White Cabinet Makeover on a Budget

The laundry room makeover is officially underway! (If you missed the plans, check them out here). First on the DIY to-do list: Get rid of the vintage orange cabinets, which happened to be our home’s original kitchen cabinets, and replace them with WHITE cabinets.
Our laundry room cabinets before their budget-friendly makeover
When I started to create the plan for the laundry room, I originally planned to take off the doors of each cabinet and order new doors from a local hardware store. I planned to then paint the cabinet’s base white to match the purchased doors, which I figured would save me money and make the space into everything I dreamed it could be. Well, well, well… little did I know that my 1960’s laundry room cabinets are not “standard” sizes to the type of cabinet doors that are sold in stores in 2014. After doing my research on the internet and around the suburbs of Chicago, I figured that buying three new cabinet doors to replace these old, orange ones would have cost me up $400+ bucks. Back to the drawing board…
These ugly orange cabinets desperately needed a makeover, but full replacement would have been pricey!
The budget-friendly alternative to this dilemma you ask? DIY-ing these suckers top to bottom, inside & out. Ugh.
So that was my NEW plan. New hardware, original cabinets. I was okay with painting the cabinets (I tried my hand at painting chalkboard cabinets last summer in my garage) but I decided to step it up a notch and challenge myself with this DIY project. Not only was I going to paint these eyesores, I decided to add a “frame”/”border”/’new face detail” onto each of these flat faced cabinets as well. (What was I thinking?!)
We had an idea to DIY our laundry cabinet makeover

Before I dive into the dirty (and yes, I mean DIRTY) details of how I tackled these cabinets… allow me to highlight a few points of interest:

  1. This project was Time consuming! (with a capital T and !)
  2. I completed this DIY 100% on my own.
  3. In honor of full disclosure, I do have to admit that I did consult stalk the gentlemen at some local hardware stores for information/supply questions/general advice on what the heck to do. #lovethem
  4. I also called my dad several times throughout the process for some “pointers” or some necessary moral support. (…. thanks Dad! Every word of encouragement helped)
  5. The before & after shots look fabulous, but don’t be fooled & think that I snapped my fingers and the place was white, clean, and amazing. Sometimes I wish DIY’s worked like that…
  6. But not even close. The process was frustrating, challenging, tedious, messy, yet fun, and very fulfilling all at the same time.
  7. I did most of the work at night after I came home from my day job – lesson learned.
  8. I want to be REAL about this process and really highlight the fact that I was not skipping around, painting the cabinets while whistling my favorite tune. Not.at.all. This was one tough DIY, especially as a one-man team, but I survived… and even lived to tell the tale.
  9. Although the process was not all sunshines & smiles, I DO think this is my proudest DIY accomplishment to date. Partly because I love the outcome, but mostly because I did it independently and LEARNED so much along the way.
  10. If I did this, so can you! Just don’t be afraid to get a little dirty, lose a little sleep, and come out feeling like one accomplished rookie DIY-er!

So here’s where I started. With a screw driver, I removed the cabinet doors from the cabinet’s base. Oddly enough, the cabinets were already white on the inside… which was a HUGE bonus!

First step in this cabinet makeover was to remove the cabinet doors and sand them down

I decided to tackle the base before I addressed the doors. My first step in doing this involved a palm sander and heavy-duty sand paper to sand down the wood.

Keep all of the cabinet hardware in a plastic bag so you don't lose any important parts

Rookie Tip: As seen on the bottom of this picture, take all of the hardware from your project and store it in a sealed bag throughout the project. This will guarantee all of the nails/hardware stick together and will save them from getting any paint smears on them. I bought new hardware, but it was helpful to bring this bag to the hardware store in order to pick new hardware that was the same size. 

We started by sanding down the edges of the cabinets after we took off the doors
For this project, we used an electric sander for efficiency

Back to the sanding. Below, you’ll see the bottom of the cabinets, which are already sanded vs. the top of the cabinets, which haven’t been touched just yet. I sanded all the way down to the wood, just to make sure I got off all the old varnish and the new paint would adhere to the new surface.

Half way through sanding the cabinets

Rookie Tip: Cover EVERYTHING with drop cloths, dress in your crappiest clothes, and close any and all doors that you can to help minimize the amount of dust that will cover your house. Sanding is DUSTY! Any and all precautions you can take to help keep a handle on where this dust travels (or doesn’t travel for that matter) will be to your advantage in the long run. 

