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Basic Cabinet Repair For The Do-It-Yourselfer

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Kitchens are the focus of most homes today. Loose handles, sticky drawsers and cooking smoke are the problems of any well used kitchen. Jim gives advice to do-it-yourselfers on how to fix basic cabinet promblems in your kitchen.

In a well-used kitchen, there can be nothing more aggravating than a sticky drawer, a Lazy Susan that doesn't spin or a cabinet door that bounces back open when closed.
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In recent years, it seems homes have focused around kitchens and kitchens have become focused around cabinets. Space saving devices have made cabinets more functional and new finishes have made them more aesthetically attractive.

Because of wear and tear, as well as cooking smoke, cabinets take a beating. Hinges get loose, drawer handles fall off and doors get out of alignment.

Short of a cabinet system that is antiquated and has major structural problems, most cabinet repair can be aptly handled by the do-it-yourselfer. It just takes a bit of planning.

And while you're making cabinet repairs, it's also an opportune time to attach childproofing devices such as cabinets locks. What follows is a basic primer to cabinet repair.


The biggest cabinet complaint often involves hardware. Drawer tracks, handles and hinges are the first thing to go on a cabinet, although the wood is in fine shape.

Hardware problems are often the root of cabinet problems: sticky drawers, misaligned doors, etc.

Sometimes, a cabinet hardware problem requires only a very simple repair, such as tightening a loose screw. Other times, it may require replacement of the hardware.


This is usually the first thing to break and the trickiest part of a cabinet to repair. A sure sign of track problems are sawdust from uneven wear of drawers.

Drawer tracks, also known as guides, can be found in the corners, the sides, or top and bottoms of the drawer opening.

Some types of tracks are very simple: They're just long wood strips that serve as guides for the drawers to follow. Others involve plastic guides to keep a drawer on track. Still others have metal guides and wheels or rollers to move drawers through.

Sometimes, the drawer track simply unfastens from the cabinet structure and needs to be reattached. If the existing screw does not adhere tightly, use a slightly larger screw for a tight fit.

Sometimes, cleaning the track can make them function better. Mechanical tracks should be cleaned with ammonia and then lightly lubricated. Sticky wood tracks should be lightly sanded, then lubricated with wax or a silicone lubricant.

The track can also be broken or bent and beyond repairing. In that case, remove it, measure the drawer and the opening, and look for a suitable replacement at a home improvement or kitchen and bath store.

For example, on older cabinets with wooden tracks, a new guide might have to be fabricated.

The cabinet's manufacturer can be another source of track hardware.


Hinges are another common problem with cabinets. Hinges rarely can be repaired. Hence, replacement hinges are the best option. The key, however, is finding hinges that will accommodate the cabinets.

For example a butt hinge, which resembles a small door hinge, is usually found on older cabinets in which the doors are flush with the frame. The more common overlay hinges are used for cabinets in which the doors overlap the frame. Partially inset hinges are used on cabinets with lipped doors.

Take off one of the old hinges as use that as a guide to buying a replacement hinge.

Hinges can both be utilitarian in nature as well as have aesthetic attributes.

Be careful in removing the existing hinges as not to widen the screw holes. You may need to fill the existing holes with wood putty to give the new screws a tight fit. When installing the new hinges, make sure the door is lined up properly. You may be able to use the existing screw holes as a guide.


Handles, pulls and knobs are fairly simple to repair. They're often held on by one or two screws and they become inoperable when they get loose or broken.

Most home improvement stores carry a range of replacement handles, pulls and knobs, from the very utilitarian to elaborately designed models.

Again, check for replacements that have a precise fit to the existing cabinets. Otherwise, you might need to drill additional holes to make the knobs fit.

Other Hardware: You can assure that doors will stay closed by installing new latches in the openings. The most common, and inexpensive latch, is a magnetic latch, which usually attaches with a couple of screws.

Another type of latch is a spring loaded device. There are also the aforementioned childproofing latches.

If a Lazy Susan refuses to spin, check the underside of the unit to see if something is blocking its movement. If it still does not operate, remove the unit and extract the spin ring usually found below. Replacement rings can be found at more home improvement stores.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. February 2, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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