Built-In Kitchen Cabinet Stripping & Restoration ... Let Me Draw on Your Expertise - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 93 Old 04-11-2018, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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Built-In Kitchen Cabinet Stripping & Restoration ... Let Me Draw on Your Expertise

Hey folks,
I'm stripping, repairing, and refinishing 90 year old kitchen built-in cabinets in my rental apartment ... as one can imagine they're rather beat out and have been seriously neglected and abused over the decades. It would have been infinitely cheaper in cost and would have saved untold hours, days, and weeks of unpleasant labor (madness!), but that's another story.
I'll post some more questions that I have later (and I've got plenty) but a contractor is skim coating the room beginning tomorrow and I want to know how best to deal with the cabinet-to-wall gap as our two projects will overlap in this area so I'll be prepared.

It probably was just filled with plaster at the time it was built ... or perhaps the walls were straight and plumb and the wood a snug fit.

I've attached a few pics: one showing the cabinets shortly after the restoration work started and the other three are details of the right edge of the broom closet face frame (farthest right side of the cabinets) where it abuts the wall.

Should I fill it with Durabond or Easysand?
Fill the gap with foam caulk saver then fill it with caulk?
I'd rather not put some sort of trim molding over it as there's no other trim on anything here.

Thanks a bunch for any suggestions.
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post #2 of 93 Old 04-11-2018, 10:44 PM
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Actually the gap was always suppose to be trimmed. Anything you might fill the gap with you probably will forever be caulking and touching up. The house moves as well as the cabinets and every time something moves a crack will appear.

The trim doesn't have to be very big. I use trim there that is 1/4" thick and 5/8" wide.

What is your intention for refinishing? Are you trying to make the cabinets to where they can be stained? That would be extremely difficult doing with the cabinets in the house.
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post #3 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Hi Steve,
Staining is out of the question and was never considered, the original finish was clearly paint, and it will be a hard enough row to hoe to get these stripped, restored, refitted, and repainted.

The finish will likely be Benjamin Moore Waterbase Satin Impervo over Ben Moore acrylic Fresh Start Primer or possibly the Alkyd Fresh Start (Underbody) primer, however the Peel Away #1 stripper (Dummond) recommends an water base primer ... a recommendation I've ignored in the past). I've always used an alkyd primer successfully under the Impervo as I like how it sands.

I'll consider your trim suggestion. I've lived here a long time and have seen dozens of coats of paint slathered with complete disregard by chump workers, and that's likely been the case for the many decades prior to my living here. The paint accumulation approaches stalactite form in some areas, and perhaps that's what has sealed the frame-to-wall connections.

I'm not sure what sort of trim would look appropriate here?
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Last edited by Lovegasoline; 04-12-2018 at 01:00 AM.
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post #4 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 01:11 AM Thread Starter
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I'd like to get as much input as I can and I have a lot more questions as much of this is new territory for me. It's a Herculean and epic undertaking ... and I likely should have my head examined.

Anyone that would like to offer suggestions, pointers, comments, and/or criticisms please don't hesitate and your dialogue will be most welcome. The cabinets are in rough shape ... refurnishing cabinets is new to me and I'm not clear how to best approach some problematic areas, and what my options are.
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post #5 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 01:18 AM
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I lived for 12 years in an old Montgomery Wards Craftsman style kit house from 1917, and the kitchen cabinets were nearly identical to what you have there. The trim used on those junctures was a 3/4" wide quarter round. FYI.
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post #6 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 01:20 AM
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Look into a product called peel-away...it's not cheap but who can put a value on sanity?
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post #7 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 01:39 AM
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Exclamation Fire hazard!

Gather up those rags and get them in the dumpster immediately!

Cover your containers.

Keep solvents away from open flames.

Strippers are also flammable.

Rags used to clean up stripping are the worst fire hazard.

Be Safe!
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #8 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 07:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovegasoline View Post
Hi Steve,
Staining is out of the question and was never considered, the original finish was clearly paint, and it will be a hard enough row to hoe to get these stripped, restored, refitted, and repainted.

The finish will likely be Benjamin Moore Waterbase Satin Impervo over Ben Moore acrylic Fresh Start Primer or possibly the Alkyd Fresh Start (Underbody) primer, however the Peel Away #1 stripper (Dummond) recommends an water base primer ... a recommendation I've ignored in the past). I've always used an alkyd primer successfully under the Impervo as I like how it sands.

