Kitchen Cabinet Upgrade– We got hardware!

One of the downsides of buying a brand new home is that it comes with almost no finishes. Since we were adding all of this stuff ourselves, we took care of the important stuff first (toilet paper holders, towel holders, etc), and somehow hardware for our kitchen cabinets just didn’t make the cut on our list of things to do.

Until now! Last weekend we were walking through Lowes and I mentioned for the thousandth time that I’d love to get hardware on our cabinets. Brian asked how much it would cost and I said “$100-ish.” To which he said– “do it up!” which is basically what we always say to each other when we mean to say Let’s do it!

We spent approximately 4 minutes looking at hardware before we found one we liked. B didn’t have too much opinion, he just wanted veto power. I decided that I like the look of pulls rather than knobs. I’m not sure why exactly, they just seem a little sleeker to me. Also, When I saw these particular pulls, they reminded me of the handles on our stainless steel appliances and I thought they’d match nicely.


B liked them so when we got home we counted up our cabinets and drawers: 29. The next day I went to and did an order for “pick up later.” I did this rather than just going to the store because it didn’t look like they had all that many in the little drawer, and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of them searching for more while I waited.

This morning, we set upon our task. We were a little scared (understatement) because 1) neither of us had ever installed or replaced any door hardware before, 2) neither of us feels all that particularly proficient with a drill, and 3) we love our cabinets! Drilling holes in them is scarrrry.

But, we really want to learn to be more self sufficient in our house so we decided to go for it.

First lesson we learned? Pulls were maybe a bad idea. Having pulls means needing two screws per cabinet rather than 1 for a knob. So, double the holes we needed to make. Plus we had to make sure that the pulls were exactly straight. I am pretty sure that choosing pulls at LEAST doubled our time, maybe even tripled it (due to all the checking to make sure everything was straight and even). Although I have to admit that now that its done, I love them. So I guess pulls are worth the trouble– but just be aware they are a hassle!

Now for the how-to. And before the how-to, the disclaimer: this is just how we did it. There might be (probably is!) a better way to install cabinet door or drawer hardware, but this is just what made sense to us, and what ended up working for us. So without further ado, the “before” shot.

We knew that sawdust was going to get everrrrywhere so we totally cleaned off the counters first. If we were smarter, we would’ve put on shoes at this point. But, we weren’t. And now we both have wood shreds imbedded in our bare feet— I highly recommend finding shoes before you start!

Your supplies.

Masking or painters tape, a pen, a tape measure or ruler, a level, a screwdriver, and a drill (not pictured). Also, you need your door hardware, obviously. Most door hardware will be sold with screws so you shouldn’t have to worry about buying those, but do make sure to measure your cabinets and drawers before you buy the hardware because you might have to buy some extra screws. Our pulls came with 1″ screws which worked great for our 3/4″ thick cabinets. Our drawers, however, were 1 1/4″ thick, so I knew we’d need to buy a few packages of longer screws for those.

And don’t worry– you don’t have to figure this out yourself. I didn’t! All I did was measure the thickness of our cabinets and drawers. Then, when I went to pick up the pulls, I had someone at Lowes measure the screws that came with the pulls and advise me on which additional screws I would need. Also, what I didn’t realize at first is that not all of the cabinets are exactly the same thickness. I don’t know why, but some of the pulls were just a little bit loose/wiggly once we had the screws fully screwed in. A quick trip to Lowes mid-day today fixed the problem for under $2: Washers! Again, I just explained the situation to the guy working in hardware and showed him the screws we were using, and he directed me to these.

So once you have all your supplies, start by taping off where you want your handle. I did this because I didn’t want to draw on our cabinets.

Then figure out where you want your handle. We decided that we wanted the handle exactly centered on the raised edge, and to start 1.5″ up from the bottom of the raised edge. First, I measured and put three small marks at the half way point between the two edges. It is important to figure that out for EVERY cabinet because some of our cabinets randomly had raised edges that were 1/4″ smaller than others. 1/4″ might not seem like a big deal, but your eye definitely notices if things aren’t centered!

I then used a level to make sure that I was drawing a perfectly level vertical line. One of these days I’m going to take a project photo in which I don’t have chipping nail polish. (Today is not that day) (Also, I was holding this up with one hand and taking a picture with the other– hence the blurriness. Sorry my photos kinda suck).

Then I just measured up 1.5 inches from the bottom and put a cross mark across my vertical line, to designate where the bottom screw would go.

If you’re installing knobs, you can skip this next step. But, for pulls you have another perfectly spaced screw to place. In order to get the spacing right between the two screws, I made a template with a piece of cardboard. I just used a scrap box we had laying around, and measured the distance between the two screws on the pull.

The next step is to take a drill and (very carefully) drill through the marks you make with your template. What we discovered though is that metal pulls are VERY unforgiving. The screw really has to be placed exactly right because metal has no “give.” After a lot of messing around and cursing on our first few cabinets (note– start on bottom cabinets that aren’t as visible if you make a mistake!), we finally figured out that it is MUCH easier if we used a bigger drill bit. We had been using a drill bit that made a hole that just barely allowed our screw to slide through easily. However we found that if we used the next size up, the hole was big enough to give the screws a little wiggle room to get them placed correctly, and the back of the pull was still big enough to completely cover the hole. Once the screws are tightened, they are super secure and give us no problem at all. So– if you’re having trouble getting your holes to line up, consider using a bigger drill bit.

This is also the point where we would use the washers when necessary. Some cabinets didn’t require any washers, but on some the pulls were just a bit wiggly once they were full installed. On those cabinets, we simply unscrewed the pull, slipped a washer between the screw and the back of the door, and reinstalled the screw. Depending on the cabinet, we used anywhere from 0-3 pulls per screw.

And that is it! It wasn’t exactly a quick process, I think overall it probably took somewhere between five and six hours (not counting the trip to Lowes). However there is just a really steep learning curve I think. We were both much more timid with the drill at first and it would take us much longer to get the holes done– and they wouldn’t turn out as perfectly. By the end it took about 10 seconds to make a perfect hole. So we were definitely moving faster at the end. And the time it took? Totally worth it.

We love it! It just looks so much more finished. Plus, our dark cabinets show fingerprints terribly, so we’re super excited that having pulls should keep the cabinets much cleaner since we won’t have to grab them to open/close them.

And the grand total? Under $100!

29 pulls (@ $2.70 each + tax) = $83.59
3 packages of longer screws (@ $0.98 each) = $2.94
2 packages of washers (@ $0.98 each) = $1.96

Total = $88.49!

Seems like a huge change for not a huge amount of money, so we are thrilled.

And now? Movie night in and ordering pizza. I think we’ve earned a lazy evening!


5 thoughts on “Kitchen Cabinet Upgrade– We got hardware!

  1. The new hardware looks great! Isn’t amazing what a difference such a simple change makes? I remember when I added glass knobs to our cabinets–not a huge change, but it added some sparkle, and I couldn’t stop looking at them.

    You did a great job explaining how to measure, and that’s a fantastic tip to put tape on the doors. The tape would also help keep the drill from marring the finish!

    Love it!!

  2. @loribeth- so true about the finish! The drill might’ve gotten away from me a time or two and the tape definitely saved our cabinets from crazy scratches (which are all too obvious with the dark finish).

    @lauren- thanks!

  3. Wow, the new hardware makes SUCH a difference! I’m definitely a fan of pulls over knobs, and these just elevate your kitchen so much! Great job

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