This blog is dedicated to the enjoyment and benefit of all the customers

The purpose of this blog is to feature and discuss customer projects. This blog is meant to be a resource for those folks who are either actively remodeling their kitchen or just considering getting started. Our customer base and audience is both the newbee as well as the established professional

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rawdoors Project Spot Light: Rustic Refined project narrative by customer Richard Halsey, of Boise, ID.

Why did you decide to reface / remodel your kitchen? 
The so-called “upgraded kitchen” in the 50-year old Boise, Idaho house that I bought last year was seriously undersized in floor space, counter space, and storage. Completed project picture shown at the end
I quickly realized that I wanted to add to all of the above areas, but without building a new room onto the house.  By moving the dining area adjacent to the kitchen into a former bedroom next to the living room, I was able to expand the kitchen with more cabinets and counters, as well as more floor area.

Basically, I doubled the counter space as well as the base cabinet space, added 30 inches of new wall cabinets, and added about twelve square feet of “work area” floor space shown in the slide show above

Why did you choose to use to purchase your materials from?
The current Rawdoors home page has it right:  “We are the Easy Button” it says, and it’s true.  The ease of the online ordering process, the ease of double and triple checking your order BEFORE submitting it (complete with shipping cost, as I recall) helped me be totally certain that I had everything right before I sent it in.  And, you can’t beat the price for getting “new” cabinets.  Of course there’s considerably more to making over old cabinets than putting the new doors on, but it’s way cheaper and completely within the average homeowner’s skills to do the make-over. 

I checked out several other online vendors, but found their websites either difficult to navigate, or their ordering processes cumbersome, or their pricing difficult to figure out, and so on.

Please describe your skill level going into the project:
I’d call myself above average or possibly advanced home handyman.  No formal training, but lots of DIY experience--more than a little bit of that derived from that greatest teacher of all:  mistakes!  I can do basic electric, basic plumbing (which I hate), basic construction, and ordinary carpentry.  No fine furniture yet, and no pianos.

Describe the remodeling process.  Please let us know if you built or installed new or additional cabinets, veneered existing cabinets, attached new end panels, stained or painted the doors / face frames /moldings, installed molding, installed new drawer boxes and glides or just hung new doors.  (I could nearly answer this question with “yes.”)

The original fifty-year old cabinets that came with the house were pretty typical built in units:  solid, three-quarter inch plywood face frames and doors, half or five-eighths inch plywood sides.  Other than non-adjustable shelves, there was no real reason to replace them.  I tried removing the several coats of paint on one of the old doors to see if I would be able to make them look nice, but that did not produce a good enough result.  So instead, I chose to replace the doors and drawer fronts, cover the painted outside surfaces with veneer, and paint the interiors.  There are two more exposed end panels which I am just about to cover with doors to match the rest.

The clearances between the drawer boxes and glides was too tight to permit me to put in nice roller bearing ones, so I just improved the existing wooden ones and lubed them up with bar soap.

I also added new wall and base cabinets, which I obtained both via big box retail stores and a fantastic yard sale that I stumbled upon!

What was the most difficult part of the project?
Cutting the veneer strips to cover the front faces of the cabinet frames was way harder than I expected.  (Fortunately, I have a skilled brother-in-law who helped with that part.)  I vastly underestimated the area required, and likewise underestimated that amount of waste that ended up as sawdust due to the thickness of the saw blade.

The next time I do this, I will not buy the sheet of one-eighth inch veneer plywood.  Instead, I’ll buy a roll of the really thin stuff that can be cut easily with a utility knife, and which produces much less waste than plywood that requires a saw to cut.--We now offer rolls of PSA (Pressure Sensitive Adhesive) backed wood veneer.  This is the thin stuff that can be cut with a utility knife you are referencing. - Big Country

Fitting the hinges was another unexpected difficulty.  I did not have the hinges on hand when I ordered the doors, and did not exactly understand the geometry of how the doors would hang.  For that reason, I recommend that the hinges be obtained BEFORE ordering the doors, or else that Rawdoors be consulted if you buy the hinges from them.  [I seem to recall that hinges were not available when I ordered my doors...]
--We now have hinges available and the ordering system will even calculate the number of hinges required for your order automatically.  You can choose from standard 1/2" overlay or 1 1/4" full cover overlay. - Big Country

Were you able to achieve the results you desired? 
Totally!  I walk into my kitchen and and now it looks so nice (even when it’s messy!).  Sometimes I just stop and admire the loveliness of the hickory.

