How to Replace & Upgrade Your Cabinet Doors

One of the easiest ways to upgrade your kitchen or give it an instant facelift is to swap your cabinet doors & drawers. Door style is one element that instantly dates a kitchen, but luckily it’s an easy fix. From poorly made lightweight doors to 90’s arched oak doors, swapping your cabinetry doors is an effective and budget-friendly way to makeover your kitchen. Since we’re mid kitchen renovation in our basement, I’ve been getting lots of questions about what that process looks like and where I purchased replacements doors. I’m breaking down the details, cost, and I’m sharing a complete door swap tutorial in today’s post- click through!

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If you missed my latest basement kitchen renovation update, be sure to check that out. We’re finally to the fun part and things are really starting to come together! Ready to check out the door replacement process? Here’s a little peek at the before and after…

Measure for New Doors

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It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll get the most accurate measurements by measuring the backside of the cabinet door (since it’s perfectly flat). Other measurements and details you should jot down…

  • Cabinet Width
  • Cabinet Length
  • Hinge Position (if you’d like pre-bored hinges, see the image below)
  • Door Swing Direction (if you’re having hinges bored)
  • Number of Doors
  • Number of Drawers
  • Don’t Forget to Include False Fronts or Non Functioning End Panels (like in front of the sink)
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I’d highly recommend having your hinges pre-bored. Why? It requires a special piece of equipment. The only reason we did not have ours bored from the manufacturer is because Emmett has access to a hinge borer at his work (a cabinetry shop). When measuring for hinge placement, you’ll measure to the CENTER of the hinge. In the above image, you’ll see the hinge is in the 3″ position… for both the top and bottom hinge (they always match).

Remove the Existing Doors & Drawer Fronts

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This is pretty much where our basement kitchen started… minus the carpet, as we were just wrapping up installing our hardwood flooring. Once you’ve measured your doors, begin removing them. Quick tip: label each cabinet and sketch a quick diagram of which door was installed where (with measurements). It will be easier to identify where each new door should be installed.

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Select & Order Updated Drawers & Doors

Now, the fun part… select and order your new drawer fronts and cabinet doors! There are plenty of profiles to choose from, different species of wood, and selections to make. We ordered our doors from The Cabinet Door Store, and I opted to have them primed. As I previously mentioned, I’d also recommend having your hinge holes bored. They were easy to work with, and responded quickly when I emailed a few questions. They did take about 4 weeks, so just be aware of the lead-time.

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Some quick stylistic and design tips for ordering classic cabinet doors and drawer fronts that will withstand the test of time…

  • Choose a durable material (solid wood)
  • Save yourself some time (pre-bored hinges, primed and ready-to-paint, etc)
  • Choose a profile that isn’t too trendy
  • Consider the rail size for hardware placement
  • Make sure your drawer fronts and cabinet doors feel cohesive
  • Consider upgrading to soft close hinges for a higher-end feel and increased longevity

Paint or Stain The New Doors & Face Frame

How to Replace & Upgrade Your Cabinet Doors -

I used Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in a satin finish for our cabinets. One color was custom mixed (to match our refrigerator that is arriving soon) and the other color I used was Grant Beige. This is an excellent, high quality paint that self levels and has a super durable finish. For the application, I used a brush and high density foam roller in multiple thin coats (3-4 passes once it had completely dried). Since the doors came pre-primed… I was able to dive right in with the paint.

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The face frame is the cabinet frame you removed the doors from. Typically, the face frame will match the doors & drawers (paint or stain color). In my case, I opted for two-tone doors, so the face frame took the darker of my two cabinet colors for a cohesive look. I did lightly sand the face frame and I applied a thin coat of primer prior to painting it for better adhesion and durability! See below…

Install Hinges

As I previously mentioned, I wouldn’t call hinge boring a beginner DIY because it requires an expensive piece of equipment. Emmett has access to a hinge borer at his work (a cabinetry shop), so he knocked ours out there. Luckily, all of the cabinet door manufacturers offer pre-bored and / or installed hinges, so I’d highly recommend that option if you don’t have access to a hinge boring machine. This is what it looks like…

You may need to install the hinges, which is easy. Some hinges press into the bored holes (like the kind pictured below), while others screw in. I’d also consider upgrading to soft close hinges, since you’re investing in nice cabinet doors.

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Measure, Mark, and Install the Finished Doors

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Measure, mark, and install the hinges, then snap the doors back into place. Screw the drawer fronts onto the drawer boxes, and things should be looking really good and cohesive at this point!

