If your kitchen cabinets are worth keeping but need some TLC, this guide has solutions. It covers common repairs and how to do them.
How to Replace or Adjust a Latch
Some older cabinets have latch closers that can get worn out or require occasional adjustment. To replace a latch, remove it and take it to the hardware or home improvement store. Look for a replacement of the same style. Take the new one home, and use the existing screw holes to install it.
If the problem is that the latch needs to be adjusted, loosen the screws holding it, move it forward or back to where it should be, and tighten the screws. If the holes have become enlarged, the next how-to will help.
Once you’ve repaired the screw holes, line up your new latch to work properly, and mark the screw locations. Predrill the holes with a very small diameter bit before installing the new latch and screws.
A second option is to remove the latches and replace the hinges with self-closing hinges. We cover that repair below.
How to Repair Screw Holes
If holes have become stripped so they won’t hold the screw, or if you need to change their location, fill them with toothpick tips dipped in wood glue. Break off the toothpick tips to be flush with the wood where the latch will be mounted. Allow the glue to dry for 30 minutes. The repaired holes can now be drilled into.
How to Replace Cabinet Hinges
Hinges eventually either wear out or look outdated. Remove the lower door hinge first, and support the door while you remove the top hinge. You can use the same holes to attach the new hinge, if they line up. If not, use the technique mentioned above to fill any holes you won’t be using for the new hinges. When the glue is dry, predrill new holes and install the hinges.
How to Adjust a Cabinet Hinge
If the door doesn’t close flush, the hinge is out of alignment. European style hinges have a depth screw that causes the door to be closer or further away from the cabinet when adjusted. Loosen the depth screw, and manually adjust the door. When it closes properly, tighten the depth screw.
If the hinge doesn’t have an adjustment screw, you’ll need to change the location of the hinge or replace it using the methods described in the last tip.
How to Fix a Sticking Drawer Slide
First, remove the drawer. If the slide seems to be in good condition but is sticking, clean it. Then, spray lubricant onto the slide, and wipe off any excess. Apply a bit of lubricant to the rollers too. WD-40 is one of many lubricant choices.
How to Replace a Drawer Slide
Slides can become bent or broken, and the best choice is replacement. Remove the old slide and the track too, and take them with you to the store. Look for the same or very similar components. If you find a good match, you should be able to use the same screw holes when installing the new slide and track. It’s always safest to predrill holes to prevent the wood from splitting or cracking. Just be sure to use a bit that is a size or two smaller than the diameter of the screw shaft.
How to Repair Broken Drawer Boxes
If a joint has come apart because the glue dried out, use a utility knife or putty knife to remove as much of the old glue as possible. Add wood glue to the joint, and hold it together with a clamp for at least several hours.
If a wood panel is warped and cracked, you might not be able to glue the separation back together, though do so if you can. The best way to repair this kind of damage might be to use a splint made from a paint stirring stick. Cut the stick to cover the entire separation, and glue it in place. Use a clamp on it, if possible, to hold the splint in place or to hold the separation together while the glue dries.
If gluing a splint to the outside of the drawer box will hinder its action in and out, the splint will need to be located inside the drawer. This isn’t ideal, of course, but it might work as a last resort. If the drawer is one you use often, switch it with another of the same size that you don’t use as much.
How to Repair Minor Scratches in Wood Cabinets
Touch-up markers are available designed for wood. Choose one that is close to your wood in color. Run the marker along the scratch, being sure to fully color the wood. Wipe off any excess.
How to Repair Gouges in Cabinets
If you’re planning to refinish or resurface your cabinets and they have gouges, chips or deep scratches, fill the blemishes with wood filler. Use a putty knife to apply the filler, and smooth it flush to the wood surface. When it dries, sand it smooth with 220-grit paper. Choose filler that will take stain to help hide the imperfections when you refinish the cabinets.
Refinishing and Refacing Wood Cabinets
At some point, minor repairs aren’t enough to keep kitchen cabinets looking good. Or perhaps you’ll decide you want an entirely new look.
Your options then become to refinish or paint the cabinets, reface them with fresh material or replace your kitchen cabinets altogether.
We cover these all topics in comprehensive detail. For practical information on each topic, see our:
- Cabinet Replacement and Installation Guide
- Cabinet Refinishing Guide ( which covers painting too)
- Cabinet Refacing Guide
Related Content in this Series
View other guides in this series which you may find useful.
- Guide for Kitchen Cabinet Refacing
- Guide for Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing
- Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Remodeling
- Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Repair
- Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Replacement & Installation