DIY Kitchen Remodeling

11 DIY Projects to Update Your Kitchen Cabinets

Are your kitchen cabinets in need of a makeover? From simple updates to more significant changes, get started on one of these DIY projects this weekend.
Kristen Mosier Avatar
A modern kitchen with green-teal cabinets.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Kitchen cabinets do a lot more than store tableware. They can make or break the look of the entire space. So when cabinets are drab or dated, an update may be in order. While replacing kitchen cabinets can be both costly and time-consuming—and a project best left to the pros, consider some more modest updates. “A cabinet makeover is a great way to give your kitchen a new look in less time if the majority of your cabinets are in good condition and you’re happy with your current layout,” says Victoria Yang, associate merchant, The Home Depot Cabinet Makeover.

There are a range of projects to consider for those eager to tackle cabinet updates on their own. Perfect for amateur DIYers, simple cosmetic updates such as mounting under cabinet lighting and swapping out hardware can provide a big impact. The handier set may want to try some more advanced makeover techniques, such as painting and trim work. 

Here are 12 kitchen cabinet projects to consider, starting with updates that can be done in one day and moving on to more in-depth weekend endeavors.

1. Install under cabinet lighting.

Kitchen cabinets with lighting underneath.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Under cabinet lighting is an easy way to update cabinets, says Brian Shaunfield, a store manager for Lowe’s. He recommends considering puck lights, tape lights, and rope lights. “Plug-in and battery lights are extremely DIY friendly for installation and quick gratification,” he says, “but hardwired lights require a skilled electrician for installation.”  

2. Swap out the hardware.

Stylish gray handles installed on kitchen cabinets.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Replacing worn or dated hardware can significantly impact the overall look of the cabinets. Shaunfield points out that new hardware can also be a great option when trying to stay within a tight budget. Today’s cabinet hardware choices are seemingly endless and can suit most any style preference, ranging from modern brushed gold to traditional options in antique bronze. “When updating your cabinet hardware, you want to ensure the new hardware matches your décor and the style of the rest of your house,” advises Shaunfield. 

3. Update the interior.

Kitchen cabinet with plant wallpaper lined inside.
Photo: temu.com

When it comes to the best kitchen cabinets, what’s on the inside matters, too. Consider an interior makeover by adding decorative liners or wallpaper to the inside of the cabinet backs, which can be especially impactful with glass front cabinets. Shaunfield recommends storage and organization features that can be a relatively easy way to add more functionality to the kitchen. 

4. Add framing or trim details.

Gray kitchen cabinets with a modern trim around the doors.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Those who want to add visual interest to flat panel slab doors might want to consider adding trim to achieve a shaker style. Blogger Jaclyn Quinones of Crazy Life With Littles tackled this DIY project to transform her plain laminate cabinets. Follow along with her tutorial to get started. 

5. Replace a section of cabinets with open shelving.

Open kitchen shelving with stylish dishes and cups.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Swapping some or all upper cabinets for open shelving is an excellent option for those wanting to achieve a new look on a budget. The bulk of the work for this kitchen renovation project is removing old cabinets and patching the walls. To avoid this drywall repair work, consider eliminating doors and updating the existing boxes to use as open shelving. Note that this project is best for homes without a lot of clutter that needs to be hidden away.

6. Add decorative touches to the center panels

A fun wallpaper is applied to the center of each kitchen cabinet door.
Photo: amazon.com

A simple way to update framed cabinets is to give the center panel a facelift. Some ways to do this include stencils, chalkboard paint, and wood appliques. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is also a great option. To apply, start by peeling the edge back from the adhesive to line it up to the corner of the panel. Peel off the rest and smooth It down as it adheres to the surface.

7. Replace the center panels.

Dark blue kitchen cabinets with glass doors.
Photo: ikea.com

In many shaker-style doors, the center panel floats, making it pretty straightforward to remove for someone experienced with a router. Once it’s out, there are plenty of replacement options to give the cabinet a makeover. Plexiglass is an inexpensive and simple way to get the look of glass-front panels, or a glass shop can help cut the proper size panel for those who prefer the real thing. Other great options include cane webbing (behind the glass) or beadboard panels.

8. Try decorative toe-kicks.

Decorative toe kick trim on the bottom of kitchen cabinets.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Sometimes, the most significant impact comes from the most minor details. Decorative toe kicks can offer the perfect finishing touch to stock kitchen cabinets. Blogger Jenna Sue of Jenna Sue Design Co. updated her kitchen cabinets with furniture feet for a custom, high-end look. Follow her DIY tutorial to achieve this update.

9. Change the cabinet doors.

An Asian man on a ladder is using a drill to install a new clear kitchen cabinet door.
Photo: istockphoto.com

If the cabinet boxes are in good condition, replacing kitchen cabinet doors can create a whole new look in the kitchen without the need for buying new cabinets. Shaunfield says it’s best if intermediate DIYers tackle this project. “The project can be done in one weekend and can often save money compared to completely replacing cabinetry,” he says. The project may also require additional refacing or painting for a seamless look. Refinishing or refacing the doors is another option to get a new look without purchasing new cabinets.

10. Replace cabinet hinges.

A man is using a screwdriver to install new kitchen cabinet door hinges.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether it’s required for new doors or as a fix for cabinets that don’t fully close or hang crooked, Shaunfield says installing or replacing cabinet hinges is an easy DIY project. “If replacing cabinet hinges, you need to ensure you have compatible hardware for what is currently used in your cabinet,” he says, adding, “Once you know the style of hardware, you simply need to remove existing hardware, install the new hinges, and adjust them to align to fit the door correctly.” 

11. Paint the cabinets.

A woman is using a small paint roller to paint kitchen cabinets.
Photo: istockphoto.com

While painting or restaining cabinets can seem like a simple project, it’s actually pretty labor-intensive and it’s best left to experienced DIYers or professionals as there are a lot of factors to consider before tackling the job. Shaunfield says to start by assessing the condition of the cabinets to determine if the paint needs to be stripped and whether the cabinets need repairs. He recommends stripping products to help make it easier to remove old paint. 

After emptying the cabinets and cleaning the surfaces, he says: “The next step is to sand the area to ensure the surface area is smooth so the paint job will be applied easily.” Next, you’ll need to prime the cabinets. Shaunfield suggests choosing a high-quality paint, specifically cabinet paints, that can provide a high-quality, smooth finish. He says, “Ensure the paint is acrylic and not vinyl since it is durable and easy to clean.”

12. Call the pros.

Two professionals are installing an entire kitchen cabinet set.
Photo: istockphoto.com

If these projects feel overwhelming or insufficient, it may be time to call in the pros. Consider a contractor or a local service such as The Home Depot’s Cabinet Makeover program. “Home Services at The Home Depot offers an exceptional variety of kitchen cabinet and organization services for every home and budget,” says Yang. The services are often completed in under a week and can include replacing doors, drawers, hinges, glides, knobs, and pulls.