Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Low-end, particle board cabinets: reface or replace?

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Over the years, people have done terrible things to kitchens in the name of remodeling. Second perhaps only to linoleum-covered hardwood floors, is cheap cabinetry. Whether it was to cut corners, to come in under budget or just because a well meaning DIY remodeler didn't know any better, a great many kitchens are home to particle board cabinets that are ill-suited for kitchen environments and aren't standing the test of time.

They can be dealt with, even repaired, reinforced and refaced, but it might not be easy. Below, you'll find some tips for handling the situation and get a better idea of how much you might be able to do yourself.


Your first step is to assess the situation. Be brutal. Letting something slide at this stage is just throwing good money after bad -- don't do it.

  • Are all of your cabinets low-end particle board or just a section?
  • Is there water damage? Pest damage or infestation?
  • How stable are the cabinet frames?
  • What appliances are built into the cabinetry, and what would removal and reinstallation entail?

These cheap, old cabinets are prone to moisture damage. Where there's moisture and ready access to food, there may be mold, bugs, mice and numerous other things you don't want to be breathing in or letting run loose through your home. When cleaning or stirring this stuff up, you'll want to use a respirator..

Utility lines are another hazard. Gas, plumbing and electrical lines might run through your cabinets, and working with them typically requires a level of expertise beyond that of many DIYers. In a kitchen, you're probably going to have to deal with all three. If you have to reroute any of these lines, it's wise to hire a licensed* contractor, like the ones you can find through this site.

Removal and repair

Your end goal here is a sturdy frame that's ready for refacing. The doors, drawers, shelves and hardware should all be taken off. Be careful when removing damaged sections of these cabinets. Because of glue and hardware that might not be readily visible, there's a risk of removing more than you wanted or breaking other sections in the process.

The sections you chop out should be replaced with good wood that can help add to the structural integrity of the cabinets. Keep an eye out for areas that could use extra bracing, and make sure that areas that might be exposed to water are properly sealed.


Once everything is sealed and reinforced, you're ready to cover up what's left of those old cabinets. Using good materials helps shore up and protect the frame, but remember that even a high-quality veneer can only do so much. One of our pre-screened, certified contractors can suggest other refacing or remodeling options and help you pull everything together on your budget.

*See terms and conditions: http://www.streetcertified.com/about/Terms.jsp

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