Another look at sanding the uglyor ange stain off the gcabnets
Here's a look at the laundry room cabinets fully sanded and ready for paint

Here’s a look at the cabinets completely stripped and ready for some paint. After I was completely done sanding these suckers, I made sure to wipe them down very thoroughly so they would accept the primer + paint that was on its way. Because sanding gets so dusty, I would recommend wiping/drying at least two different times.

Make sure to wipe down the cabinets after sanding so primer and paint will stick

While those dried, I moved onto the cabinets.

Remove all of the hardware from the cabinet doors before sanding

Notice that I  took all of the hardware off of the cabinet doors before I even started sanding them. I did this for two reasons:

  1. I knew I was eventually going to replace both the pulls and the hinges, so it just made sense.
  2. I didn’t want to waste time taping and risk missing a spot on the cabinet because the hardware was still connected.

I laid the doors out and got ready for a serious arm workout and some more quality time with the palm sander.

Here's a look at the cabinet doors fully sanded
Here’s one of those times where the blogosphere makes this process look like it was done in 2.5 flawless minutes. Boy, could that be any further from reality. I sanded these puppies for what felt like forever. It takes some serious elbow grease in order to get both side of each cabinet door down to the bare wood. On the bright side, I completed the sanding outside, which helped cut down on the mess.
These clamps secure the new frame for the cabinets while the glue dries

Now, the new “frame” on the front side of the cabinet doors. This was a part I was completely clueless on how to do. I did a little research on the blogosphere, made a list of measurements and headed to HomeDepot for some cheap wood and the opportunity for one of the fabulous workers to cut my purchased wood… free of charge. I bought quarter inch thick poplar pieces and had them cut into the appropriate sizes.

Waiting on the wood glue to dry, securing the new frames to the cabinet doors

With some wood glue and wood clamps (no power tools required… woohoo!), I was able to glue 4 pieces of wood onto the front of each cabinet door, creating a frame-like look. I wish I could give you some tips or tricks, but honestly… I had not clue what I was doing. I was lucky that the free wood cuts were pretty much SPOT ON and fit exactly how I imagined they would, which isn’t often the case.

Let the glue dry for about 2 hours before removing the clamps
I let them dry for 24 hours and when I removed the wood clamps…
The newly reframed doors are ready for paint!
I was one proud DIY-er!! Did I mention you needed absolutely NO power tools to do this?! Glue & some clamps… more my pace.
The paint color we used to paint the laundry room

In other news, I also decided to paint the laundry room half way through the cabinet makeover. What was I thinking?! Like working full time and refacing the cabinets wasn’t enough in one week?

We decided to repaint the laundry room while updating the cabinets
But boy was I glad I did it! Such a welcomed difference.
A look at the fully primed cabinets
Now back to those darn cabinets. I primed the base with a small paint brush and mini roller. I used the same primer/paint combo and number of coats of each on both the cabinet base and cabinet doors. The total ended up being one coat primer, three coats white semi-gloss paint.
Primed cabinet doors are ready for their first coat of paint

I used the small paint brush and mini roller on the doors as well.

Add some painters puddy to the seem between the new frame and cabinet doors
Rookie Tip: If you notice that your seams from the wood pieces don’t match up perfectly, don’t be afraid to add a little painter’s putty into the seam to make it a more flush transition from one piece of wood to the next. Do this before painting and make sure you allow the putty to dry overnight before priming or painting it. Sanding the wood down can also help make the seams disappear. 
Pre-drill holes before adding the last coat of paint so you don't have to drill through fresh paint
Rookie Tip: Before you paint the doors with your last coat of white paint, make sure you drill some pilot holes into the new wood to help guide your hardware. This will save you from having to drill through freshly painted doors, which could chip or blemish with the drill marks. I used the old holes in the original cabinet, which made creating new ones through the new layer of wood super simple. 
The new hardware we chose for the upgraded cabinets
All that was left to do was add my new hardware and hinges and hang these babies back up! Like I said, the hardware and hinges went back in the same exact spot as they started, which made lining them up to hang that much easier!
Love the modern look of the new silver hardware we chose for the cabinets

Because the laundry room reveal isn’t until MONDAY, I’ll leave you with a little teaser of the finished product!

A sneak peek at the new upgraded cabinets and newly painted laundry room
Needless to say, I’m absolutely in LOVE with the new look and I am so proud of my cabinet accomplishments. Although the process was trying at times, the end product and feeling of being DONE is reason enough to stick with it!
Want to see the Laundry Room Reveal? Check it out HERE.

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.