Please describe the finish process and stain, paint and / or clear coat materials used?
I love the look of natural hickory, with its unique and unpredictable grain.  Therefore I used no stain, but only wipe on polyurethane varnish.  I discovered that name brand wipe on varnish products can cost nearly twice much as ordinary varnish,  but because you use more coats, you end up using more product.  Furthermore, I learned that ordinary varnish can be thinned to wiping consistency with thinner, achieving exactly same result for lower cost and less product purchased. And besides that, doing the thinning yourself allows you to customize the finish as you go.  If you want it thicker, use less thinner, and vice versa.  (Likewise, “fast drying” varnish products seem to be ordinary varnish cut with thinner:  not worth the price, in my humble opinion.)

How did you decide on the finish process you selected? 
I used my current research method of choice:  Google.  I looked at several online woodworking sites and read reviews of products and methods.  It seemed that using the wipe-on varnish would give me the results I wanted, and I am very pleased with how the doors turned out.

Although doing the varnishing was a tad tedious, it was really easy, and only took a couple of days to apply about six coats.  I set up 2x4s on saw horses in the garage, and did all the doors at once on one side, flipped them, did the second side, etc, etc.  After about three coats, I used fine steel wool to “knock down” minor bumps between subsequent coats, taking care to get the dust from that off before doing the next coat.

What advice would you give others when it comes to remodeling their kitchen? 
Look beyond the lovely displays in the retail stores, and consider what you can do to make what you have look as good and work as well.  Why buy pull-out shelf units for hundreds of dollars when you add rollers to a couple of pieces of plywood and spend tens instead?  (I made mine out of the old cabinet doors.)
Pull out shelf units made from the old cabinet doors
Why rip out the really solid and well built cabinets that came with your house, and put in flake board units instead, when you can rehab your old ones, make them look better than new, and spend maybe ten or fifteen percent (or less) of the cost of new cabinetry?

Use the thin veneer that you can cut with a utility knife (and probably buy locally).  It looks exactly the same as the plywood kind when it’s installed.  Also, measure EXACTLY the area of the face frames and end panels.  They take more square inches than you think.

Get the hinges before or at the same time as the doors, so that you get the doors made to fit exactly with the hinges you are using.

Total project cost:  The doors cost about $750, new base and wall cabinets about $1,000, hinges and hardware added less than another hundred.  So I’d say around $2,000 for the cabinets and doors.  I am not including cost of the countertop because I got a “family discount” and the price would not be realistic for others.

Estimated project savings vs. alternatives if known: 
If I had gone with all new cabinets, it would have cost close to  $3,000, using ordinary quality, off-the-shelf units from the big box stores.  Of course, upgrading to better quality would have meant considerable price increases.  And upgrading to match the original quality of the 50 year old plywood cabinets would have been really, really expensive!
About ten years ago in my previous house, I re-did the kitchen with semi-custom cabinets and DIY  installation, and spent around six or seven thousand dollars for less storage and countertop space.

Anything else you would like to add?
I like doing business with people and companies who deliver what they promise, and who make it easy for the customers to see exactly what they getting and what they are paying.  I am well impressed with in that respect.

Another little thing I like about Rawdoors is a really little detail, but I’ll share it anyway.   (many times, it’s the little details that make the difference!)  The doors arrived very well packaged (that’s not the detail--that’s important!), and as part of the padding between door panels, little sheets of foam-backed sandpaper were used!  I imagine that the little hunks of sandpaper (4x4 inches or so) are probably scraps from the industrial sanding machines they use in their production.  But rather than throwing them away, using them as packaging was a great idea, and I still have several on my workbench left over from final touch-ups on the doors!