I'll consider your trim suggestion. I've lived here a long time and have seen dozens of coats of paint slathered with complete disregard by chump workers, and that's likely been the case for the many decades prior to my living here. The paint accumulation approaches stalactite form in some areas, and perhaps that's what has sealed the frame-to-wall connections.

I'm not sure what sort of trim would look appropriate here?
The crown molding really should have been wide enough to come down over the cabinet however you could make a very small trim to cover the gap across the top and miter it to come down the wall. When you build a cabinet that fits next to a wall it rarely fits flush against the wall. The walls are often not plumb or the plaster work is heavier in spots holding the cabinet away from the wall. Then if the cabinets are built outside the house and brought in you have to make them smaller if they fit between two walls in order to get them in. Therefore you have to plan on trimming it. I use trim like this I make to cover the gap between the cabinet and wall.
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post #9 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 08:59 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Echo415 View Post
Look into a product called peel-away...it's not cheap but who can put a value on sanity?
At this stage I've already been through approximately 15 gallons of Peel-Away #1 .
I'm now renewing a friendship with Methylene Chloride.

I can soundly tell you that sanity doesn't inhere in either product.


Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
Gather up those rags and get them in the dumpster immediately!

Cover your containers.

Keep solvents away from open flames.

Strippers are also flammable.

Rags used to clean up stripping are the worst fire hazard.

Be Safe!
Those are time lapse photos at one of the cruxes of the battle!

Last edited by Lovegasoline; 04-12-2018 at 11:33 AM.
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post #10 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 09:04 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmwood_1 View Post
I lived for 12 years in an old Montgomery Wards Craftsman style kit house from 1917, and the kitchen cabinets were nearly identical to what you have there. The trim used on those junctures was a 3/4" wide quarter round. FYI.
mmwood_1,
Thanks for the data point.

These cabinets have an interesting - and extremely efficient - construction. The picture rail molding as used extensively throughout the apartment was also used as supports in fabricating the cabinets. The shelving supports and also the counter top supports are all made from sections of the molding.
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Last edited by Lovegasoline; 04-12-2018 at 09:07 AM.
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post #11 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 09:12 AM
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I think I would rather pet a rattlesnake than strip multiple coats of paint without methylene chloride. If they are shop made cabinets I think it would be worth the trouble to uninstall them and take them outdoors to remove the paint. A power washer is nearly critical when it comes to stripping paint. Regardless of the remover you use paint tends to come off one layer at a time.
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post #12 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
The crown molding really should have been wide enough to come down over the cabinet however you could make a very small trim to cover the gap across the top and miter it to come down the wall. When you build a cabinet that fits next to a wall it rarely fits flush against the wall. The walls are often not plumb or the plaster work is heavier in spots holding the cabinet away from the wall. Then if the cabinets are built outside the house and brought in you have to make them smaller if they fit between two walls in order to get them in. Therefore you have to plan on trimming it. I use trim like this I make to cover the gap between the cabinet and wall.
Steve,
There was crown molding it's just not shown in the photos. When I removed it the crown molding was badly warped, twisted ... and more. Maybe I can get a photo of it up later on. There's obviously been a ton of leaks from the sink (and later dishwasher) above over the decades which have profoundly distorted the crown molding to the point that it's unusable. Additionally, it was entombed in plaster and paint. A pic below shows some of the more or less intact crown molding from the other cabinet.

I'm actually trying to match this molding or something very close, but I've had no luck. I'm in NYC so if anyone has any pointers or tips please post up.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there was originally any trim molding on the face frame/cabinet sides. Another built in cabinet also doesn't have any trim molding.
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post #13 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
I think I would rather pet a rattlesnake than strip multiple coats of paint without methylene chloride. If they are shop made cabinets I think it would be worth the trouble to uninstall them and take them outdoors to remove the paint. A power washer is nearly critical when it comes to stripping paint. Regardless of the remover you use paint tends to come off one layer at a time.
In my experience Peel Away #1 removes significantly more layers of latex and oil paint than methylene chloride. But it can also damage the substrate as it can eat through the glues, especially on veneers and plys. Methylene Chloride as you state doesn't penetrate very deeply, so it's one layer at a time. When there are dozens of layers ... well ... it is what it is (gah!). I'm shifting to methylene chloride because the Peel Away #1 was damaging the cabinet doors. I'll post some pics of that as well.
Before I started I ordered some test sizes of three other Peel Away stripping products, Peel Away #7, Smart Strip, and Smart Strip Pro but none of them were as effective as Peel Away #1.

