Let’s start with a before and after. I know everyone loves those!
I had bought a set of used ugly old orange (“golden”) oak cabinets off of Craigslist over a year ago. I saw the potential in these solid oak cabinets. I got a whole kitchen full for $300, but my dad bought the uppers from me ($150) for his laundry room. I only needed the base cabinets, so I got 153 linear inches (combined width of all of the base cabinets) of solid oak cabinets for $150. Not bad. Plus some came with some cool cabinet/drawer organizers/pull-outs.
I kind of moved the cabinets around and reconfigured until I had the layout I liked. The cabinets meshed surprisingly well with the old 60s era corner cabinet that was original to the house (if you remember from my drain pipe disaster, I had to toss most of my other cabinets). The corner cabinet houses the rotary trash can thing, instead of a useless lazy susan. I love this thing. My current issue is finding doors for it, so I may just rig up a curtain for it for now.
The cabinets were in great shape, so I knew I could just reface them eventually. I actually ended up painting them because I couldn’t stand the orange color directly next to the white of the kitchen!
In my naive DIY days (who am I kidding, I am still in my naive DIY days, just slightly less naive), when I bought these cabinets, I didn’t realize that the drawer fronts were actually dovetailed directly TO the drawer box. Meaning, I couldn’t just take the handle off and pop the drawer front off and replace it. So this post is for all of you out there who have the same dilemma and aren’t sure how to proceed.
I came across this website with a quick little how to, so that spawned this project.
The first, and probably most annoying, step is to trim the existing front so that it is flush with the drawer box. I used a circular saw set at 3/4″ depth (slightly more than the thickness of the drawer front). You can probably keep the default depth if you remove the drawer slides first. I kept the drawer slides on because I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to adjust them, but of course I wasn’t that lucky.
Here is the top drawer all trimmed up. It was actually helpful to keep the drawer pull on while cutting, so you can hold onto it and keep the box stable while you cut.
As you can see, I wasn’t lucky with the drawer slides. I need the drawer front to be flush with the cabinet frame.
This is actually the point where I was at a fork in the road. The way I see it, you have two options, use the front of the drawer as the front, or use the back of the drawer as the front. The front is obviously a lot thicker (my thickness actually measures at 1″) and with this being so thick, likely the screws that come with the drawer pulls won’t be long enough to go through 1″ (for the box) and then another 3/4″ for the new drawer front. That’s where my mind was going at least.
So let’s get to the weird drawer slides these old oak cabinets have. They are fully functional, haven’t had any issues whatsoever. I wanted to keep them due to their functionality and not wanting to spend money on new slides, plus the hassle of installing new slides.
So the drawer boxes themselves actually have a groove cut out to fit the slides. Below is a photo of the groove without the slide in it.
Now here is a photo of the drawer with the slide in the groove:
That’s all well and good, but the issue is that the groove only extends so far to the front of the box. Meaning, the groove does not go all the way through the front. You can see that in this photo:
I have no way of re-creating that groove to push the slide further up, which is needed to make the front flush with the cabinet frame. Not only that, but I wouldn’t be able to reverse the box (i.e. back would be new front), because I wouldn’t be able to slide the drawer slide into the groove from the other end.
So here is where I stopped and thought. For some reason it never occurred to me (at that moment) to just tap the slide with a hammer and see if it made its own groove in the wood. Instead, I decided to buy new slides for the drawers.
I installed the new slides on the top drawer. This is where I learned that the difference in measurement between the cabinet frame and the drawer box is greater than 1″, meaning the slides attached to the drawer will not align with the slides on the cabinet frame. The width of the drawer box is 11.25″ and the width of the cabinet is 12.5″, leaving me with 1.25″ leftover. I was not about to take these slides off and put the old ones back on, so I attached a 1/4″ piece of scrap to one side of the drawer box to bring the total width to 11.5″.
It was a pain. Super annoying. I hate installing new drawer slides. Especially in a cramped, 15″ wide base cabinet. 10/10 do not recommend.
But here we are:
This is what it looks like with the back now the front:
And yes, I changed my mind on my drawer handles. I am in LOVE with these black matte handles. Goodbye, stainless handles!
After the PITA that was the drawer slide installation for the top drawer, I sat down and thought about the other slides. And that’s when I had the brilliant idea to tap them with a hammer.
So I took the second drawer (and just so you know, I just randomly, instinctively typed “droor”, even having typed drawer at least 10 times before that instance in this post), which looked like this before I mutilated it with a circular saw:
And here is a close up of the top:
This is where I used my trusty hammer to pound that slide in:
And… oops, went to far. It’s all good though, the front will be covered by the new drawer front.
Backing the slide up a little bit…
I left it at 1/4″ from the front. Then I popped a screw in the only hole on the slide, just to keep it from sliding back out over time.
I repeated the same process with the last drawer. Test fitting the drawers, and we’re in business!
But of course I ran into another issue…
The “drawer fronts” that I have were actually meant to be doors (as seen by the concealed hinge holes), so the recessed panel won’t allow me to keep the new front flush against the old front.
Here is the actual door/drawer for reference:
And then here is a “real” drawer front. You can see that the back is not recessed, so this would allow the new front to be flush with the drawer box.
So I need to be a little creative here… plywood to the rescue!
Well, actually, I found a piece of 1/4″ x 6 x 2 poplar in the craft wood section of Lowe’s for ~$3.
I didn’t have any scrap plywood on hand or I would have used that. I cut the poplar board to size to fit in the recessed panel.
I attached with some smaller leftover cabinet hinge screws (<1/2″), just to hold in place and also to not penetrate the thin recessed panel.
Actually, I say that, but I did bad math and slightly penetrated the drawer fronts *face palm*.
I need to give these drawer fronts a top coat of paint anyway, so I’ll patch and sand those little areas before I do that.
Earlier I mentioned the issue with using the thick (1″) old front as the front of the drawer box. The screws that came with the hardware are 1 1/2″ long. The drawer box front is 1″ and the recessed panel on the new front is about 1/2″ total (with the poplar). This brings us to 1 1/2″. I tried matching screws at Lowe’s, but whatever screws these pulls came with don’t match up. I remember coming across a review on Amazon when I was deciding on buying the pulls, and the reviewer mentioned that they drilled through the back of the drawer front to recess the screw. So I found a drill bit that was slightly larger than the head of the handle screws and screwed through the back of the front of the drawer box (sorry, wish they had more descriptive names for these parts of a drawer!). This enabled me to recess the screw in the box, so it could reach all the way through the draw front and catch on the handle. Hope that made sense. I forgot to photograph this part!
And since everyone also loves a price breakdown (in addition to before and after photos). Just for this cabinet, the total cost to makeover was ~$48:
- Drawer fronts/doors: $15 (I am able to find these at a local cabinet warehouse for $5/piece, from their scratch and dent section)
- Handles are $3.10/piece = $9.30
- 1/4″ Poplar board = $3.50
- Drawer slides for top drawer = $20 (this includes the rear-mounting bracket since this is a face-frame cabinet)
- I already had the paint and painting supplies on hand, so I didn’t include that here
And here is that before and after one last time 🙂
Now guess what I’ll be working on next?
Yeah, this orange glory of an island!
Same thing, I have all of the doors/drawer fronts already. This project will require some veneer for the cabinet frame since some spots aren’t too pretty. I’ll update with photos when I’m finished!