Completed Project
Click to go back to beginning

Richard, Thanks for sharing your project with us.  Looks like you have created a dramatic transformation for your kitchen and achieved professional quality results while saving a bale of money in the process.  I am certain it is quite rewarding to be able to admire what you have accomplish every time you are in your kitchen.
--Big Country

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rawdoors Project Spot Light: Meeting a Budget

In April of 2009 my wife and I purchased a 100 yr old house that was in foreclosure. It needed(s) lots of work. The kitchen was essentially non-existent. The cabinets were probably circa 1950. They were unsalvageable. New cabinets were too costly, with the lowest estimate coming in around $18,000, without counter tops. (read more below)
Click here to see more project pics

In progress
I wanted quality cabinets that would not break the bank. The only way that was going to happen was to build them myself. I have built furniture as a home hobbyist and would rate my skills as average. Unfortunately I have no workshop, just a portable table saw, router, miter saw and a joiner that were stuffed into my one car garage that I have to pull out in the driveway to use.

I was also in training for a new job that required me to travel to different parts of the state. On one of these trips I discovered that Habitat for Humanity sold used building supplies through their Restore franchise. I made it part of my routine to visit these on a regular basis. In Baltimore we located a set of upper and corner cabinets made of cherry. They were in pretty good shape, made with plywood sides and the price was right. Unfortunately there were not enough of them to fit our kitchen footprint. My first thought was that I would buy a set of door bits for my router and make them myself in my portable driveway wood shop.

While researching for cherry wood suppliers on the internet I decided that buying custom made doors would save me time. Did I mention I also did not have much of a wood shop to work in? During my research I stumbled upon RAWDOORS.COM. Your door prices were ½ the costs of what others were asking. It took me all of 2 minutes to recognize that I could not even buy the raw wood for what it cost to purchase doors through RAWDOORS. The website was easy to navigate and I was able to almost exactly duplicate the existing doors of the used cabinets. I would only need to build the “boxes”, face them, and attach the doors. Yeah, right.

Taking the rough kitchen dimensions I worked through door and drawer sizes to meet my needs and placed my order. I also began searching for a source of cherry wood for the face frames. The cabinet boxes would be custom built along each wall using 2 x 4 floor frames with plywood, sides faced with cherry veneer. Once the doors and drawers arrived I separated them out and went to work designing the face frames to fit them.

Mark, Not sure if you were aware or not but you can configure and order custom face frames directly from  The online face frame configurator will let you create nearly any design you can dream up.  All's you have to do is build the cabinet box behind it.  Plus a really cool feature is once you have designed your frame the configurator will automatically calculate the size of the doors or drawer fronts to fit the openings.  This is bound to save you manure loads of time and money! - Big Country

Drawers with slides were purchased from IKEA and custom fit to the cabinet, then the cherry drawer fronts were attached using IKEA hardware. The most difficult part of this was alignment in the cabinet. I also used some existing drawers, just changing the fronts. A local Amish cabinet maker provided a source of glides which I used to build larger drawer pullouts.

By far the most difficult part has been matching the stain of the new doors/drawers with the old. It has been a trial and error process that required purchase of multiple cans of stain. I used three different stains to as close as possible match the existing cabinets. The results have been pretty good, but not perfect. I notice the difference, others don’t.

This was the first kitchen project that I have tackled. The wife loves the results. I would recommend RAWDOORS to anyone planning on remodeling or building a new kitchen. The cherry products I ordered are of very good quality wood, built well and delivered rapidly.
You get an "ata boy" for that one.  Keepin the Mrs. happy is always worth it, that's my motto anyway. - Big Country

My only recommendation would be not to try and match existing cabinets. Buy a complete set of doors and drawers and finish them using the same method.

I was very satisfied with RAWDOORS and highly recommend them to anyone considering a similar project. I will be using them again for my next project.

Cost of the project to include glass countertops, glass block window, gas cooktop, stainless range hood, kitchen window, cabinets and flooring was approximately $9,300.00. The cabinets cost approximately $2000.


Mark Fluitt

Mark, excellent job on your project so far. Please send us some pictures of the project when you are all wrapped up. I reckon you saved yourself thousands of dollars and greatly improved the value of your home. Thanks for all the kind words about Value, quality and service are traits we hang our 10 gallon hats on. Thanks again for sharing your project and for your support.
-Big Country

Fluitt project pics

Monday, September 20, 2010

Big Country's Ford Truck in Action!

My favorite video is of my Big Country Ford truck.  It ain't never run the same since I did this:

Click here to watch my truck video

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rawdoors Project Spot Light: A Touch of Class

The first project we want to spotlight is an impressive kitchen reface project done by Cynthia Hart.

