Save Money on Kitchen Cabinet Replacements by Transforming What You Already Have

When you need a change but your budget won’t allow for a complete kitchen remodel, you might be surprised at the things you can do to completely alter the look and feel of your cabinetry. From new paint and hardware to more involved renovations like inserting glass fronts, keeping the existing structure of your cabinetry in place while giving them a new look can make the kitchen feel like a whole new room. If you choose to paint them, you can even do a whole new color scheme for the entire room, making your updated look go even further. Check out the simple changes you can make with a few dollars and a little time.


Choosing the New Look

Painting is exciting because it brings in the opportunity to create an entirely new atmosphere for the room where your family spends so much time together. Consider doing the upper cabinets in white or a light color and the lower ones in deep dramatic hue like a hunter green. Paint the bars between the upper cabinets to match the darker color to tie everything together.


Beautiful decorated kitchen with white and green cabinets


Blue and white are classic and clean and offer the chance to tie in a nautical theme with wall décor and towels. Black is bold and sophisticated and goes beautifully with stainless steel appliances and a concrete floor. It looks expensive and makes a striking statement particularly if your kitchen is the first thing people see when they walk into your home. Gray is a fantastically neutral palette that looks crisp and cool and allows for easy brightening by bringing in some yellows or oranges. Greens like sage are ideal for gardeners and those who want an earthy, organic feel in their cooking space.


Interior of modern kitchen in white blue gray tones


If your cabinetry is painfully outdated, remove the uppers and replace them with shelving painted to match the new lower cabinet color. This can be a great way to display your favorite dishes, and wood can be affordably sourced from architectural salvage and other secondhand resources.


Kitchen interior with long wooden cabinets and shelves


Proper Painting Process

It’s important to do the job right the first time. If the surface is not properly prepared and you don’t follow all the appropriate steps, you’ll end up with a paint job that doesn’t last and doesn’t look as nice as it should. Wood is ideal for this makeover technique – stained, painted, unfinished, and even faux wood or MDF work well. Laminate doesn't take paint well and doesn’t give the long-lasting finish you want.



It would be nice if there were shortcuts in painting, but the extra steps are worth the professional result. The prep should be carried out as follows:


- Empty the cabinets and clean them thoroughly, washing off all dirt and grease. Liquid dish soap is good at removing stubborn grime, but don’t use this on unfinished wood or it may damage it. Be sure to clean the hinges well because stuck-on grease, oil, or WD-40 can keep your tape from sticking when you go to cover them.


Pretty young woman wiping kitchen cabinets with green cloth

- Remove hardware and drawers, labeling so you know where they go when it’s time to put them back.

- Carefully and accurately tape hinges and cover any other surrounding areas like countertops, appliances, backsplashes, etc.

- Repair any blemishes or small holes with wood filler.

- Carefully sand the cabinets, being sure to get all the edges and small areas along the molding. If they have been painted over several times, consider stripping the paint before sanding, otherwise, you may get peeling with the new layer of paint. You can use a liquid sanding compound if you prefer.


Carpenter grinding the surface of a piece of furniture

- Prime – avoid the temptation to use a combination paint/primer. Using separate products will give you much better results. If you’re going from a dark color to significantly lighter, you can have the primer tinted to a lighter shade of the new color – this makes it much easier to get the final color to take in fewer coats. 

- Sand – again. You don’t need to be as aggressive this time, a light sanding should do the trick.

- Don’t cut corners on paint quality. Cabinets don’t take much, to begin with, and you want a hard surface that will stand up to years of heavy use. Choose gloss, semi-gloss, or satin. Matte and eggshell will take stains and wear quickly.


Adding Personality

New hardware is one of the most natural things you can to freshen up the cupboards. For the home gourmet, you can get fork, knife, and spoon handles and drawer pulls. White ceramic adds a traditional look with white cabinetry, and rectangular or pipe-shaped pulls offer a clean, geometric look to a stainless steel kitchen.


Stencils are another simple touch to add to your new paint job. Stencil a floral pattern right in the middle of the doors, or cover the entire fronts in chevrons or stripes. Just make sure to sand the area you’re stenciling and use temporary adhesive on the backs of the stencils so that they stay in place while you’re painting.


Closeup of painter apply vanish to the inlaid trim


Glass Inserts

If you’d like to install clear fronts in your cabinets, they must be constructed with an outer frame surrounding one or more panels. You can use a circular saw to carve out the panel, then silicone glues the glass into place. Lexan is a good choice, and while it isn’t technically glass – rather, polycarbonate – it’s 200 times stronger than non-tempered glass and easier to cut. You can also use acrylic, which is shinier than Lexan and more scratch resistant, but less impact resistant.


Modern White Luxury Kitchen Wall Units With Golden Decorative Elements And Glass Matte Door


You don’t need a massive budget to make your kitchen look new. With some paint, elbow grease, and a few new accessories, you can have a beautiful, warm new environment where you can entertain and spend quality family time. Share your favorite budget kitchen makeover ideas with us!


Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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