Best DIY Kitchen Cabinet Ideas – Improve Home Value in 2020

portland kitchen cabinets home value

Update, Don’t Replace Cabinets

Buyers are serious about wanting fresh kitchen cabinets in their home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report, a minor kitchen remodel — new cabinets plus appliances, flooring and paint job — will offer a higher return on investment than major kitchen renovations, and buyers in Portland are especially likely to pay top dollar.

Although one study found that 3 out of 4 kitchen remodelers opt for full cabinet replacement, this investment is unlikely to pay for itself when the home goes up for sale. In this article, we’ll focus on updates to existing kitchen cabinets that will give the whole room a fresh look. 

How much to spend on kitchen cabinets for a 2020 home sale

The most important thing for any home seller to remember about home improvements is that nothing is guaranteed to provide a 100% return on investment. Never spend more than you can afford on a project, and don’t go into it if there’s a chance you won’t finish. Nothing tanks home value like a half-done project!

However, if you’re decent at DIY improvements, don’t mind spending a weekend speckled in sawdust and paint, and have the kind of outdated kitchen cabinets frequently seen in “before” photos, you may be a good candidate for kitchen cabinet upgrades that don’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Talk to your real estate about the market conditions specific to homes of your type, and what your target buyer audience is looking for.

Best DIY Kitchen Cabinet Updates for 2020

Repaint cabinets

Repainting is by far the most popular and versatile kitchen cabinet upgrade that can be done over the course of a few days. It will make them look brand new! White or grey are by far the most popular colors, and the most appealing to home buyers. For planning purposes only, we’ve included basic steps here. The Family Handyman has some great tutorials to read through before you get started. 

  1. Clean the cabinet doors before removing. Wipe the inside of cabinets while you’re at it.
  2. Remove cabinet doors and hinges, labeling as you go so you know where to put them back. A good place to label is in the place where the hinge will go back on, because you won’ be painting in there. 
  3. Prime, then sand the doors lightly. Deeply grained wood (like oak) that hasn’t been painted before will need a coat of wood filler. 
  4. Paint the doors — front and back, plus the edges. Use a high quality paint that will leave a clean, smooth finish. TIP: Do these first few steps during the week, because you won’t sacrifice the functionality of your kitchen. Then complete the actual cabinet painting job over the weekend, when you’ll need to cover your kitchen counters to protect them.
  5. Paint the cabinets themselves.
  6. When everything is dry, reinstall the doors, using new hardware if you’re choosing to update the hardware as well! Keep in mind that doors will take a few days to dry in a cool garage in the winter.

Replace cabinet hardware 

You can update the look of your cabinets without going through all the effort of painting simply by replacing the handles, hinges and drawer pulls. To do this, you’ll want to remove a cabinet door and take it shopping with you so that you can match up the size, hinge overlay and screw holes. Match the hardware style to your kitchen’s overall style for the best look. For example, ceramic or brass/nickel knobs go well with the traditional shaker-style cabinets (recessed center panel). A more modern kitchen will do well with bar-style handles and pulls. 

The most important rule for selecting new cabinet hardware is functionality. Avoid small latches and slippery knobs. Because many Portland home buyers are seeking to retire and age-in-place, they’ll appreciate hardware that adheres to universal design rules — can be opened with one hand, and is easy to grip. Avoid hardware that protrudes at middle heights, which creates a risk of catching on clothing. 

Create Shaker-style cabinets

According to the Houzz survey, nearly two-thirds of homeowners who upgrade their cabinets opt for the Shaker door style. The Shakers were a Christian sect that emerged in the mid 18th-century. They valued simple, elegant and functional design and are responsible for ladder-back chairs and peg-rails. Shaker cabinet doors are characterized by a recessed center panel surrounded by a frame. This look can be achieved on flat cabinet doors by using trim to build a frame around the edges, then painting over the whole thing. Shaker-style cabinets add depth and character to the kitchen, and a traditional look that many will feel at home with. 

Check out this tutorial from Two Feet First.

Open up some cabinets

If your kitchen looks like a solid cube of cabinets, open it up by selectively removing some cabinet doors! Good candidates are upper cabinets away from the stove (which will cause grease to accumulate inside the cabinet). Simply remove the doors, fill the hinge holes with wood filler, and repaint. Consider a contrasting paint color for the inside of the cabinet, and use shelf liner or a coat of polyurethane to prevent the dishes from scratching the shelves. 

Open cabinets don’t have to be “display” cabinets — they can be used to store neat stacks of plates or orderly rows of glasses and mugs. The result is a kitchen that functions better and feels lighter. Plus, you will save the time and money of updating or replacing the cabinet doors! Just save the doors you removed in case future home buyers want to put them back on. 

Build in organization

Maybe the look of your cabinets doesn’t need updating — but the functionality does! Another aspect of universal design is improving access to lower cabinets. Who wants to bend down all the time to get to pots and pans? Consider replacing a cabinet with a pull-out drawer or bin. According to Houzz, 50% of those who upgrade kitchen cabinets add organizational features, starting with cookie sheet or tray organizers. You can build your own in-cabinet organizer, or install a roll-out.

One thing about Portland — we keep our trash sorted! Consider a pullout waste drawer, perfect for keeping separate bins for compost, recycling and landfill waste. Those with a foot-pedal opener will earn an extra “oooh” from buyers. 

We hope we’ve given you some ideas for upgrading your kitchen cabinets to get your home ready to list in 2020. Need more ideas? Contact our Top 1% real estate agents today!

February 3, 2020

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.