There is a reason the national average cost to replace old kitchen cabinets with new ones is $5,000. That number includes labor—i.e., hiring a professional carpenter to carry out the work for you. But there is a way to get a solid chunk of your budget back: Tackle the cupboards yourself. As intimidating as it might seem, you don’t have to have the know-how of a contractor to, at the very least, improve the cabinets you’ve got. Flimsy doors, dated hardware, sad shelves—you just have to be creative to fix those eyesores. Ahead, we rounded up seven different ways to DIY your kitchen cabinets.
If You’re Seeking Something Dramatic
If the frames themselves are in good condition (for example, the wood isn’t chipping off the fronts), paint is the easiest way to get the most out of the look and your budget. Designer Elizabeth Stamos saved $35,000 by simply painting her existing cherry cupboards a breezy shade of sky blue instead of tearing them out. Get our lowdown on the best primers and finishes here. Psst: An oil-based trim enamel is best (the urethane in it makes it extra-durable and etch resistant).
If You’re Dealing With the Most Basic Wood
This cool moss green pantry by SMS Arquitectos is made out of humble plywood. It just looks elegant because of its rich hue. Keep in mind that pine is much easier to cover than birch, as it absorbs the liquid better. Have a paintbrush on hand for this project, and be sure to use long strokes as you go to avoid blobs of color.
If You Have a Talent for Collage
In order to hide the fact that the doors didn’t naturally match up with the over-the-fridge cabinets, designer Katie Sarokhanian started cutting and nailing in circles and semicircles in a random pattern to her cupboards. Finally, she added wood ball knobs and painted everything white.
If You Only Have an Hour
Got your screwdriver handy? Removing your upper cabinet doors is a great way to store more and spend less, all while getting the open and airy feel you want. Jazz up the inside with a splash of paint or leave the shelves as is. Seeing what you have will help you make better decisions about what should be living in your kitchen and what you can scrap.
If You Like the Cost of Stock, but Not the Look
Jazz up standard IKEA cabinets by buying new fronts and pulls. Innovative companies like Superfront, Semihandmade, and Plykea have a ton of options that homeowners can install themselves, including beaded doors and copper handles.
If Your Style Skews Bohemian
A punchy ikat print covers the cabinet doors (and sides) in Michelle Nussbaumer’s Dallas-meets-Morocco kitchen. Stick with the peel-and-stick variety if you’re worried about making such an impactful commitment.
If You Want to Hold Onto Your Old Storage
Knocking out your uppers and replacing them with streamlined open shelves will make the room look larger. But don’t toss the bulky boxes after you take them down. Liz Kamarul pieced two old uppers together after demo and placed them perfectly on top of each other, creating a makeshift wall-hung pantry with the rejects.