Answers to Cabinet Questions

Q. We are remodeling our kitchen and I'm not sure what's appropriate in terms of hardware for the cabinets. Do you put knobs on the doors and handles on the drawers or is it vice versa?

A. The standard to the industry is knobs on the doors and handles on the drawers.

Q. I had my center door handles replaced and the cabinet refinisher puttied up the old holes and placed corner knobs. The center holes and the 4-inch indentions left in the middle of the doors looks horrible. I've tried to find some kind of plate to cover the problem and haven't had any luck. Can anybody help me out with this?

A. If the old bore holes are still obvious, it doesn't sound like a good putty job. I would call your cabinet refinisher, and ask him to make it right.

Q. I hate my kitchen cabinets. It's a very small kitchen. The cabinets are a low-grade plywood type with ugly flat laminate surfaces, kind of a grey or white faux wood look. Is there a product, some sort of laminate or self-adhesive covering made for this oh-so-cheap type of re-facing? Just to make it look less nauseating for about a year?

A. Yes, there are websites that sell laminate for cabinets. Just do a Google search. However, if you want to get through a year with the cabinets perhaps a bit better, a cheaper option would be to just paint them.

Q. I have old kitchen cabinets, which are laminate with the fake dark wood look. Can these be painted?

A. Clean them, scuff them, prime them, and paint away. Use an oil-based primer for better adhesion. Use 4-inch mohair roller for the cabinet doors, roll it on and brush it smooth. The results will be based upon a combination of the cabinet's condition, type of paint used, and your painting skills.

Q. I need to make a desk and have thought about using kitchen base cabinets. Do you need to add a platform to set the cabinets on? Does it work well? Will I be able to do this?

A. You could also use a pre-made laminated countertop, depending on the look you are going for. Base kitchen cabinets are probably going to be too high to make a desk with, unless you are tall or are planning on using high chairs. If you decide to go with the kitchen base cabinets, you will find they are generally too high for a desktop. Removing the toe-kick area will lower them about four inches. You can also use a solid core door. This make a great worktop and all you will have to do is cut it to the size that you want and stain or paint.

Q. I am trying to stain my oak kitchen cabinets a red mahogany. I have followed all of the directions including pre-sanding the wood with 100-grit so that the stain takes and have even left it on the full 15 minutes before wiping it off. When I do that though, my cabinets just look slightly more orange oak than they did before. Why can't I stain my oak cabinets a mahogany color? What am I doing wrong?

A. Sanding wood with fine grit paper actually causes it to resist absorbing stains or finishes since you're removing the pores that would hold the stain or finish. Fine grits above 220 can actually burnish wood and it won't take a stain. After sanding, you have the sawdust that is loose as well as "feathers," which are microscopic strands that are still partially attached to the board. If you wipe the board with a damp rag, the "feathers" curl and a light sanding will remove them. Tacking is the term used to describe a cleaning step to remove dust after sanding. It's usually done with a tack cloth, which is an open weave fabric treated with a wax. You can buy tack cloths at the local hardware for about $1.00 each. You control the color of a stain up to a point by how long you leave it before you wipe it off. If you like the look when it's first applied, then you should try putting on two or three coats rather than trying for one thick one.

Another possible solution would be to use a semi-transparent stain rather than a transparent stain. Semi-transparent have more pigments and will usually give you a deeper color. The trade-off is that you'll also lose some of the wood grain. The real trick to getting a good stain or finish is experimentation. If you don't have the patience to experiment, you probably need to hire someone to do your cabinets. It will be expensive, but redoing a bad job will cost even more.

Q. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions on the best way to strip painted kitchen cabinets? They are approximately 30+ years old and have several coats of paint. I would like to get down to the original wood. I can't afford new cabinets right now, but I'm tired of the painted look. I will be doing the job by myself so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

A. 1. Removing several coats of paint is a very tedious, and nasty task. Given the fact that harsh chemicals, and sanding possible leaded paint may be involved, these are issues to consider when taking on a project like this.

2. If you bought the house with the cabinets in it already, do you know what kind of wood they are? It may not be a type of wood that you really want to expose and stain. Chances are that there may be a reason for the first coat of paint.

3. You didn't mention if the doors are flat or raised panel. Raised panel doors will require lots of hand sanding - extremely labor intensive. If it's not a large kitchen, it may not be a huge issue. If it is, I would consider a more pleasing painted look. Many options are available.

Q. I have cherry wood kitchen cabinets. They are not in the best of shape. I want to strip them and lighten them up a bit. I don't know what is the best way to go about doing this. What product do I use to get the stain/varnish off of them? What product do I use after that process is done to keep them looking lighter and newer?

A. Since the cabinets were made of cherry, it is doubtful that they have any stain on them (stain is mainly used to make cheaper wood resemble the more expensive). Oil base finishes do tend to darken over time so stripping them may lighten them some. After all that, cherry wood will darken with exposure to light. You may not accomplish your goal of lightening them, after all.

Visit our Community Forums for more answers to your home improvement questions.