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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cabinetry / Shelving Category

Improvement Project:

How to refinish/makeover/reface cabinetry for a newer look.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Cabinet moldings

  • Cabinet hardware (handles, hinges, etc.)

  • Cabinet onlays

  • Cabinet appliqués

  • Cabinet paint

  • Cabinet doors

  • Cabinet veneers (raw-wood veneers, paper-backed veneers, or self-sticking veneers)

  • Tape measure

  • Pencil

  • Scissors

  • Power drill

  • Hammer

  • Screwdriver

  • Finish nails

  • Screws

  • Utility knife

  • Straight edge

  • Veneer heat glue (such as Heat Lock Veneer Glue™, which does not release any volatile elements and thus may be used indoors)

  • Ordinary clothes iron

  • Glue roller or paint brush (to apply adhesive glue like Heat Lock Veneer Glue™)

  • Bucket of water

  • Dampened rag

  • Veneer softener (such as Super-Soft 2 Veneer Softener™, which permits the veneer to still accept stain additives upon bonding completion, unlike other softeners on the market)

  • Paint brush (to stain cabinetry)

  • Wood staining product


Depending on the extent of the refinishing/makeover of your cabinetry that you desire, either one of the three (3) following guides can be followed, sorted incrementally by the extent of the refinishing/makeover of your cabinetry:

Guide 1

The relatively basic refinish/makeover of your cabinetry involves the following: Installing new moldings, hardware (like new and much more elegant drawer handles, hinges, etc.), onlays, and decorative appliqués.  (These may require the use of a power drill, a hammer, a screwdriver, finish nails, screws, etc., as may be applicable.) You may also consider adding a new color scheme to your cabinetry.

Guide 2

A more advanced refinish/makeover of your cabinetry involves the following: Replacing your existing cabinet doors with new cabinet doors offered specifically for such refacing projects at home improvement stores or online home improvement stores.  Many big home improvement stores have their own design experts in the stores to best help select your new cabinet doors to give your existing cabinetry a stylish, new look in place of the old, boring look you have grown used to.

Guide 3

The more complete refinishing/makeover of your cabinetry, short of replacing it, involves buying veneer coverings, available in various wood species, to laminate over your cabinetry


surface.  Veneer may sound awkward to the complete novice or even average person, but it is a great product for bringing your cabinetry back to life within a budget:  Wood veneer is a real, thin slice of wood, and is available in many wood species, even exotic ones, and, thus, provides for an economically feasible way of selecting wood that would otherwise be out of reach in price if it were to be bought as lumber or come as part of the original solid wood composition of your cabinetry. Caution:  It would be wise to experiment with small bits of veneer covering and scrap plywood when first going over either of the following ways of Guide 3 so as to get the hang of it.

Of the many methods to apply veneer coverings, two (2) popular and least complex methods of laminating the veneer coverings are as follows, which work well for cabinetry improvements:

Guide 3: Method 1

Through a method known as clothes-iron veneering, you essentially use veneer glue and a simple clothes iron for the most part to bond the veneer covers to the cabinetry surface areas. 

  1. Measure each cabinetry surface area to be covered and then, for each area, use a utility knife and straight edge to cut out your measured and pencil-marked pieces of veneer coverings, making sure you have about a 1 inch excess around the edge (that will be cut later upon adhering the veneer).

  2. Then, take each cut veneer covering and apply thereto two coats of the Heat Lock Veneer Glue™  with a paint brush or glue roller and then apply two coats of said glue on the part of the cabinetry area (i.e., substrate) that is to be covered.

  3. Make sure the Heat Lock Veneer Glue™ is evenly applied.

  4. Once you have applied the coating, take the veneer covering that has been applied with the said glue and carefully place it over, and in effect adjoin it with, the intended cabinetry surface to be covered.

  5. Use a dampened rag to quickly wipe away any excess glue that may appear on the surface and trim away the excess veneer covering.

  6. Turn on the clothes iron to high, and while you wait for it to heat up, clean your paint brush/glue roller free of the said glue, as the said glue quickly dries, which will stiffen your brush/roller making continued use of it later difficult for the next veneer covering to be applied; dipping it into a bucket of water is the best and quick way to keep it ready. 

  7. After a minute or two of having the clothes iron heat up, use a piece of a cotton fabric (roughly 10" by 10" or even a cotton blouse) to cover the now-placed veneer over the cabinetry area, a cotton fabric of which will act as the shield between the veneer and the clothes iron as you iron with firm downward pressure from the center of the veneer covering and outward to its edges, causing the generated heat to effectively bond the said glue of the veneer with the underlying cabinetry surface area. Caution: Be sure that your clothes iron does not stay in one place, but moves around at all times.

  8. If the veneer becomes wavy, burled or crotched, spray a veneer softener product, such as Super-Soft 2 Veneer Softener™, on the affected area and follow the product's instructions, which will include adding flat pressure over the area for some time so as to have it straighten out on its own.

  9. Wait about three hours for the veneer to fully bond to the underlying cabinet surface area; in the meantime, work on the next veneer covering by repeating the process above.

  10. Inspect the success of the bonding of the veneers to the cabinetry surface area, and if you discover any uneven surface area or loose edges, re-heat those areas, as those areas obviously did not get enough of the heat from the moving clothes iron.

  11. Finally, apply any wood stain you would apply for any other new piece of wood should you desire it, and you should be done.

Guide 3: Method 2

Through a method known as peel-off veneer placement, you eliminate the need to deal with any glue as the veneers you use are self-adhesive as soon as you peel off the back of each respective self-sticking veneer.

  1. Having measured and cut your veneer covering to size, leaving 1 inch excess around the sides (to be trimmed later), peel off the paper backing of the self-sticking veneer and place over, and in effect adjoin with, the intended cabinetry surface area to be covered. 

  2. Cut off any excess veneer, and you should be done.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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