Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

New Pulls and Handles: Speedy Pick-me-up for Old Cabinets

by Jim Mallery
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

New knobs are a quick, though not necessarily cheap, route to enlivening your kitchen. Selecting just the perfect knob can be more stressful than picking "just the right color" for your living room paint. Here are eight tips to get a handle on the process.

  1. Knobs/handles. The most basic decision--do you want knobs or handles or a combination. You can put knobs on the doors and handles on the drawers, or reverse it (unusual), or go with all knobs or all handles.
  2. Don't scrimp. While you can go cheap, buying the hardware for a couple dollars each, what's the purpose? If you are trying to upgrade, don't buy pieces that are no better than what you are replacing. It shows.
  3. Be appropriate. By the same token, buy hardware appropriate to your décor. You might be tempted to get crazy, but remember, creative and distinctive needn't mean garish.
  4. Accurate count. You would be surprised how easy it is to miscount the number of pulls you need. Count twice, buy once.
  5. Screw length. Most cabinet doors are 3/4" thick, but drawer faces can be 1 1/4" thick or more. A screw should set at least 1/4" into the knob, 3/8" is better. If you are ordering knobs, you may be able to specify screw length (again, count accurately). Prepackaged knobs often come with 1 1/4" screws, so you may have to buy longer ones for the drawers.
  6. Handle spacing. If you are replacing handles, you need to match up the hole spacing. Measure accurately (they're often 4" wide), or bring one of your old handles when shopping so you can match up the spacing. If you fall in love with handles that are spaced differently than the old handles, you may still have options. The new handles may still cover up the old holes. And if you are freshly painting your cabinets, you can fill the old holes and paint over them.
  7. Be square. If you have to drill holes, make sure they are perpendicular to the face. Use a 90-degree attachment on your drill, or have someone help you align the drill so that it is perfect. Also, slightly countersink screw heads on the cabinet doors; otherwise, the heads dent the cabinet face when the doors shut, even if you use little rubber pads on your doors.
  8. Specialty. If you have granite, you might look into knobs and handles to match the granite. Several websites offer hardware in the common granite colors--prices start around $10 each, but can be much higher. You also can get knobs custom cut from your exotic granite, should you have pieces of it. You can check with granite fabricators to see if they have chunks of it in their "junk yard," if you haven't kept any.

New hardware is a subtle, but significant step toward revitalizing your old kitchen. And while it can cost a pretty penny, it is but a drop in the bucket compare to the cost of new cabinets.

About the Author
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.

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