Repair Advice Sought for Stripped Cabinet Doors

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Forum topic by Lovegasoline posted 09-20-2019 03:01 AM 993 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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85 posts in 551 days

09-20-2019 03:01 AM

I’d like to get some advice and opinions on making repairs to kitchen cabinet doors.
Some of the defects appear to have been induced by the paint stripper itself.

After a brutally laborious effort at stripping the paint off twelve cabinet doors I got about 3/4 finished and took a long break … now I want to bust out the last bit of stripping, repair damaged areas, and ready the doors for finishing with primer and paint (Benjamin Moore #217 alkyd primer + INSL-X Cabinet Coat satin white … unless I have good reason to switch to an acrylic primer). The cabinets are built-in and have already been completed and painted.

Here’s the background on the stripping:
It’s Sisyphean.
I do not dismiss the idea that I am insane. Insane or not the show must go on.
It’s a little like I imagine chemotherapy to be: you remove the bad stuff but damage some good stuff in the process.

The cabinets are 90 years old in a rental apartment and they’ve been deeply abused over the decades and covered in dozens of coats of paint, the oldest are oil and last half a century of latex/acrylic. Besides brutal scrapping the only stripper even approaching the notion of effective results has been Peel Away 1. Peel Away 1 has typically needed at least two thick applications to get much of the paint off, or to get it down where I can scrape and Methylene Chloride. Methylene chloride is slow going and it takes multiple coats with very little penetration per application. All of this in combination with a lot of scraping. The scraping is most effective after the latex/acrylic layers have been removed … as the oil layers are more brittle and scrape more easily … but is brutal work. I’m someone with strong hands but felt as if I was damaging my hands at one point from brute overuse (could be arthritis setting in?). Bottom line is that there’s no easy way to strip off that much paint for a DIY project.

Again, the Peel Away 1 was the only stripper that had a fighting chance. The problem however is that along with doing a so so job of stripping it appears to have also damaged some of the doors… it’s had an effect I’m not used to and I have to conclude that the stripper penetrated the wood and attacked the glue in the panels creating numerous checks and splits and also some rough raised areas (in some panels there are small splits all over the surface of the panel). The panels seem to have been made from thin veneer/ply … and the rails and stiles themselves seem to have been constructed with a veneer. The damage on the panels resembles forensic photos of knife wounds in flesh where both sides pull away from each other under tension and form ‘lips’. I’m thinking of using a scraper/sander to remove the high spots, then surface the panels with Bondo worked in with a plastic spreader or wide putty knife to fill the gaps, and sand it back when it’s dry.

The other damage is to the rails and stiles (art looks as if they too are surfaced with a veneer). The main damage to rails and stiles is cracks and gaps at the joints. The big wide gaps I plan to fill with Bondo, but I’m not sure how to fix areas that have split or delaminated. Any suggestions? Btw, the damage to inside surface of the doors I’m not that concerned with as it’ll be out of view 99% of the time.

I’m looking for some feedback on my plan of attack (war metaphors are a perfect fit for a project such as this) and alternative suggestions. Don’t suggest throwing the doors away and fabricating new ones as it’s too late for that : )

Lastly, I have a full size swinging door that I stripped (yes, more suffering!) and painted three years ago. In the past year and a half I’ve noticed some splitting occurring in the panel and also in the lower rail. Apparently both of these areas look to have surface veneers … I’d never have imagined the stiles to have veneers on them. On the rail (see pic) I was thinking of cutting out the delaminated section of veneer and gluing in a replacement plug and perhaps also using some Bondo or wood filler. The door’s panel checking I’ll probably not repair at this time and wait for it to get a little worse.



[PS: the final thing I’ll need to do is source new hinges. I’ve looked, asked, and posted but have been unable to locate ANY leaf hinges that match the dimensions and hole pattern of the hinges on these doors. Nothing. So to increase my headaches I’ll need to perhaps redo the mortices for the hinges and also deal with the old hinge screw holes. No, it never ends!]

1st & 2nd show outside of door’s deep checks, slitting to panel veneer, plus numerous micro checks.
3rd & 4th show multiple checks in veneer on interior side of doors
5th, 6th, 7th, & 8th show damage to joints, gaps, and some rail/stile veneer damage
9th, 10th, 11th show panel veneer’s massive micro checking and raised surface, and rail/stile veneer damage.
12th, 13th, & 14th show damage to swinging door stile veneer.