1. Why did you decide to reface / remodel your kitchen?  Or tell us about your custom project using our products.
Our Kitchen was 25 yrs old dark oak and we were ready to lighten it up and up date with out tearing out all the flooring and appliances. As they are only a few (3) years old. Click here to see before pics
2. Why did you choose to use to purchase your materials from?
Found you on the internet. I would of never used however, you did everything right. Answered all my emails promptly. Sent samples that had the most beautiful grain and coloring. And your prices are very good. In addition, your internet site very easy to navigate. Love that.

3. Please describe your skill level going into the project:
We are not carpenters, for sure.  But we always seem to start a project with professional bids and realize(think) we can do the same thing, for less.

4. Describe the remodeling process or a project overview.  Please let us know if you built or installed new or additional cabinets, veneered existing cabinets, attached new end panels, stained or painted the doors / face frames /moldings, installed molding, installed new drawer boxes and glides or just hung new doors.
We did hire a finish carpenter to install the crown. And build out the center wall cabinets (the cream ones), and a bottom trash cabinet. (was an ugly open space for a desk).  We also veneered 2 end panels(facing windows), kick plate, and edges where needed. The kitchen was a dark oak before and we could not get the stain to lift out of wood , so we covered it.  The doors are a flush mount style. So, we had to have some milling done to adjust the square doors to the un-square-ness of the original cabinet boxes. (25 yrs old) Thank goodness I measure a smidge too big.  We also had issues with the hinges fitting. Lots of tweaking going on.

5. What was the most difficult part of the project?
This was not an easy project. Hanging those doors were a  nightmare to say the least. They are solid, solid wood and very heavy. It took two of us. And not one of the doors was perfect match to its cabinet box. So, each door had to be tweaked. (Not your fault, old cabinet boxes and improper measuring skills on my part) So, after we hung them we decided to get a carpenter to do the rest as we did not have any of the right tools or experience.   That helped a ton and he was cheap $500.00

I can't see for sure what your reveals (space between doors and drawers) are from the pictures but they are very tight.  This always make installation more difficult, even when installing brand new cabinetry.  You guys did a great job though and your hard work paid off.  The tight reveals provide a clean contemporary look.
  --Big Country

6. Please describe the finish process and stain, paint and / or clear coat materials used?
We just went with a natural finish. P&L Sanding sealer and P&L varnish, both alkyd base, satin finish. 2 coats. Hand sanding the first coat of each door.  The painted doors are Benjamin Moore satin impervo, cream.

7. Were you able to achieve the results you desired?
Would we do this again? maybe. But time we will hire a carpenter from the start.  I am sure it would of cost us all of 15 to $20000.00 to hire professionals installers.  The cabinet bid for just the fronts replaced was I think 6000.00 and another 5000.00 for the counters.  With the economy so askew, it was a smart thing to do right now and keep the extra bucks in the bank. And stuff out of the land fill.

We are still not finished. We will be getting to the counter tops this winter.  The summer has been running our lives, so we have delayed them.  

You maybe seeing another order from me in the future as we still need to finish the bar counter base when the new counters are installed. (someday)

Thanks for your great business and service.

8. Total project cost: $2,912
In the end, this cost us a little under 3000.00 total so far.  See excel spread sheet for detailed costs. 

As you can see everything had to be handled 2 or 3 times. Lighting wrong returned 2-3 times. Handles wrong returned multi time. Finaly order those over the internet, too! ( Home depot and Lowes products lacking any quality, as it looks like everything I brought home was made in China ! (That's another reason why I liked using your company. Made in America by Americans)

9. Estimated project savings vs. alternatives if known:  $17,000

10. Anything else you would like to add?
My hobby is stained glass and I made installed the glass panels to resemble the stainless handles.
We also put in all kinds of lighting in cabinet and under. Used only LCD lighting as it does not heat up. 
Crown molding was not thought out right should of left wood natural and not painted. (blends in with ceiling)

-Great recap, thanks for sharing your project with all of us. You did a fantastic job! -- Big Country

How to size doors - Reveals and overlays explained

We get enough questions regarding how to measure for doors that we put together a quick video on the topic.  Please keep in mind we are simple woodworkers not film producers.  If you would rather read that watch a video check out this link to the FAQ section of How do I measure for my new doors?.  Otherwise get yourself some popcorn and set back to enjoy the video.