Once your material arrives, take a few minutes to inspect it all. Take note of any shipping damage, and if a piece is not usable, then let your supplier know right away. Most have a certain time frame that damage has to be reported within in order to get replacements. At the same time, make sure that you are happy with the overall quality of the material. Look for discolorations or pieces that may have major defects in the wood itself. Most of the time quality control is pretty tight in the cabinet making business, but every once in a while a bad piece does slip through.
Reface End Panels
You will always want to start with the end panels. This is the large, flat, exposed surface at the end of a run of cabinets. You may have decided to simply use the self-adhesive veneer product to cover these ends, or you may have ordered a plywood panel that needs to be installed here.
If you are using a plywood panel, the first step is to get an accurate measurement and cut the panel to the correct size. A table saw is the best way to ensure the accuracy of this cut. The plywood panel itself is not self adhesive, so you'll need to glue it on using a high quality wood glue. Set it into place and then secure it with finish nails. You can strengthen the glue's bond by lightly applying several clamps.
When you cut the plywood, you will expose an unfinished edge. Don't panic if this edge is revealed when you install the panel. The reason that you are doing this step first is so that you can cover that edge when you reface the stile that runs parallel to that exposed edge.
Reface the Cabinet Boxes
The majority of your exposed cabinet box surfaces will be covered by a thin, self adhesive veneer. It is important to sand all of the old surfaces before you begin applying the veneer. I recommend a 150 grit sandpaper. This step will ensure that all of the old dirt and grease is gone so that the new adhesive will stick properly.
Once you are confident that the surfaces are clean and well sanded, you can begin cutting out the veneer. Generally, you want to cut each piece 1/2" longer and wider than it needs to be. You will trim it to size after it has been applied.
Begin to apply each piece by pulling back just a little bit of adhesive paper on the backside. Set the peeled back end into place, then slowly work more adhesive paper away as you press the veneer into place. Go slow and make sure that you get it right the first time, as the adhesive is very sticky and it makes removing a piece and starting over very difficult.
Use a razor blade or utility knife to cut away the excess veneer, leaving a clean straight edge. Do one opening at a time, always applying the veneer to the stiles (the vertical surfaces) before the rails (the horizontal surfaces).
Replacing Cabinet Hardware
If you are using new hardware, you need to be sure of a few things before you begin installing it. The most important facet of hardware to think about involves the drawer fronts. Your drawer box already has a hole, or maybe two, where the old pull was installed. Unless you want to be left with multiple holes inside the box, you need to make sure that your new hardware is the same size. If your old drawer pull just needed one hole, but you change to a pull that requires two screws, you're going to be left with an empty hole inside when you install the new one.
Sometimes pulls that have two screws can be different sizes. If that is the case, you will have to drill two new holes and will be left with two empty holes in the drawer box. While these empty holes are not visible from the outside of the cabinets, they will be able to be seen when the drawers are open. My best advice is to make sure your new hardware is compatible with the existing holes in the drawer boxes.
When installing the hardware on the doors, begin by installing the hinges about 2" from the top and bottom of the door. You want to make sure, however, that you are not going to be installing the hinges into the same holes that exist underneath the new skin on the face frames. The screws could work loose and pull off the self-adhesive veneer. If you are using new hinges, make sure that you refer to the instructions that came with them for any last minute details.
Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.