How do I refurbish my old cabinets inexpensively?

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My kitchen is in dire need of having life breathed into it, but I haven't the finances to pour into it. The cabinets were originally built into the walls, rather than units brought in and attached to the walls, so there is little insulation between the outside world and the cabinets themselves. They are hot in the summer - very bad for food storage and rodent/insect control! Plus they are so narrow, you can't slide a plate in or out without tilting them sideways and it's a struggle to extract other large items or put them away. Additionally, the exterior was painted and is currently boring and drab, repainted taupe against existing eggshell walls.


I have plans for painting the kitchen walls and ceiling a clean, crisp white and adding pops of color of spring green, poppy, sunny yellow and bright orange with chair fabric, paintings and decor, but what do I do with these cabinets? I can't afford new ones, but my husband is a handyman and I'm not afraid to stain or paint! What do you suggest?


Please help,

Cindy Edmonds






q how do i refurbish my old cabinets inexpensively

The stud between the cabinets makes it difficult to put items away and extract them. The gap is too narrow!

q how do i refurbish my old cabinets inexpensively

These two cabinets (openings) are - 10.5" wide x 2'4" high. One is 11" x 2'4". Five of them are 12" x 2'4". There are two small ones above the refrigerator. None of them reach the ceiling of course. That's just encased.

  7 answers
  • Deb K Deb K on Aug 03, 2018

    I am thinking you should maybe do the foam insulation on that side of the house and put siding over it for extra a bit of extra R value. On the inside of the kitchen, get your husband to make extensions for the facing of your cabinets, so remove the doors and add wood to extend the depth of the cabinets, you will need to extend the shelving on the inside of them as well. Paint then enjoy, hope this helps.

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Aug 03, 2018

    Hi Cindy! Cabinets are basically a box with doors. Check out a local re-store for inexpensive used cabinets or invest in some plywood and insulation. I would remove the doors to reuse them if necessary, insulate the walls and after closing up the wall, build the cabinets on the surface of the wall, preferably all the way up the wall. All the pretty color and décor won't give you protection from the outside or usable space. If that can't be done right now, at least add some foam board to the back of the cabinets and ask hubby to either build a small storage cabinet or repurpose a bookcase (or build one) for open shelving.

    • C m  Edmonds C m Edmonds on Aug 08, 2018

      Never thought about going to the re-store! I'll check them out. Thanks for the idea!!! Hubby can certainly handle the rest.

  • Edie Pfeifer Edie Pfeifer on Aug 04, 2018

    Consider removing the doors completely, and just go with open cabinets. Try just one or two for a while, to see how it works, and if you like it. With no doors that "stud" may be removable. It may not be supporting anything, just necessary because of the two doors. Seems like the simplest and least expensive solution, if you can handle looking at all your stuff. I have seen pictures of kitchens done with just shelving.

    • C m  Edmonds C m Edmonds on Aug 08, 2018

      Thanks for your idea. I might try it in one spot or two, but I couldn't do my whole kitchen like that. Dust and dog hair would be everywhere. Just seems unsanitary to me.

  • Tammy Hawkins Tammy Hawkins on Aug 04, 2018

    If your husband has time on his hands, why not look at removing the top shelf, then moving the center shelf up a bit. This would give you room for larger items on the top shelf. OR a thought for your plates might be to build one of those 'racks' that are used to slide dishes into the cabinet. Instead of a stack of dishes they would all rest on their edge, see Pic1. Idea on painting. Take off the cabinet doors and paint the cabinets a contrasting color, or just a popping white, no need to paint cabinet doors. Or my favorite is to use self sticking shelf paper. I can change my cabinets cheaply any time that I want Pic2. I even did the fridge this time (the cabinets over the fridge did get finished). Self sticking shelf paper, $1.00 at the Dollar Tree.

  • Joann Gonnella Cope Joann Gonnella Cope on Aug 04, 2018

    If husband is handy? I think I would remove the center stud, and buy cabinet grade plywood. they sell half sheets usually,( some home improvement stores will even cut them) and make 2 new doors that meet together in the middle, magnetic closers are cheap. Prime and paint. My hazardous waste site has free paint and I have bought cheap "oops" paint at the home improvement store, a gallon was $5. You could reuse the same hinges or try a restore where they sell them for 50 cents each. If insulating them is an issue I would cut the stiff foam insulation sheets to fit the back wall of the cabinet and glue or double stick tape them in place? it's about the cheapest solution I could think of :)

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    • Joann Gonnella Cope Joann Gonnella Cope on Aug 08, 2018

      Believe me I have to remodel on a budget and going as cheap as possible is my goal too as long as it looks good in the end, my kitchen was built by the man who built the house in 1977 he used the cabinet grade plywood in all the cabinetry and stained it dark dark. I removed the doors and set up saw horses and card tables in my basement and I roughed up the surface and primed them. I used a fine foam roller for smooth surfaces and rolled the paint on, I didn't want to see brush marks in the paint, and it worked great. I even removed the hinges and handles and spray painted them because I couldn't afford new ones. Hope it helps! good luck!

  • Pinkystarfish Pinkystarfish on Aug 05, 2018

    If you need to keep your current cabinets, I remember seeing something online a long time ago where a guy took out the center frame piece “stud” as you call it and attached it to one of the doors so that when you opened the cabinet door, it would open with the door thereby leaving your shelf without any obstruction. This may require that you open and close the doors in a particular sequence but at least you wouldn’t have to work around the center piece when putting dishes in. When the doors were closed, you couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe your hubby could figure out how that guy did it.

    • C m  Edmonds C m Edmonds on Aug 08, 2018

      That does sounds cool and if perchance we reuse the doors, we consider that for sure; however, it doesn't resolve the problems of the cabinets getting too hot or letting in insects and rodents.

  • Suzanne Hunt Suzanne Hunt on Aug 08, 2018

    Change out your hardware. Use European latches that are hidden. Also change out your door pulls. I would take the double doors off one cabinet and ask your husband put In dowels , so you can put your dishes in upright. I liove mine.


    • C m  Edmonds C m Edmonds on Aug 08, 2018

      Great ideas. Thank you. I will definitely consider hidden pulls and latches!