawer bank, etc.