Install Hardware

The last, and my personal favorite, step is to install your hardware. Hardware makes a huge difference in the overall aesthetic, but even as an interior designer- I’ll admit, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg. Both the knobs and pulls we used, I found on Amazon… and both were budget friendly. I’ve saved my favorites here for you.

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Where did you purchase your cabinet doors? Why didn’t you have Emmett’s shop make them?

We got these from The Cabinet Door Store. Rather than placing an order from his work, we opted to buy these because they were priced to fit our budget and had a shorter lead-time. We didn’t want to push our little project into their production schedule, especially during the busy season!

Is this your main kitchen?

No! Our full size kitchen is on the main level. It’s the space most people associate with my account or aesthetic. It has moody dark cabinetry, durable soapstone countertops, and panel ready appliances. We renovated it in 2019 and I still adore our kitchen. The cabinets you’re seeing throughout this post live in our basement kitchen- which we’ll use as a bar, since it’s open concept to our basement media room… and it looks nothing like our upstairs kitchen. How to Replace & Upgrade Your Cabinet Doors -

Why didn’t you spray the doors?

We have this Graco paint sprayer and love it, but for this particular door profile and the fact that I was painting a two toned look would have made spraying equally as difficult or time consuming. I found it easier to get in close with a tiny brush and work in layering thin even coats for a professional look and durable application. I honestly think it’s more about the quality of the paint you’re using!

Any tips for rolling cabinet doors?

Follow my tutorial on how to paint a door… it’s the same for cabinet doors! You’ll need a good brush, quality paint, and high density foam rollers (specifically for doors & cabinets).

Do you have some color recommendations from that same paint line?

I sure do! Check out my favorite Benjamin Moore paint swatches here.

What type of wood did you order for these?

Paint grade maple, primed. Budget friendly, durable, and ready to paint!

If you’ve got more questions for me- be sure to leave them in the comment section! I’m always happy to help. Here are a few more sneak peeks at the end result (I don’t want to give away the entire kitchen yet, as we’ve got plenty left to do).

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I also wanted to share a quick breakdown of the cost with you. All of our primed, paint grade maple doors and drawers (18 pieces) for this kitchen cost around $850… a fraction of what replacing the cabinets would have cost. If you’re curious what our main kitchen cost, you can see the complete kitchen budget here. Comparing that space to our basement kitchen, this is definitely a budget-friendly renovation.

Other Impactful Ways to Update a Dated Kitchen

If you’re not looking for a complete kitchen demo & renovation- or are trying to stick to a budget… here are some more ways to update a dated kitchen. I’d recommend picking and choosing a couple of these for an impactful makeover that’s easier on the wallet!

  • Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets
  • Swap the Hardware
  • Install Under Cabinet Lighting
  • Replace the Countertop
  • Update the Plumbing Fixtures (Kitchen Faucet, Pot Filler, etc)
  • Invest in New Appliances
  • Replace the Backsplash
  • Install Open Shelving
  • Deep Clean and Restyle

You may also be interested in reading 10 ways to save money on major home buys… that’s a very applicable post- especially as we head into a new year with an updated home to-do list. What projects are you hoping to tackle this year? Our entryway paint is beginning this week and we’re still working on the basement. I feel like those two BIG spaces will be super nice once they’re finished. All good things!

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  1. Good morning! Yay for the cabinet door details I’ve been craving! So much helpful information and specifics I hadn’t considered. Hinges. For some reason, I envisioned using the same ones? Ha. While I’d like to think my DIY skills (and tool stash) have improved in the last decade, I have hazy horror memories of replacing a few door hinges when I painted our kitchen cabinets. Ugh. Also drilling for hardware.😱 Do you use some sort of template for hardware placement or just your un-erring designer eye? Measuring and drilling…not my greatest strengths tbh. The Cabinet Door Store website is remarkably comprehensive. I love that pieces can be pre-bored and primed! They even have a pretty paint selection. Speaking of paint, I am SO into the two-tone look!!! Especially that play with the marble. Dreamy!! The particulars of this kitchen are so captivating that I almost forgot about your entry! Head smack. You mentioned that painting is starting. Does that mean you decided to hire it done? Are you still covering it in stripes? Eek! So many incredible touches. What an impact these spaces will make. Anyone else tired just thinking about all this work?🤣😍 I still haven’t managed to de-holiday my house. We finally got snow this weekend, so I decided to keep the wintery look inside a little longer. Thanks, as always, for such trusted advice and resources. They are so valuable and appreciated. Cheers to a good-busy week! Happy Monday, Sarah!
    PS Do you always allow the foreman to stand own the counter?🐶

