How can I refresh my kitchen cabinets without painting them or sanding

I have to replace 38 drawer handles in my kitchen. That’s a lot of wood! It’s all stained golden oak and some of it is sticky around the handles no matter how much I clean. I cannot paint them. What are my options for refreshing the Look? Thanks a bunch!

  4 answers
  • V Smith V Smith on Jan 03, 2018
    Try WD40 on that sticky stuff. If you can't paint perhaps you could give them another coat of poly.

  • Lara Fitzpatrick Lara Fitzpatrick on Jan 03, 2018
    More than likely your oak cabinets would have been finished with a clear coat over stain (if your cabinets are stained). The popular era of the golden oak was the late 80's to mid 90's and I suspect that the clear coat has yellowed over time which can appear that they've been stained golden. If you have used any cleaning chemicals harsher than soap and water on your doors/drawer fronts, chances are you have damaged the clear coat which is causing that stickiness around the handles. This is the result of a combination of the cleaner softening the clear coat and mixing the grime in with it. The bad news is the only way to rid the stickiness now is sanding the softened clear coat and years of grime off and refinishing. If you do choose to sand down only the worst of the fronts, replicating the yellowed clear coat and sheen to match the fronts you haven't done is very difficult. This is not a project for the average home owner to tackle and I would recommend finding a professional to refinish all your fronts and exposed sides/gables. This is a costly venture because of it's labour intensiveness and may run you close to the same as a new kitchen.
    CHANGING HANDLES/KNOBS If you can live with the stickiness (never paint over this!), opting to change the hardware is a great way to update your kitchen look. Please pay close attention to your drill pattern (the spacing of the holes between the screws). Back when your handles originally installed there was a more standardized size of drill pattern and a whole lot less choice of hardware. This will restrict you to what you can fit with today's vast choice. A great tip is to remove a handle from a cabinet that you never use and keep it with you to compare sizing when you are shopping for a new handle. In Canada most handles are measured in mm so even a few mm can throw off this sizing so if your new choice is not exact, buy a couple and try them first before investing in a whole kitchen's worth! If you have a knob with a single hole drilled, that's a no brainer!
    The next thing to pay attention to is the thickness of the door and drawer fronts with the drawer box. You will need to ensure that the screw provided is long enough. Most doors stiles (the wooden piece where your handles are drilled) are 3/4" thick. Depending on your drawer front/drawer box construction you might need longer screws. If you have a raised panel door/drawer front style and the drawer box is screwed to the raised panel you will definately need a longer screw than what is typically provided with a new handle/knob. In some cases you can reused your existing screws if the diameter and thread pattern is the same as the new handle. Imperial sizing differs from metric with screws, they can appear to "almost" fit but they won't so don't force it, you will damage the handle and screw. (spoken from experience :)
    Last thing to pay attention to is the hinge finish. "Face frame" cabinet construction is when the fronts close onto a cabinet frame and the barrel of the hinge is exposed. Match your new hardware to that hinge finish if you don't want to change out the hinges which is a 7 out of ten in the difficulty scale. In your case add a few more points for difficulty to account for the number of hinges! Getting the doors level and plumb again with new hinges and old holes is an art in itself!
    I hope this answers your question, albeit not the greatest news! If you have any comments or more questions please feel free to respond, I'd be happy to help!

    • See 1 previous
    • Lara Fitzpatrick Lara Fitzpatrick on Jan 03, 2018
      You are most welcome! Find comfort in knowing you are not alone! I run across this challenge several times a year. Truth be known, I'd rather endure a kitchen reno than move! :)

  • Liz Toone Liz Toone on Jan 03, 2018
    Krud Kutter is another cleaning option.