Are your cabinets in good condition but old, worn out and dated looking (kind of like me!)? With just a few tweaks you can bring them into this century and get another 10 to 15 years of life out of them. It seems like back in the 70s and 80s kitchen cabinets were built on site and built to last! That’s the case with the kitchen I’m currently dealing with, the entire kitchen was site built, they made one long face frame for an 8’ bank of cabinets – picture all the face frames of your cabinets connected together and installed as one piece, that’s how this kitchen is. Anyway, I was happy with the layout, it’s pretty basic, so to save some money I decided to work with the existing cabinets by removing the valance, replacing the exposed hinges with concealed hinges and adding glass inserts to the upper, upper cabinets – you’ll see what I mean in a minute. If you have ever thought of updating your dated kitchen cabinets, you’ll definitely want to check out this article in all its splendor.
Replacing the Hinges is a Snap!
Go to the home improvement center and get a 35mm Concealo Hinge mounting kit, it comes with a forstner bit (invented by Benjamin Forstner, in case you didn’t know) and a jig for marking the drill location. You’ll also want to make sure you get 35mm European-style hinges too, but before you buy them you’ll need to determine if you have ½” overlay or full overlay doors. ½” overlay doors overlap the face frames by a ½”, full overlay doors fully overlap the face frame leaving about an 1/8” showing on the outside edge. My doors were all ½” overlay, so I bought eighty 3-way adjustable hinges from eBay. I’m not sure what I was thinking because I ended up with a LOT of hinges left over. Warm up your drill and let’s move on to the next step.
Drilling the Cabinet Doors for the Hinges
For this step you’ll want to clamp your door to the work surface, unless of course you want your door to spin around in circles and possibly punch you in the stomach. Next, measure equal distance from the top and bottom of the door and mark the center hole with the jig, also mark the 2 side holes where you’ll screw the hinge in place (I found that using an awl to mark the holes made it easier to drill). We drilled for our hinges over the same location as the old ones, which were NOT equal distance from the top and bottom, but at least every door was at the same unequal distance.
Now comes the fun part, place the point of the forstner bit in the center hole you marked earlier and start drilling, drill the holes ½” deep, that’s the thickness of the bit. The instructions on the back of the kit say “do not drill completely through the door,” Ummm, OK… You’ll want to do this twice on every door, 36” or 42” doors may need 3 hinges each. Let’s backtrack a little here, when you remove the doors mark them and the cabinet box so you’ll know where they go back. Now, do that over and over and over again until all your doors are finished.
Optional Customization -Adding Glass to the Upper, Upper Cabinets.
This step will work best with raised panel or recessed panel cabinets, my cabinets are raised panel. OK, so I have a little confession to make, I outsourced this step, my routering skills are not top notch and I wanted the kitchen to look good, not like something put together by Dr. Frankenstein. The good news is it was very inexpensive and I was able to get 10 little doors done for less than the cost of a new upper cabinet. If you’re an ace with the router then you know exactly what to do, so have at it!
After the center panels have been removed, take measurements of the inside openings. I subtracted an 1/8” from the length and width just to make sure the glass would fit. Now, go to Lowes, find the glass cutting isle and give the kind man or woman working there your list of measurements. Make sure you have other things to shop for because this is going to take a while, but it’s super duper cheap so it’s worth the wait. By the way, you don’t have to use glass, you could use that cool radiator metal, chicken wire, punched tin, you name it, sky’s the limit!
If you’re going to paint or re-stain your cabinets now would be a good time to do that. I’m a painted wood kind of gal, so these cabinets got painted, plus it’s a lot quicker and easier to paint them than to sand and re-stain. After the doors and frames have been painted it’s time to install the hinges and the glass. Since my upper, upper cabinets will rarely get used I secured the glass with silicone, if your glass cabinets will get daily use then you might want to use silicone and glazing points. I also put removable frosted film on my glass because after we added puck lights to the upper, uppers I realized how ugly the inside of the cabinets looked.
Putting the Cabinet Doors and Finishing Touches Back On
Hopefully you drilled for the hinges in the same location on every door, if so, then this should be simple. You really just need to measure for the top hinge. I installed my top hinge 4” down from the top of the door, so I measured 3 ½” down from the inside top of the face frame (3 ½” + ½” overlay = 4”). This step is a team effort, one person to hold the door and another person to attach the hinge to the face frame.
You probably noticed from the after photo that I didn’t just replace the hinges and add glass, oh no, I went big with this transformation. I replaced the hinges, added glass to the upper, upper cabinets, removed the wood valances, closed in a window and added open shelving (super simple), added upper and under cabinet lighting, new counter tops, new back splash and new appliances. But I did all that with the original cabinets and they no longer look tired, worn out or dated. Now if I could just find something to renovate my tired, worn out, dated self…
3 thoughts on “When the 70s Call Asking For Their Cabinets Back, Hang Up and Bring Them Into This Century”
Where can I buy those exact hinges? We have the same cabinets.
I think possibly a black countertop would have been sharp. My kitchen is bamboo cabinetry with black Quartz counters – really striking. (Couldn’t really picture it prior to the reality- fingers were crossed!)
Congratulations, that’s an extremely creative solution! As I see from the pictures, you’ve also changed the splashbacks and the lightning. I’ve always supported the idea that making small improvements to your kitchen is better than spending a fortune on a whole new interior.