DIY Outdated Cabinets to Shaker Cheap! 29 Doors Updated for $236.64! Step-by-Step

I knew I had to DIY outdated cabinets to shaker cheap but it had to look high-end. I had stared at these outdated cathedral cabinets for five years, knowing I wasn’t about to rip out solid wood cabinets and pay tens of thousands of dollars to have them replaced. They weren’t so bad in the very early 2000s when the house was built but over the years they’ve turned orange. In the before pictures, they look more on the brown side but in reality, they were carrot-orange.

DIY Outdated Cabinets to Shaker Cheap
After: White Shaker Cabinets
DIY Outdated Cabinets to Shaker Cheap
Before: Orange Cathedral Cabinets

We’ll address that backsplash and the floor in a later post, for now, back to the cabinets. I went round-and-round thinking about sanding, revarnishing darker, painting and yet, none of these options took care of the dated cathedral-style doors. I had my heart set on clean lines and fresh white for my kitchen and a bandaid on it was just going to be some expense and, not to mention, a lot of hard work and I still wasn’t going to have the classic kitchen that I had envisioned for so long.

The cathedral style of the cabinets wouldn’t allow me to just put stiles and rails over the face of the existing door as some of the curves in the design went very wide. I needed a thin, paint-ready type of lumber to cover the door with. Something that looked like wood since the existing cabinets are solid hardwood.

One Saturday afternoon I went to Lowe’s with Jon (who was working on another project) and I wandered over to the lumber department and there, just waiting for me to discover was EXACTLY what we needed to pull off the high-end cabinets I wanted at the rock-bottom price I was willing to pay.

The clouds parted! A golden beam of light shone down upon… 5mm poplar plywood! A 4′ x 8′ sheet for $15.98. I could get the whole kitchen, uppers and lowers, done for two or three sheets. That’s less than $50.00! Now we’re talking! It’s nice and smooth with just a bit of wood grain, ready for primer and paint.

Now I’d just need some lumber for the stiles and rails. I wanted them more substantial and not too thin. Enter ½” MDF, that’s Medium Density Fiberboard. There it was, ½” x 4′ x 8′ sheet for $21.57. Surely it wouldn’t take more than one sheet. Here comes Jon, he found me! I presented the plan to him and showed him the lumber and he said, “Yep! Can do!” My favorite little words!

So, we’re up to just under $70.00 and only lack a few incidentals; sanding pads, pin nails, caulk, primer, brush, roller, and paint plus new drawer pulls. Thankfully the local Lowe’s will cut lumber to any specifications free of charge!


  • 4′ x 8′ poplar plywood
  • 4′ x 8′ MDF
  • Sandpaper
  • Pin nails
  • Caulk
  • Wood putty
  • Zinsser BullsEye 123 Primer
  • Paint Benjamin Moore Advance Satin Simply White
  • Wooster Synthetic Brush
  • Mohair Roller
  • Hardware – knobs, and drawer pulls

Total Cost to DIY Outdated Cabinets to Shaker Cheap

We refaced 29 doors, 10 cup pulls, 29 knobs, and a 12″ pull. Primed and painted inside and out. The total cost to update our cabinets from the orange cathedral style to white shaker style:

Sandpaper$ 4.49
Pin nails$ 5.99
Caulk$ 3.09
Wood putty$ 5.58
Brush$ 4.85
Mohair roller$ 6.52
Knobs & pulls$58.75

There was a BIG unforeseen expense that more than doubled our total cost for updating the cabinets. Never use a table saw when you are tired. Poor Jon got his thumb in the way of the table saw blade. I raced him down to the emergency clinic where the doctor came in, looked at his injury, left, came back in looked some more, left again and finally came back a third time ready to sew what was left of his thumb back together.

I’ll leave it at that and spare you the pictures. Take my word for it, it was bad and the doctor did an amazing job. So that little trip added $465.00 to our total bill for the kitchen cabinet refacing, not including two visits to the hand specialist.

