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


  1. we provide custom building products for local builders and homeowners. Our products are antique doors, cabinet doors, carriage doors, closet doors, custom doors, etc.

  2. I am very happy to read such a wonderful blog which gives the helpful information. thanks for sharing. 
    Kitchen Design Cabinets
    Kitchen Cabinet Planner
    Bathroom Remodel
    Flooring Installation