Cabinets: An Investment Worth Keeping

April 16, 2016

Your kitchen cabinets are a big and important investment, and you want to keep them looking new and beautiful for as long as possible.  But trying to keep them in their original state can feel like a daunting task, as there are many factors that you need to consider when maintaining your cabinets.

To keep things simple, follow the cabinet maintenance steps below to help you retain your cabinets’ beauty and function for years to come!

Step #1 - Understand Cabinet Materials

There are so many options in today’s cabinet world when it comes to the type of material they are made of.  Some cabinets are made of solid wood and wood veneers but may also contain other quality engineered products that keep your cabinets durable and attractive, while conserving the wood.

The first step in making sure you can maintain your cabinets is understanding what they are made of.

Here are some common surface materials:

  • Melamine (Formica-like) - More common in countertops but may also be used for other surfaces such as cabinet doors
  • Vinyl - comes in wood grained or solid colours and may be used for all surfaces in your kitchen except countertops
  • Paper that is chemically and finish-treated for durability - may be used for all surfaces except countertops

Common panel core materials (the interior material that your cabinets are made of) include:

  • MDF
  • Lumber
  • Wood Veneers
  • Flake or Particleboard
  • Hardboard
Step #2 - During the Purchasing Or Installation Phase, Prepare for Cabinet Maintenance

Over time, the products we buy can begin to go through wear and tear, so best to prepare yourself right from the beginning.  

Obtain the following items from your cabinet company and store them for future cabinet maintenance:

  • Several hinges
  • Two or three drawer guidance systems
  • Several pulls
  • A repair kit, if available from the cabinet manufacturer
  • A small (pint-size) amount of each stain or colour coat used to finish your cabinets
  • The name and address of the cabinet manufacturer and the name of the cabinet style, just in case you want to add cabinets or replace a damaged part in the future
Step #3 - Things to Avoid and Things to Do to Maintain your Cabinets

Cabinet maintenance can be easy - just keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid hanging wet towels on door or drawer fronts.
  • Avoid using drawers as step ladders, and if you have children around, don’t allow them to swing on doors - hinges and drawer guidance systems that are bent or twisted are difficult to repair and get back to their original state.
  • Clean spills right away.  Although most finished surfaces can withstand household foods and liquids, better to be safe by tending to these quickly.
  • If in future you want to paint or refinish your cabinets - be careful.  Understand the finish of your cabinets as paints may not be compatible and cause severe surface peeling or blistering, affecting the look of your cabinets.
Step #4 - Repairing your Cabinets

If it gets to the point where your cabinets need more than maintenance, here are some tips to repairing your cabinets:

  • Treat broken wood parts or loose panel surfaces using an adhesive such as Elmer’s Glue (or similar) or a contact adhesive.
  • For small loose areas of wood veneer on edges of doors or corner of panels:
  • Carefully clean all old, dry glue from loose surface with a scraper or sandpaper.
  • Apply a thin, even layer of Elmer’s Glue (or similar) to one surface.
  • Press the loose veneer into place and wipe off any excess glue that has seeped out.
  • Using strong tape as a clamp, tape the loose veneer down as tightly as you can.
  • Allow to dry for 24 hours and remove tape.
  • For small loose areas of man-made material surfaces and veneers, on edges or panel corders:
  • Clean as above
  • Use contact adhesive and follow instructions listed on the package or container to place the loose section firmly in place
  • For split or broke wood part:
  • This process is similar to repairing loose areas of wood veneer (above)
  • Instead of applying a thin layer of glue, apply glue as deep as possible and wipe off any excess glue; clamp with tape and let sit for 24 hours.
  • If you are able to use a metal screw or other type of clamp, this is highly recommended.  An example would be using a vise to clamp a removable drawer.
  • To repair a stripped screw at a door hinge:
  • Remove the screw and clean dust or chips from the hole.
  • Cut wooden matchsticks to the approximate hole depth.
  • Apply glue to the match sticks and insert into the hole; with a light hammer stroke, tap the match sticks into the hole for a tight fit and allow to dry for 24 hours.
  • After drying, trim the match sticks to ensure they are flush with the surface.
  • Carefully re-drill the screw hole using a drill bit approximately the size of the root diameter (screw base diameter not counting threads) of the screw.
  • Apply your screw; the same screw may be used but a sheet metal screw of the same size will provide better holding power.
  • To repair stripped threads on a machine screw
  • When a machine screw or bolt holding a door or drawer pull no longer hold due to stripped threads, place a small amount of steel wool around the threads and carefully screw back into place without applying too much pressure.  This may hold.
  • Do not use nails to repair your cabinets.  They can often split or shatter the wood or  particleboard core which could cause more damage to your cabinets.
  • Never drill into any part or wall without first pre-drilling to the root of the diameter for the  screw.
  • Ensure your cabinets are properly screwed to structural studs to ensure they hold well to your walls.
Step #5 - Refinishing your Cabinets

As part of cabinet maintenance, you may want to refinish your kitchen cabinets.  It’s important to note that this is a highly skilled procedure and you need to be mindful that your cabinets may have been finished with several types of man-made materials.   

Sprayed-on type standard finishes that become scratched or lightly dented can typically be repaired with the following repair materials; it is highly recommended that you practice on a small board or 2x4 if you’re a new to this process.

  1. A repair kit from your cabinet manufacturer or supplier.
  2. Small cans of colour coats from your supplier.
  3. If using this material, apply colour coats of finish lightly since you can apply more coats to darken later to make sure you get the right match. Once the surface is too dark, it will be difficult to lighten.
  4. Felt tipped pens or finish and/or putty sticks (they come in a wide variety of colours, and can be found in your local hardware store).
  5. Coloured putty sticks fill dents with a putty knife.
  6. Aerosol cans of clear, final top coat spray (which can also be purchased from your local hardware store).
  7. Apply this last and use according to instructions on the container.
  8. Practice before using your cabinets. It is recommended that you “mask” other surfaces, to avoid overspray.
  9. Be cautious when using this as the sheen or brightness of the topcoat material, when thoroughly dry may not match your cabinets.

If you have considerable touch-up and/or finish repair needed, don’t be afraid to reach out and contact us so we can help!

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer is a member of the Seine River Cabinets content team. She focuses her time on creating informative and engaging content in the area of interior design/home decor.

Seine River Cabinets
P: (204) 927-1483

6-45 Trotier Bay
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3T 3R3
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