Instructions for Installation

  1. Draw a diagram of the cabinet placement in your kitchen and assign each door a number.
  2. Remove all the doors and hinges and mark each door and hinge with its corresponding number according to your diagram. I marked mine inside the hinge recess. The hinges were marked with the door number and an A or B for top or bottom hinge.
  3. Lightly sand any edges that won’t be covered with the new facing materials.
  4. Cut the plywood to the specific measurement of your door. Our local Lowe’s will cut it so check your local store to see if they offer this service.
  5. Attach the plywood to the surface of the existing cabinet door with pin nails.
  6. Cut the stiles and rails from MDF. I used ½” MDF and cut it approximately 2 ¼” width. This width may vary according to the size of the door. I ran the rails between the stiles. For our standard door size, 2 ¼” was esthetically pleasing. For the narrower doors, 1 ¾”  was a better fit. 
  7. Using pin nails, attach the stiles (vertical pieces) and rails (horizontal pieces) to the new face of the cabinet door.
  8. Lightly sand any rough edges with 100 grit sandpaper and remove the sanding dust.
  9. Caulk all edges where there are any gaps between the layers of wood with paintable caulk.
  10. Prime. I used  Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3  1 Gal. White Water-Based Interior/Exterior Primer and Sealer.
  11. Once the primer is dry, lightly sand with 100 grit sandpaper and remove the sanding dust.
  12. Paint. I used Benjamin Moore ADVANCE Interior Paint- Satin and the color was Simply White.
Before: cathedral-style varnished cabinets
Before: Cathedral-style varnished
After renovation shaker-style cabinet doors.
After: Shaker-style painted

As you can see in the after images, the backsplash has been updated and I will show you how I did it in another post. The only thing left to do in the kitchen is to update the floors without tearing them out. I did something similar to a bathroom floor and I have an idea of how to fix this brown kitchen floor. Stay tuned for that project post.

Final Thoughts

I can’t say enough good things about the ADVANCE paint from Benjamin Moore. At first, I was set back by the hefty price, but after using it I am beyond thrilled. It took about a half-gallon to do the entire kitchen, uppers and lowers. I applied two coats of primer and two coats of Advance paint. I used a synthetic sash brush to get in the tight spots and for the rest of the surfaces, I used a Wooster Mini-Koter Mohair Blend roller. This paint was dry to the touch in 30 minutes and has a fully-cured time of 60 days.

ADVANCE is a waterborne alkyd paint, so it provides the quality and durability of an oil-based paint with the soap-and-water cleanup of a water-based paint”.

Benjamin Moore Website

Tip: Using the mohair rollers made the cabinets look like they were professionally sprayed.

At first, I tried a foam roller on the drawer fronts, and they came out with an orange-peel texture. The Mohair roller is THE way to go! The kitchen cabinets were done two years ago at the time of this writing and have held up remarkably well. My kitchen is a hostile environment and I fully expected to have a lot of dings and chips. I have done a small dot of tough-up a couple of times when something extreme happened but for all intents and purposes, there hasn’t been any damage. The cabinets still look brand spanking new and best of all, they haven’t gilded at all!

I did paint the island with Benjamin Moore Advance in Revere Pewter 25% darker and it’s still too light. I will be taking the can back to the Benjamin Moore store to have it darkened another 25%. I will be using this for the trim, doors, and cabinets in the master bedroom and bath. I’m going for a French-country style with white walls and the darker greige trim. I’ll do another post on the bedroom update project once it’s complete.

Note: The cabinet doors had an ornate routered edge that I considered attempting to place the stiles and rails all the way to the edge of and then trying to fill in the gap. In the end, we covered just to the inside edge of the fancy routing and let the ornate part show. I was concerned that it wouldn’t work with the clean lines of the shaker style but it worked out well and looks very custom.

Note: You will need to purchase longer screws for your knobs and pulls since the addition of the stiles and rails has made your cabinet doors much thicker.


I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out and I hope this helps you solve your outdated cabinet dilemma! If you would like to be notified when a new project post goes up, sign up for email updates in the footer below.

After White Shaker-style Kitchen

Until next time, bless your home and happy designing!