DIY Kitchen Cabinet Ideas

The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home. It’s where families gather to cook, eat, and spend quality time together. However, if your kitchen cabinets are outdated or drab, it can make the entire room feel dull and disconnected. The good news is, there are plenty of do-it-yourself ideas to give your kitchen cabinets a fresh new look without breaking the bank.

Assess Your Existing Cabinets

Before diving into a kitchen cabinet makeover, assess what you’re working with. Look at the current state of the cabinets in terms of:

  • Structure: Are the cabinets in good structural condition or do they need repairs? Look for peeling veneers, warped doors and drawers, loose hinges and pulls. Address any structural issues first.
  • Layout: Does the cabinet layout work for your needs or feel outdated? Simple layout tweaks like removing uppers for open shelving can modernize the space.
  • Size: Do you need more or less cabinetry space? Think about your storage needs and future plans.
  • Style: What is the existing cabinet door style – shaker, inset, etc? Matching new additions to the same door style will give a cohesive look.
  • Finish: Note the existing cabinet color, finish (stained, painted, etc), and hardware. This will guide your makeover plans.

Once you’ve fully assessed your cabinets, you can determine the best DIY approach based on your budget, skills, and goals.

Clean and De-clutter Cabinets

Before painting or restyling your kitchen cabinets, take everything out and do a deep clean. Here are some tips for cleaning cabinets prior to makeover:

  • Remove all food packages, dishes, pans, etc. Wipe down all shelves.
  • Clean inside drawers thoroughly – use a vacuum attachment to remove crumbs and dust.
  • Fill a spray bottle with a degreasing cleaner diluted with warm water. Spray down interior cabinets and let sit 5 minutes before wiping clean.
  • Use a mild soap and water solution to wash down exterior cabinet frames. Rinse and dry completely.
  • De-grease any sticky spots on exterior doors and frames with undiluted degreaser and a scrub pad.
  • Replace old shelf paper with fresh liner. Use this opportunity to edit down food storage containers.
  • Tackle built-up grime on the edges of doors with a brush and wood cleaner.
  • Patch any holes from old hardware with wood filler; sand smooth.

Proper prep is key to getting a smooth, consistent finish when painting cabinets or applying new finishes.

Simple Cabinet Makeovers

If your cabinet boxes are structurally sound but the doors are worn, a quick makeover by replacing just the doors can make a huge visual impact. Here are some options:

Buy New Doors

Many home improvement retailers sell replacement cabinet doors in a variety of styles. Measure your existing doors and buy new doors in the same sizes. This allows you to refresh the look by changing door style – say from plain slab to inset panel or glass front doors. Just switch out old doors with new!

Reface with Veneer

Resurface existing doors with iron-on veneer in various wood grain finishes. Clean doors, apply adhesive, place veneer, and smooth with an iron. You can match new doors to your current kitchen style or go bold with a completely different wood look.

Coat with Chalk Paint

For a quick DIY makeover, coat worn doors with a few coats of chalk paint, letting dry between coats. Sand lightly between final coats for a smooth finish. You can wax or polyurethane over the paint for protection. Choose any color paint for a fresh new look!

Update with Paint or Stain

One of the most dramatic ways to transform dated or drab kitchen cabinets is by refinishing the existing cabinet boxes and doors with paint, stain, or new vinyl wraps.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting cabinets is an affordable way to give your kitchen a “like new” feel with minimal effort. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove cabinet doors and hardware. Lightly sand to degloss and roughen surface. Clean thoroughly.
  2. Use painter’s tape to mask off walls, countertops, and any areas you don’t want painted. Cover flooring.
  3. Apply a high adhesion primer to cabinets. Allow to fully dry. Lightly sand between coats for a smooth finish.
  4. Paint cabinet boxes and doors with your color choice – semi-gloss enamel recommended for durability. Use an angled trim brush for cutting in edges smoothly.
  5. Allow paint to cure fully 2-3 days before reinstalling newly painted doors and hardware.
  6. Seal painted surfaces with a polyurethane top coat for added protection.

Popular kitchen cabinet paint colors include classic white, black for drama, and sage green for vintage charm. The options are endless!

Staining Kitchen Cabinets

Staining offers ways to enrich or modify your existing cabinet wood tone without fully obscuring the grain. Consider:

  • Gel Stains: Apply colored gel stains to add vibrancy without completely changing wood color. Wipe on, let sit briefly, then wipe off.
  • Whitewashing: Water down white paint and apply lightly with a brush or rag for a washed out, beachy look.
  • Colored Stains: Use stains tinted with paint colors for a semi-translucent stained glass effect. Blues and greens work well.
  • Darkening Stain: Go darker than your current stain to add drama. Multiple coats will deepen the tone.

Make sure bare wood surfaces are clean and lightly sanded before applying any stain. Remove doors, mask off countertops, and protect flooring just as you would when painting.

