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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

DIY Shaker Cabinets

When I decided to refinish my cabinets, a simple paint job didn’t feel like quite a big enough change. My cabinets are original to the home. So while they are sturdy, solid wood, they felt a bit dated. I wanted to add a detail that would bring them into the 21st century and make them feel more elevated. 

With that in mind, I decided to add a 2.25” trim around the cabinet doors to make shaker-style cabinets. While the work wasn’t hard, it was tedious and frustrating. So I’m going to walk you through all of my steps and lessons learned. 

Take me straight to the how-to-guide!

STEP 1: Sand your cabinet doors. 

This is pretty straight forward, but make sure your doors are sanded smooth. I had to get quite a bit of paint off of mine, so I started at a 40 grit sandpaper, moved to an 80 grit, and finished things off with a 120 grit. 

STEP 2: Cut your plywood down to size. 

I had the folks at Home Depot cut my plywood down to 2.25” strips, which saved me a ton of time. They did a pretty bad job, so several pieces were unusable. But I had enough length to make it work regardless. 

After I got them cut down to the correct width, I took the boards home and cut them to the right length. My doors are all different sizes, so it took a lot of measuring. I’ve mapped out how I made my measurements for each door in the diagram below. 

At first I didn't allot for the fact that the "A" length would be shorter than the height of the cabinet because of the two "B" pieces taking up some of that space, and I had to recut. So remember your "A" measurement should be: Height - 2B = A.

Then sand off any rough edges on your plywood strips.

STEP 3: Adhere your plywood trim to the cabinet doors. 

Using wood glue, I glued the trim into place around the outside edge of my cabinets. 

Tip: I would line up the cabinet edge and the trim edge against another piece of plywood to make sure the two edges were in line. 

Then, using my nail gun, I secured the trim in place with 3-4 nails along each side of the cabinet. 

Tip: If you don’t have a nail gun, you could hammer in a couple of finishing nails along each edge, it will just be a bit more of a pain. 

STEP 4: Woodfill!

This was hands down the most frustrating part of the process. Because my cabinets had a beveled edge originally, when I added the trim I created a gap between the original wood and the trim that had to be filled. Even if you don’t have a bevel, I recommend filling in any space between the trim and the original cabinet end to make it look seamless. 

So for each cabinet, I woodfilled 3 areas: 

  • Nail holes on the trim

  • Space between beveled edge and trim (shown above)

  • Space where the trim met in the 4 corners on the face of each cabinet

Tip: Woodfill is a really strange texture. I found it helpful to add a tiny bit of water to make it a bit less crumbly and more easily manipulated. 

STEP 5: Resand. 

After letting the woodfill cure for at least 24 hours, sand down all edges and areas that were woodfilled with a high-grit sandpaper. I used 120 and 150 grit. 

STEP 6: Caulk the inside edge. 

Finally, to make the transition from the trim to the cabinet look seamless, using an all-purpose, paintable caulk, caulk all four inside edges where the trim meets the face of the cabinet. Smooth out with your finger. 

Tip: Wet your finger with a little bit of water before smoothing out the wet caulk. This will make the finish a lot smoother. 

STEP 7: Prime and paint!

After letting the caulk dry, you’re ready to prime and paint! 

And that's it! A super simple upgrade that seriously requires a ton of patience. I'm still not done painting and hanging my cabinets, but the trim is such a nice new detail. I cannot wait to share the final product!

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