Upgrading Plain Wood Cupboards
I am at it again, upgrading something that isn’t broken. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our cupboards, they are fairly new and aren’t outdated. They just look very plain and boxy (great new word eh.) Here is a good picture of them all done up in Christmas bling.
In this post were adding some mouldings to the top of our cupboards, soon we’re getting new countertops and a backsplash. (insert mental image of Leanna rubbing her hands together in glee.)
We discussed painting this cupboard for a very long time, boy oh boy did we discuss it. Hubs wants to keep the wood finish and I am scared of devaluing the house, but we aren’t sure we could match the colour of the moulding well enough. Hubs bought good oak moulding and I agreed to try and stain them instead of painting them. If we can get the mouldings colour to match it means I don’t have to refinish these cupboards.
You need to measure your cupboards to get exact lengths but these are the lumber sizes we used for our cupboards. You will need:
1” by 2 “ lumber (for upright gussets)
1” by 4” lumber (for frame)
1” by 4” Oak flat casing (or other hardwood, ours is oak)
Oak crown moulding
Mitre saw, air nails, glue
Measure and Mark Cupboards
Measure the depth and length of the upper cupboards.
Our cupboard’s depth is 12” and the length is 84”.
The edge of the crown moulding needs to be flush with the front of your existing cupboards and you need to build a frame to attach the moulding to. The first step is to get the dimensions and then make a pencil mark for the wood lumber frame.
Measure the exact thickness of your 1 by 4” oak flat casing (probably ¾”), but measure to be sure,
Measure back from the cupboard fronts to account for the thickness of the moulding, in our case 3/4” and pencil mark the cupboard top.
Build the Lumber Frame
Now that the frame marks are done cut your lumber. You can do the math or measure the pencil markings whichever you find easier.
Our cupboard is 12” by 84” so Hubs cut one board 11 ¼” and another 83 ¼ “.
If you have a corner cut one end of the lumber at a 45 degree angle. If your cupboards have a wall on each end lucky you. You don’t have to cut any angles.
Make the Uprights
Cut the 1″ by 2″ lumber into 3.5″ lengths to use as gussets. This allows enough room to attach the moulding and stay hidden behind the new moulding.
Whether or not there is a stud in the wall you need to put the end gussets at the end of the cupboard against the wall. Mount the gusset to the wall and the cupboard using glue and small nails. Our 1 1/4″ air nails did not poke through our cupboards.
Put a gusset at each end and one in the middle. Your frame is functional and will be hidden behind the moulding. This frame needs to be strong enough to attach the moulding to securely and stay in place. The normal lumber is a fraction of the cost and as you can see it doesn’t need to be pretty.
Attach the Moulding
The hardest part of doing this upgrade is using the expensive oak. You need one single length of oak moulding, if you cut it too short you have to start over. This is definitely one of those situations where you measure twice and cut once.
Start with the oak flat casing, Cut the casing to match your entire cupboard length (84″ in our case). Then cut the angle at 45 degrees just like you did with the lumber, but this time the oak casing is on its side. Remember to angle your radial arm saw accordingly.
Attach the moulding to the frame using nails and to the cupboard using glue. You want the gap to be as small and smooth as possible. We found it easier to do this with two people and started by fitting the moulding in, then fastening it first in the middle, the two ends and then along the bottom.
Make sure to check that your corner where the 45-degree angles are is as close as possible.
The crown moulding is cut and attached the same way. Cut one solid length, measure twice or more and cut once. Using two people attach the moulding in the middle first and then work outwards. Using nails and glue and attach the oak crown moulding to the oak flat casing.
I think they already look beautiful, so much nicer.
We did the same process on a second longer cupboard. Fortunately our second cupboard did not have the corner.
Finishing the Cupboard Moulding.
If you have white or painted cupboards you can use the much less expensive mdf moulding and paint the cupboards and new moulding in a matching colour. But as you know we were hoping to match the stain and skip refinishing the cabinets.
The first step is filling in all those little nail holes, any blemishes in the wood and any little gaps you may have in the corner with wood filler. Let the wood filler dry and sand smooth with fine grit sandpaper. (I used 220 grit)
To match the stain I did a test piece using one coating of Natural Stain and another with two coats. The one coat of natural stain was the closest match.
Here is the stain as I worked along, so far I am loving it.
For my reveal picture I know I should bling the cabinets all pretty. We had the hardwood floors refinished and I am painting the entire room, the light fixtures are hanging down, the pantry door is still in the garage.
Here is how the moulding looks now. I am so excited about getting the countertops and backsplash. I love how these turned out.
One final note, I am not a carpenter or a cabinet finisher. This post is about how we updated our kitchen cabinets, its not professional advice, but I really love how it looks.