Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

How to apply veneer to kitchen cabinets: prep

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Refacing your cabinets with wood veneer can give your kitchen a whole new look and feel. A good contractor and crew can take your kitchen from generic particle board to gorgeous hardwood in about a week. If you want to do it yourself, it can be a lengthy and difficult process -- but also personally rewarding and one that can save you quite a bit of money.

Veneer basics

By and large, only cabinet boxes are refaced because of the inset panels, routed profiles and detailing common on cabinet doors. If you have flat doors and drawer faces, however, refacing should be easy. You should be able to find matching cabinet doors and drawer faces (not to mention shelves, molding, and other architectural detailing) from the veneer manufacturer. You can also find unfinished doors and stain them to match whatever veneer you choose.

You can find veneers of nearly every kind of wood and finish (including unfinished), but for you, the consumer, it's typically going to fall into one of three groups:

  • No adhesive backing: This type requires wood glue and finishing nails to fix it in place. It comes as either rolls of veneer or as thin boards typically used for end panels in refacing kits.
  • Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA): Simply peel the paper back to reveal the adhesive and apply pressure to get it to stick, which is why it's sometimes simply called "peel and stick" veneer. This is the most common type of veneer and can be used for any part of the project.
  • Hot melt glue: This veneer takes an iron to melt the glue backing and apply pressure to get it to adhere. These thin, rolled-edge strips are typically applied to the edges of the cabinet frame.

Here's a quick-and-dirty breakdown of how to prep before applying wood veneer to your cabinets.

Preparing to apply veneer

Empty the cabinets as much as possible, then remove all the doors, drawers and hardware. Gently remove all of the molding, as well. You'll be sanding, so take care to cover or cordon off whatever you don't want getting covered with sawdust. Inspect the cabinets for peeling, cracking or any other damage and make necessary repairs.

When you're ready to get started, sand every surface you're planning to reface with 120 to 150 grit sandpaper. This helps the veneer get a good bond and ensure adhesion. Lightly wipe everything down with a mild detergent or solvent, and allow time to dry completely.

Once you're done there, it's time to start on the veneer installation process itself.

Next--How to apply veneer to kitchen cabinets: refacing

About the Author
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.

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