Refacing a Rounded Face Frame

Tips for how to reface cabinets with round corners, and some general comments on the cabinet-refacing market. February 28, 2006

I'm planning on refacing some older kitchen cabinets. The face frames were built out of block board and the outside edges were rounded over. I really don't want to take the cabinets down or turn this into a major project. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how best to apply veneer facing? I had thought about using a router to rabbit out the round over and then glue in a strip of wood to square it up, but would prefer a less complicated solution.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
If the boxes are ok I would build new hardwood face frames. It would probably less labor then rabbeting out the round-over’s and fitting and filling, and will result in a much better finished project.

From contributor T:
I must be really missing something here. It seems to me that re-facing and doing a decent job of it, would be more work than rebuilding. Veneering face frames? What a chore.

From contributor F:
How about building new frames with wider stiles and rails and attaching them to the existing frames? If the customer wants to reface instead of replace, chances are they're looking to economize.

From contributor B:
This may sound odd at first, but I have done this before - create a square edge mold by butting two-bys together, fill with bondo and apply to your corner and clamp until dry (bondo dries quickly). You can sand and may have to touch up in places, but this should give you a solid square edge to apply your veneer or laminate to.

From contributor L:
I am a one man shop, doing mostly high end cabinetry in new construction. These jobs are usually quite large, very time-consuming and sometimes mentally taxing. I have more custom work than I can handle and frequently have to pass on projects that don't fit my schedule.
I do not advertise for custom work because I would be overwhelmed or would have to hire someone and I've been down that road before and I prefer to work alone for the time being. That being said, I do advertise for cabinet re-facing. The re-facing world is totally different than the custom work that I have built my reputation on.

It's true that many people looking to have their kitchen refaced are doing so for economical reasons. These people are the clients who can't or don't want to spend big dollars and/or huge amounts of time on a kitchen project. But many of these same people don't have a problem paying $3,500 to $6,500 on a kitchen project that takes less than a week.

This is a huge market. The work, for a custom cabinetmaker, is incredibly simple and can be quite lucrative. It is not as glamorous as high-style cabinetry, but I can't see any reason why I should ignore this segment of the market. It's simple work, it pays well and it is actually a stress reliever from the daily grind of custom work.

I did a rather large reface a while back that I charged over $6,000 for. I had about six working days in it and about $1,200 in materials. I made about $800 a day, (gross). Not bad pay for low-end work.

I’m not sure about the rounded corner idea. I rabbet and glue strips just like you describe. I hate doing it, but haven't come up with a better technique. Routing the bottom edge of the base cabinets is a real drag. I know of a shop that replaces face frames rather than reface, and personally I think that new frames are far superior to veneering the frames, but I don't want the liability issues that would come along with removing the existing frames.

From contributor S:
I am a cabinet maker/trim carpenter/wood rat and have been in the business for 25 years. I have found that do to the economy you have to do what you can to make a buck. And no one thing pays any better than the other. A job is a job. I have a 5,000 square foot shop but I also like to get out once in awhile do other things. With that said the problem you have is very easy to fix.

Instead of regular veneer, use craftwood laminates made by Wilsonart. It is veneer with a plastic back to it so it stays super stiff. Apply on the side of the cabinet first then use a long flush bit that will ride beyond the routed edge and on to the flat part of the face frame be sure you do not tip the router. What this does is give you a form to fill with Durhams rock hard wood putty. Mix and fill the void with a putty knife and level as best you can. Let it dry till it’s hard and sand with a wood block, then you face the front. The thing about using rock hard putty is if you get any on your pre-finished veneer you simply wash it off.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
There is a very simple solution that I always use. Simply cut your 1/4" end panel, attach with wood glue and pins and fill the routed void with carpenter’s putty. When dry, block sand, apply contact cement, and apply the veneer over the putty filled void. This has always worked very well.