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Good morning, Peggi! Yay for cabinets, indeed! I’m really excited with how things are coming together down here. If you’re able to bore your own hinges, you could definitely reuse the same ones. You’d just have to make sure they’re the same type and the holes are bored in the same spot. For the hardware, we just measured and drilled, but making a template is always the easiest way. Since we didn’t have too many doors & drawers, we didn’t bother with one. The entry- ahhhh!! I’m super excited that painting is happening this week, but I have yet to choose colors. Ha! We decided to hire it out and a friend of a friend (who happens to be a painter) agreed to tackle the stripes- thankfully. I’ve got nervous excitement for that project, which is probably why I’m procrastinating choosing swatches. Don’t worry- we’ve still got holiday up at our house, too. We also got quite a bit of snow and our power is out today, ugh. It’s feeling wintery and COLD inside, as well as out. Hope your week is off to an amazing start! We always say Cash is our inspector / job foreman, and he does whatever he wants- he runs this house. Lol! I have NO idea how he got up there in the first place.

  2. Good morning! The sneak peeks of the basement kitchen have me swooning. The drawer and door fronts you selected are classic, timeless and elevated compared to what was originally installed. (Cash on the counter is swoon worthy even without the door upgrade). I appreciate you including detailed instructions on measuring for replacing the fronts; I’ve considered this option for my own kitchen. Your two tone vision looks chic against the marble countertop; paired with the simple knobs and pulls, it’s bringing all the vibes of bistro bar. I’m always impressed by your ability to get such a beautiful finish when hand painting. I am familiar with the paint you used for this process, as we will be using it to paint our built-ins in the front room. Does this paint need any kind of top coat or sealant? Or is it durable enough on its own for ease of cleaning? Your other tips for upgrading on a budget are fantastic recommendations. Thank you for those. On the entryway front: eeek!! Paint is happening, how exciting! I’m assuming this means you hired out the stripes? All exciting things happening in this second week of the year. I can’t wait to see the end results. Have a fantastic Monday.

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Good morning, Lauren! Thank you! We always find Cash in the strangest places- no idea how he got up there, but we had to snap a photo. Ha! That paint is amazing- it’s so nice and will be perfect for your built-ins. It doesn’t require a top coat or sealing, and is very low maintenance and cleanable. I’m SO excited about entryway paint this week (we hired it out, whew!), but I’ve yet to choose colors. That’s on my to-do list for today, but our power is out and it’s freezing here… so I’m off to the office to work. Cutting it down to the wire with the colors! Hope your week is off to an amazing start. We’re getting so much snow here! xo

  3. Is it possible to use ikea kitchen doors for a project like this? Or are the hinges different?

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      You could! I just found their selection to be super limited and non customizable. You’d also need to look at hinge placement (if they’re pre-bored).

  4. Thanks for this post!
    I’d like to have my cupboards refaced. Do you have any recommendations for when the boxes and panels are made of mdf (I think)? If I want to get wood doors would I change all elements that are visible to the same finish?
    Also if I want to add trim to the top of the cabinets, how would I do that?
    Thank you!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Happy to share, Martine! If you’re planning to stain the cabinets or leave them natural- you’d definitely want to replace the face frame as well (so it all matches). If they’re being painted, it should not matter (from an aesthetic perspective). Hope that helps!

  5. This peek at your updates is so exciting! Looking beautiful! Did you need to sand between coats? I need to paint the cabinets in our kitchen and that’s the most daunting part for me. I enjoy the actual painting! I am planning to use BM Advance also. Looking forward to seeing the kitchen in its entirety. You always do such beautiful work.

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thanks, Jamie! I’m really pleased to see things beginning to come together. Great question- I did not sand between coats. The BM Advance paint is so nice and easy!

  6. Katherine says:

    Thanks for the link. I been trying find some cabinet doors not the whole cabinets. Eventually want to get doors that match since demo one side.

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Happy to share, Katherine! I bet you could find a good match. Good luck with your project!

  7. Hi Sarah,
    Looks great, thanks for all the info! Just wondering how you finished the toe kicks? Is that shoe moulding or quarter round?
    Thanks so much,

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thanks Jane! Emmett installed quarter round at the bottom of the toe kick. Since we kept the cabinetry in place (to reuse), when installing the new flooring, the toe kick wasn’t in great condition, so it needed a finished edge to conceal some of the scuffs. I just painted it the same color as the cabinets!

  8. Your cabs turned out so pretty especially next to that gorgeous countertop! I used that exact paint, different color, on an unpainted Ikea dresser years back and I was absolutely amazed how great the finish was afterwards. So smooth and hard-wearing/durable! The paint did all of the heavy lifting for me on that one.

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Brittany! I swear that paint is magic. It’s so easy to use and is the most durable. Definitely will be buying more of that for future projects!