Building your own kitchen cabinets can be a satisfying and rewarding DIY project, and the kitchen cabinet front will be the final face of your work. Since the front determines the size of doors and drawers that can be used, getting this part right is essential to creating an attractive and stylish cabinet.
Step 1 – Measure the Existing Cabinet
Measure the width of the existing cabinet face, including width and length. Also measure the existing drawer openings and cabinet door openings. Measure the distance from the edge of the cabinet to the beginning of each of the drawer and door openings. Note the distance between the drawer, especially if there is a bank of drawers as part of your cabinet.
Keep in mind that you may want the doors and drawer faces to be slightly larger than the openings to accommodate hinges, to help open and close the doors/drawers and for appearance.
Step 2 – Cut the Cabinet Face
Place the plywood over the saw horses. Mark the measurements of the cabinet faces on the wood and cut the plywood to size with the circular saw. Set aside the cabinet face piece.
Take a separate piece of wood and mark the measurements for all of your drawer faces and cabinet doors. Use the circular saw to cut out these pieces. If needed, number each piece so that you know where it fits on the cabinet face.
If you want a special edge to the doors or drawer faces (angled, bull nose, etc), use a router edge to create the desired effect.
Step 3 – Sand the Edges
Using coarse sandpaper, sand off the edges of each of the boards you have just cut, removing any splinters and creating a smooth and safe edge for people reaching in and out of the cabinets. Set aside the doors and drawer faces to work on later.
Step 4 – Sand the Cabinet Face
Since it is easier to work on the cabinet face while it is unattached, sand the surface of the cabinet wood, focusing your attention on the good side of the plywood (this is the side with the best grain).
Start with coarse sandpaper. Brush and wipe away any accumulated dust.
Change to a finer grain of sandpaper and sand until you have created a completely smooth finish. Brush away any dust and wipe clean with a dry clean lint-free cloth.
Step 5 – Attach the Cabinet Face
Set the cabinet face against the cabinet, good side facing outward. Using finish nails, attach the cabinet face to the side rails of the existing cabinet and along the top and bottom.
Step 6 – Finish Cabinet Face
With windows open to provide ventilation, apply a thin layer of wood sealant to the cabinet face. Let this dry for the time indicated on the packaging.
If you will be using an oil-based wood stain or paint, use an oil-based sealant (these usually dry faster than water based). If you are using a water-based paint or stain, use a water-based sealant.
Now apply either stain or paint to your cabinet face with a clean brush. In most cases, you will want to match the finish of the existing cabinet body. Apply at least 2 coats of the stain or paint to the cabinet face, letting each coat dry between applications.
Apply a final coat of sealant or varnish if you used wood stain.
Step 7 – Finish Doors and Drawer Faces
Repeat Step 6 on the cabinet doors and drawer faces.
Step 8 – Attach Hinges
Attach the door hinges to the cabinet. Depending on the type of hinge you are using, the hinge will be attached either to the outside of the cabinet face or just inside the cabinet.
Attach the hinge to the cabinet doors, and then connect the doors to the cabinet face.
Step 9 – Attach Handles
Attach handles or pulls to your doors and drawers.
Step 10 – Attach Drawer Faces
Nail the drawer faces to the front of each drawer with finish nails.