Of course if any of these stripping products worked quickly, efficiently, and safely, it wouldn't be such unpleasant and demonic work.

The cabinets look like they were made on-site. Deinstalling them would only be an option if the goal was demolition. They wouldn't survive the operation. Again, it would have likely taken me a fraction of the time, expense, and energy to have demolished and rebuilt new cabinets, rather than stripping them.

There's no power washer here and it's all being done indoors. A solo effort and with limited resources (I don't own the place). I do think you've got the correct analogy regarding petting a rattlesnake!

Here's a pic of a section of the (intact) crown molding...
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Last edited by Lovegasoline; 04-12-2018 at 10:31 AM.
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post #14 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovegasoline View Post

Here's a pic of a section of the (intact) crown molding...
A) Those are far nicer than anything you would have been able to replace them with at any reasonable cost.
B) It looks rough stripped and patched, but if you do it right, they're going to look fantastic when done.
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post #15 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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There's some time pressure added to this as well as I need to wrap it up and get the kitchen back in service. I need to research and choose a course of action regarding a strategy for resolving some problem areas, so any input will be greatly welcome.

In order to get these cabinet door fitted/refitted I'll also likely need to improve the depth of my woodworking hand tool knowledge and use (the stars are in alignment here and that's actual something I'm looking forward to). On a side note, I'm shortly going to try completing an unfinished workbench project from 18 +/- years ago (the latter may be more challenging than the cabinets as my bench ideas and needs have altered in the intervening years) ...
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Last edited by Lovegasoline; 04-12-2018 at 10:57 AM.
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post #16 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
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Here's a short list of questions regarding these cabinets
(I'll get some pics and specs up shortly):

1) Hardware: I can't seem to locate replacement hinge hardware of the same dimension and hole pattern as the originals. I don't want to put the old, corroded, stiff, unattractive hinges back on. I'm looking for either polished brass or brass with a slight patina, aged look. Other than this forum, is there another place recommended to inquire about hardware?
2) Gaps: There are areas where the face frame is separated from the case and exploratory soft blow hammering suggests that seating them together isn't in the cards. There's about 1/8" - 3/16" gap in a couple areas. I've started to Bondo one gap (the face frame has a bead detail where it meets the case). Is that a sound solution? I've used Bondo for some minor gaps on the face frame pieces and to fill in some other defects.
3) Face frame tuning: how best to straighten up the inside of the face frames need some attention? There are fixed shelves that come right up to the face frame, so any fenced tool would need to clear the shelving edges.
4) Door-to-door lip fitting : if I need to adjust the rabbet where the cabinet doors meet and overlap one another what's the best tool for that and how best to approach it?
5) Door-to-Frame tuning: some gaps are too big how to remedy that? Glue a thin strip of wood on the interior of the face frame?
6) Door panel and veneer damage: Peel Away #1 paint stripper (caustic) although needing at least two applications and being a royal PITA (needing multiple neutralizing stages of acidic water after removing the stripper) is still the best in my experience for getting through the dozens of layers of latex and oil paint. But it doesn't stop there and it attacks the cabinet door panels, which apparently have a veneer, and in some areas has split the surface veneer of the panel. Any suggestions how to repair this? I'm using Bondo (lol, I'm getting into the Bondo) to patch a lot of wood defects on this project and I'm thinking of hitting these areas with it as well.

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post #17 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 11:10 AM
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Now thatís a major project. You are a glutton for punishment.
We can already see the transformtion taking place from your work so far.

If a door is too short for the framed opening I recommend adding a thin strip to the bottom of the door rather than adding a strip to the frame.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #18 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 11:19 AM Thread Starter
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Hardware:

Does anyone have any knowledge about sourcing replacement hinges?
I'm looking for brass (solid or plated) hinges in either a polished, un-lacquered, or lightly antiqued finish. Unfortunately, I've had no luck at all in finding hinges with the same dimensions and hole pattern ... I didn't imagine it would be this difficult to find hinges that fit.

Suggestions?

(pics of hinges below and in the following post)
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post #19 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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Some additional pics of the cabinet door hinges:
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post #20 of 93 Old 04-12-2018, 11:39 AM Thread Starter
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Gaps:
Face frame-to-case

The last pic is a side splash to the sink. The face frame has a bead on it. I've started to fill the gap with Bondo. Anyone have opinions on that?
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