Vinyl Wraps

Vinyl wrap sheets with adhesive backing offer a removable way to refresh kitchen cabinets with wood grain, solid color, or patterned looks. Custom printed photos or graphics can also be applied. Just clean cabinets, measure and cut vinyl to fit each door and drawer, peel backing and adhere.

Update Existing Cabinet Hardware

Sometimes simply switching out existing knobs or pulls for updated hardware makes all the difference. Pay attention to:

  • Style: Will a minimal modern bar handle suit your kitchen better than traditional brass knobs? Get creative mixing and matching.
  • Size: Larger hardware makes a bolder statement. Make sure pulls or handles span drawers and doors nicely.
  • Finish: Oil-rubbed bronze and matte black finishes are currently on trend – a switch from dated brass.
  • Placement: Centering hardware looks clean and balanced. Go asymmetrical for a playful look.

When selecting new hardware, save time by taking one old cabinet door knob to the store. This allows you to find replacement sizes and ensures proper screw holes spacing. Change out hardware all at once for a cohesive new look. Pro tip: Use painter’s tape when replacing hardware to protect cabinet fronts from damage.

Open Shelving Makeover

Removing upper cabinets in favor of open shelving is an of-the-moment kitchen revamp that lightens up the space. Before getting started, assess:

  • Is there adequate lower cabinet storage without uppers? Add drawers, pull-out shelves to boost function.
  • Are walls in good shape for open display? Patch and paint as needed.
  • How will you use the open space? Display cookbooks, plants or barware? Envision then install.

There are a few approaches to installing floating shelves that replace upper cabinets:

  • Buyshelf brackets: Sturdy metal shelf brackets screwed into wall studs can support ready-made wood boards for an invisible floating shelf effect.
  • DIYshelves: Cut your own wood boards to size. Attach cleats to the wall, then set boards on top, anchored to the wall for stability.
  • Ledgersupport: Attach a horizontal ledger board to studs. Then install desired shelves, docked on the ledger for load bearing support.

Focus open shelving around a focal point like the range or sink for the biggest visual impact. Maintain usability by keeping everyday dishes and glassware in lower cabinets. Style shelves with nice serving ware and décor.

Specialty Inserts and Upgrades

Beyond surface-level changes, innovative organizational inserts and specialty upgrades can totally transform your current kitchen cabinets:

  • Pull Out Pantries: Replace existing cabinet internals with pull-out storage units with slide-out, adjustable racks to maximize unused space. Great for blind corner cabinets.
  • Wastebin Cabinet Inserts: Add specialized pull-out bins inside lower cabinets for dedicated recycling and trash storage. Help keep trash out of sight.
  • Spice Pull Outs: Install pull out trays with partitioned spice storage inside existing cabinets. Keep spices organized and easily accessible.
  • Powered USB Hubs: Outfit cabinets with built-in USB hubs and outlets for convenient device charging while prepping meals and tidying up.
  • Under Cabinet Lights: Installing battery powered or hardwired LED strip lighting illuminates workspaces beautifully. DIY kits make this upgrade easy.
  • Glass Door Inserts: Swapping out existing cabinet fronts for new glass-panel doors opens up dark spaces elegantly. Just make sure interiors are organized!

Many of these specialty upgrades can be DIY’ed with widely available cabinet inserts. But for custom work, consider hiring a carpenter or kitchen remodeling service.

DIY Cabinet Addition Projects

For kitchens needing more storage space or cabinets in new configurations, DIY custom builds are a budget-friendly option requiring basic carpentry skills. Some ideas:

Kitchen Island

Islands integrate extra storage and countertop workspace into room layouts. Build from stock cabinets or wood boards secured to a counter base. Keep plumbing requirements in mind. Add wheels for mobility or leave stationary.

Kitchen Pantry

Make use of wasted space by constructing a new freestanding pantry cabinet. Use stock cabinetry or build a simple wooden frame enclosed with doors. Paint or stain to match existing kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Peninsulas

Peninsulas extend cabinetry and countertops into dining or living areas, creating an open, communal workspace. Fashion one by anchoring stock wall cabinets perpendicular to existing cabinet run.

Upper Cabinet Additions

Extra upper cabinets provide storage over a sink, fridge or peninsula. Use stock wall cabinets or DIY basic boxes secured firmly to walls. Maintain sight lines with partial height uppers.

For any cabinet DIY project, carefully measure the space and plan builds accordingly for the best finished look.

Budget-Friendly Quick Fixes

If your dream kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget yet, these quick fix ideas provide big bang for little buck:

  • Fresh coats of paint on cabinets, walls, and trim for under $50.
  • Swap out old dull brass hardware for newer matte black pulls for under $100.
  • Outfit a few key cabinets with smart organizational inserts for around $150.
  • Upgrade lighting with LED strips and under-cabinet fixtures for $75.
  • Replace an old laminate countertop section with butcher block from a home improvement store for under $150.
  • Freshen up the backsplash with thin and affordable peel-and-stick tile rolls or panels.