24 replies so far

View Lovegasoline's profile


85 posts in 551 days

#1 posted 09-20-2019 03:35 AM

Here’s some more pics showing the context of the stripping job:

-1st & 2nd show the existing finish of the cabinetry (custom distressed finish – extremely difficult to replicate)
-3rd shows midstream scraping operations working on deep oil paint layers after the finish has survived numerous direct hits from Peel Away 1 & Methylene Chloride.
-4th shows Interior Decorating treatment with Peel Away 1
-5th shows an Artist’s Rendering of Hell

View Rich's profile


5001 posts in 1102 days

#2 posted 09-20-2019 04:53 AM

Why is it too late to scrap them? Honestly, I am a sucker for doing a fix that takes longer than just punting. I’m also pretty adept at repairing finishes, but when I look at what you’re up against, I’d say no way.

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)


333 posts in 60 days

#3 posted 09-20-2019 06:02 AM

Sorry, but I agree with Rich. Make new doors.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: It is wiser to find out, than to suppose (S. Clemens)

View Underdog's profile


1403 posts in 2549 days

#4 posted 09-20-2019 10:56 AM

I got to the part where there were all these cracks, and thought: Just make new doors. It’s not worth the effort to fix these.
It reminds me of an old saw I once heard – Don’t hang on to a mistake just because you’ve spent so much time making it.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)


333 posts in 60 days

#5 posted 09-20-2019 01:45 PM

You can polish a turd, but only young men do that.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: It is wiser to find out, than to suppose (S. Clemens)

View ibewjon's profile


1007 posts in 3306 days

#6 posted 09-20-2019 01:50 PM

And you have been dealing with two extremely dangerous chemicals. Lead paint, don’t breath the dust, and you are spreading it around the house. Meth chloride is even worse. Only special chemical gloves can resist it, and not for long. It is absorbed directly through the skin, and into the lungs. You also need the proper respirator, not a dust mask. Toss the doors, make new ones if you can. If you can’t, get the protection you need.

View TechTeacher04's profile


412 posts in 2045 days

#7 posted 09-20-2019 01:59 PM

I agree, start over with new doors. The veneer has split on many of the doors and would need to be cut away or sanded then refilled to give a smooth surface. Not to mention the chemicals that would need to be used that could further degrade the glue joints there.

View bondogaposis's profile


5542 posts in 2864 days

#8 posted 09-20-2019 02:05 PM

My God, man those doors are toast. Build new doors.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View controlfreak's profile


222 posts in 114 days

#9 posted 09-20-2019 02:38 PM

It would be more fun to make new doors anyway. Be on the lookout for some non square openings before you get started. You also may want to play around with distressing the doors a bit to make them blend in a bit.

View pottz's profile


6403 posts in 1497 days

#10 posted 09-20-2019 02:48 PM

wow i agree with the others unless those are from a historical home that george washington lived in, scrap em!

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View waho6o9's profile


8771 posts in 3090 days

#11 posted 09-20-2019 03:13 PM

I appreciate your perseverance and attention to detail!

Please put those attributes in building new doors and keep doing the good work.

I like the tape off and the painting of the room.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5356 posts in 2822 days

#12 posted 09-20-2019 03:16 PM

No doubt about it. Make new doors.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View DS's profile


3303 posts in 2933 days

#13 posted 09-20-2019 03:20 PM

Okay, I will be the contrarian voice here;

Don’t replace them—Repair them.

I would start by using new wood to change out the damaged stiles and rails first, then get some plywood and change out the damaged panels.

Should be restored good as new by then.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Rich's profile


5001 posts in 1102 days

#14 posted 09-20-2019 03:32 PM

Should be restored good as new by then.

- DS

I see what you did there. Good one.

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)


333 posts in 60 days

#15 posted 09-20-2019 04:32 PM

Just curious- did you try a heat gun. If I was to attempt something like this, I wouldve tried that first- and a chemical mask.

Secondly, if this is a rental, is it one you own? Because if you are renting this place and killing yourself too, then possibly you are insane…..........:))

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: It is wiser to find out, than to suppose (S. Clemens)

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