Advice on refacing face frame cabinets

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Forum topic by jacobem3 posted 04-26-2016 09:31 PM 788 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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30 posts in 1905 days

04-26-2016 09:31 PM

I bought a house with 20 year old builder grade, pre-fab, face frame cabinets. I’d like to remove the center stiles and reface them with slightly wider, simple slab doors that will cover the gap left between the door openings with a small 1/8” reveal between the doors. I don’t believe I’ll be able to cover the reveals on the hinge sides as they are quite large.

My goals are to have a more modern look and make it easier to get wide objects in and out of the cabinets. I have a few constraints – currently no table saw, but I hope to use something like a Kreg Rip Cut jig and/or a homemade rip jig to get straight and true cuts. We’ll be using the kitchen throughout the project.

The face and shelves are 3/4” MDF. The sides and backs are 1/2” MDF and they have a white paper veneer that is peeling in places. The stiles are connected to the rails with pocket screws and glue. The pocket screws will come out but the glue seems to be the modern stuff that is stronger than the wood.

Will the cabinets be structurally sound without the stiles? I assume I’ll have to cut them out with a reciprocating saw and sand down even with the rails.

I’m a bit confused about which types of hinges to buy. I want to use hidden European style hinges, but I believe they’ll need to mount on the face frames rather than the box sides like they are in frameless cabinets.

Here are some pictures of what I have. Thanks in advance for any guidance/advice on how you’d do this!

(apologies for the rotated pictures, I’m doing this on a Chromebook and it’s got limited editing options)

5 replies so far

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30 posts in 1905 days

#1 posted 04-26-2016 09:33 PM

Grizzly has some euro hinges on closeout right now that look like they would be a great deal if they’ll work:


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3481 posts in 1933 days

#2 posted 04-26-2016 10:01 PM

Personally I wouldn’t spend this kind of money on MDF cabs. They are the lowest quality cabs made and you won’t get a return on the money you will be spending.

Most likely the stiles are holding the shelves up and also keeping the bottom and top from sagging.

I wouldn’t touch them other than to tear them out and replace with decent cabs.

Sorry…...but you asked.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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30 posts in 1905 days

#3 posted 04-26-2016 10:20 PM

Sorry for the misinformation, I just double-checked… The doors are MDF, the face frames are solid wood and I’m not sure what the sides and backs are made of (the laminate won’t come off easily). The stiles are indeed providing support to the shelves though.

Thank you for your input!

View clin's profile


1051 posts in 1448 days

#4 posted 04-26-2016 10:38 PM

I also lean towards the not worth doing on these cabinets. But I know sometimes you just need to work with what you’ve got.

As is, in the photo I think they look pretty nice. I’d consider just going with a more contemporary door pull. Sometimes a simple hardware change like that can really change the look.

Even with slab doors, I think you’d have to change out the crown molding at the top to something simpler. The crown molding creates much of the traditional look.

While I’m partial to white cabinets. Maybe just repainting them. Or painting just the doors and keeping the cabinets white, or vice versa. You might get be able to create a more modern take on on traditional style cabinet.

As for the stiles, I too would be concerned about strength. Especially if they are used to support shelves. I get that they get in the way. If you do cut them off, rather than sanding flush after rough cutting, maybe you could clamp a scarp across the front as a guide for a router trim bit. Might be quicker and reduce the chance of screwing something up like sanding through the finish on the bottom shelf.

-- Clin

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30 posts in 1905 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 10:11 PM

Thanks for all the feedback. I put new pulls on the doors and drawers (which I’ll reuse if I ever build new cabinets) and the girlfriend is very happy!

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