Even the smallest changes can make your kitchen look and feel brand new. And when done affordably, you can redo the space regularly as trends evolve.

Maintaining and Protecting Your DIY Kitchen Cabinet Projects

Any upgrades or refreshes made to your kitchen décor will look their best when properly cared for over time. Follow these tips:

  • Allow any paint, stain or finish to fully cure before use – at least 72 hours. Avoid banging cabinets or drawers.
  • Attach rubber/felt cabinet bumpers to door edges to protect from dings and scratches.
  • Limit direct sun exposure on painted finishes to reduce fading. Add window treatments to filter light.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasives on painted, stained or wrapped finishes. Use only mild soap and water.
  • Clean wood surfaces like butcher block regularly with food-safe oil to maintain their luster.
  • Use cutting boards, trivets and furnishings on countertops to avoid accidental scratches and burns.
  • Test cleaners/solutions on inconspicuous areas first to ensure compatibility with finishes. Start mild.
  • Pull shelves forward slowly to avoid “waterfall” spills and leaks from open shelves.
  • Inspect hardware fittings occasionally and tighten when needed. Catch loose hinges/pulls early.
  • Dust open shelves frequently and rearrange décor seasonally for a fresh feel.
  • Consider glass doors over some open shelves to reduce dusting while maintaining visibility.

A well-cared for kitchen saves time and money over the long run. And your DIY projects will continue looking great for years to come!

FAQs About DIY Kitchen Cabinet Projects

What are some good DIY kitchen cabinets ideas for renters?

Great options for renters looking to personalize kitchen cabinets include removable vinyl wraps to cover cabinet fronts, installing peel and stick tile backsplashes, adding removable shelving, or upgrading hardware and lighting using non-damaging methods.

Can I paint kitchen cabinets without sanding or priming?

Priming and sanding are important prep steps for the most durable painted finish. The base coats help paint adhere while sanding deglosses and roughens the surface for grip. Quick-dry cabinet paints still require proper prep for lasting results.

What kind of paint finish should I use for kitchen cabinets: satin, semi-gloss, or high gloss?

Semi-gloss is the preferred choice for cabinet doors and frames since it is durable enough to clean repeatedly without showing wear and scratches. Satin is too prone to scuffs while high gloss shows imperfections. Trim and walls can be satin or eggshell.

What is the most popular color for painting kitchen cabinets?

The top neutral paint colors for kitchen cabinets are white and various light greys. White keeps things fresh and bright. Greys lend a subtler contrast to wood tones. Ivory is also popular for a slight vintage vibe. Navy blue makes a great bold color choice.

Should I paint the inside of kitchen cabinets a different color than the outside?

The cabinet interiors can certainly be painted a different color than the exteriors. Just make sure your combo doesn’t compete or clash. Softer accent hues like pale blues and greens complement most cabinet colors without overwhelming small spaces.

How do I organize my newly painted kitchen cabinets & drawers?

Start with taking everything out and only put back what you use regularly. Install drawer organizers and shelf trays to corral lesser used items. Label containers and shelves for easy return. Group like items to specific cabinets. Keep every day dishes/cookware most accessible.

Can I stain new cabinets to match existing cabinets?

Yes, new cabinets can be altered to match the stain tone of your existing cabinets. Lightly sand the new cabinet, apply gel stain in your existing stain color, then seal to get the tones to match up while allowing the wood grain to show. Test first before staining all new cabinets.

What kind of wood is best for DIY kitchen cabinets?

Plywood, poplar and maple are all good DIY options. Birch plywood takes paint and stain well. Poplar is affordable, versatile and easy to work. Maple can be painted or stained. Use 3/4 inch boards for durability. Pre-finished veneers also simplify DIY cabinet builds.

How do I freshen up laminate kitchen cabinets?

For laminate cabinets, clean well and use deglosser before applying a fresh coat of cabinet paint. The paint adheres nicely to the laminate to give cabinets a painted wood look. For glossy laminate doors, frogtape helps create clean painted edges.


With some creativity and DIY spirit, it’s possible to transform your kitchen space without a full remodel. Refinishing, refacing or refurbishing existing cabinetry opens up many affordable options for big impact. And customized additions allow you to gain storage and functionality. While a total kitchen overhaul offers flexibility for changing layouts and increasing resale value, inexpensive DIY upgrades can still make the space look and feel brand new.

Hopefully these kitchen cabinet makeover ideas have inspired you to take on your own easy kitchen refresh. With a little bit of work, your renewed cooking space will become a source of pride and the heartbeat of your home.