Repair work is a big part of cabinet making and, if you’re into DIY, it’s a great place for you to save money while building your skills and confidence in cabinet making. In this handy guide, we’ve covered the main problems you’re likely to encounter with your cabinets and how to fix them.
Problem: scratches and chips
Solutions: You have a few options here. If it’s just a scratch or small nick, you can get wood stain markers in a variety of shades. Pick the right shade for your wood and the scratch will become virtually invisible. The wrong shade, however, may end up making it stand out even more. So choose carefully. Your best bet is to start light and work your way up if you need to. The exposed surface of the scratch will often be quite absorbent, so going a shade or two lighter than you think is a safe strategy. All you need to do is gently dab the marker on the nicks and scratches and then clean off any excess.If the “scratches” are more like gouges and the “chips” more like chunks, you can get plastic wood filler. Once again, this needs to be carefully color matched or you run the risk of making the repair stand out like a dog’s spherical accessories. If it’s a sizable chunk, you might need to upgrade to an epoxy repair kit. Epoxy filler is waterproof and easy to use. You just fill the area, let it dry, sand it back and then paint or stain it.Bonus tip: for all of these fixes, it may be worth going over the whole thing with a fresh wood stain or coat of paint, to ensure you get a uniform finish.
Problem: major door issues
Solutions: If you’ve got a split in a cabinet door, you can glue it back together if the detached piece isn’t otherwise damaged. Make sure you go with a top quality woodworking glue. Clean the surfaces to be glued and then follow the instructions for the glue you’ve selected. Once you’ve applied the glue as instructed, clamp the pieces together using rags or something soft to ensure the clamps don’t damage the wood. You can use finishing nails, once the glue has dried, to ensure the door will hold together.If the broken piece is too damaged, it’s better to arm yourself with some primo woodworking tools and put a bit of time into a quality repair job. You’ll want to cut away the damaged piece and then source a piece of wood to match from your local hardware store. Sand back the side of the door you’re keeping, then measure and cut the new piece to size (making it slightly larger so you can sand it back to the perfect size once it’s attached). You can use countersunk screws or finishing nails if you wish, to add extra strength. Once you’ve sanded it to the perfect size, you’ll need to stain or paint the cabinet door to hide your repair job.
Problem: Wonky doors
Solutions: Cabinet doors are a lot like people: the older they get, the more likely they are to become unhinged, droopy, loose or misaligned. Unlike people, you can quickly and easily fix a cabinet door’s issues at home, without any professional assistance.If your cabinet doors are a screw loose, all you need to do is loosen the hinge screws enough so that you can position the door back in its proper place. Then, once it’s nicely aligned, tighten up all the screws.If the screws are turning but not tightening, the holes have become stripped. The fix for this is easy and kind of fun. You will need to take the whole door off first though. Squirt some wood glue in the screw hole and then fill it with toothpicks. Once it’s all dry, cut the end off the toothpick bouquet to make it flush with the wood surface. You’ve got yourself a brand new screw-able hole.Bonus tip: The toothpick trick can be used in multiple places. Cabinet handles and knobs are notorious for getting loose and can be set straight using this same tactic.
Problem: Old Knobs
Solutions: If your knobs need replacing, make sure your new ones are of excellent quality. Top quality cabinet handles and knobs will have a longer life, meaning you won’t have to revisit this job over and over. Even if they don’t need replacing, getting a striking new set of handles or knobs for your cabinet can make a surprisingly big difference to the look of the furniture.When replacing them, you can use the toothpick trick described above if any of the holes have become stripped. If you want to switch out knobs for handles, you can fill the center hole with wood putty, sand it flat once dry and apply fresh paint or stain. Then measure out the drill points for the handle, drill and screw in.
Problem: sticky drawers
Solution: This is a simple fix. You’ll need to (gently) wrestle the offending drawer out first, careful not to do any damage. Then, using a damp cloth, clean the tracks and drawer slides. Apply some WD-40, or your lubricant of choice, to the track and slides. And you’re done. The drawer should slide back in and work fine.
Problem: broken drawer slides
Solution: If it turns out the drawer slides are more than just sticky but actually bent or broken, you will need to remove and replace them. You can find new drawer slides online or in your local hardware store. Just make sure you get a size as close as possible to your old ones. This is all achievable with minimal outlay, and the job is as easy as screwing the new slides in.
Solutions: If it’s a recent surface mark on a painted, stained or varnished surface, isopropyl alcohol is often the best and simplest way of swiping it off, even working on permanent marker. This is actually how erasable markers work. They have enough alcohol mixed with the ink to allow their scribbles to be wiped away at will. If the marks have already penetrated the grain, or if they were made with a ballpoint pen which indents the graffiti into the wood, your best bet is going to be to sand the whole surface back and then re-stain or paint it.