How to Repair Water Damaged Kitchen Cabinets?

Kitchen cabinets are often subjected to water damage because they are usually in close proximity to the refrigerator or sink.

If your cabinets are made of MDF or low-quality material, then it is less likely to resist that damage.

Kitchens usually have high moisture levels if the environment isn’t controlled actively. This can damage your cabinets and make them swell, dull down, or completely deteriorate.

If you have noticed water damage in your kitchen cabinets, then you must contain the damage by repairing them immediately.

How to Repair Water Damaged Kitchen Cabinets?

Here are the steps that you need to take for repairing your water damaged kitchen cabinets!

Assess the Damage

The first step is to evaluate the damage sustained by your kitchen cabinets. You need to look closely and see how deep and serious the damage is.

In order to do that, you’ll have to identify the primary source of damage. Look around your kitchen and see if the damage is caused due to leaking water, a burst pipe, high humidity, or any other source.

Then perform a thorough evaluation of your cabinets. Check if they are structurally damaged. See if the glue joints are still intact or not.

Look at the plywood and see if it is warped. Make sure to see if the cabinets feel soggy and if it is still able to hold weight.

When you evaluate each and every element properly, you’ll have a better understanding of the extent of the damage. It will help you with coming up with the right plan of action for repairing the water damaged cabinets.

Prepare the Cabinets for Damage Repair

Now that you understand the full extent of water damage to your cabinets, you need to prepare them for the repair process.

First, unhinge the cabinet doors and place them in a dry and protected place where you intend on carrying out the repairs. A shed or garage is a great option for doing the repairs.

Now, remove door handles, screws, and any other hardware pieces so you can repair the cabinets easily. The next step is to dry the wet cabinets.

It’s best not to use the household fans for this process because they can cause further damage to the cabinets in the process of drying.

Instead, use high-volume fans for drying out the cabinets. You’ll have to keep two to three fans running for at least a full day to completely dry them. Consider renting a structural drying humidifier and running it along with the fans.

Before you begin the repairing process, you have to be absolutely sure that the cabinet doors are dry. Never start repairing a cabinet right after it has sustained the water damage.

Apply Shellac-based Primer

The next step for repairing small scale damage and stains is to look for a shellac-based primer that you’ll apply on the cabinet wood.

These primers are easily available at hardware stores and ideal for repairing small-scale damage to wooden items.

Shellac-based primers allow you to apply any type of paint over them. This type of primer evens out the surface of the wood and lets the paint stick to it perfectly.

Buy a spray bottle of the Shellac-based primer and spray it over the damaged areas of your cabinets. Make sure you apply 2 coats of the primer, so the surface is covered properly and evens out the surface smoothly.

Use Plastic Wood Filler

Now, you need to determine whether there’s a need to apply plastic wood filler or not. If you see any large spots of damage in the cabinets, then you’ll probably have to use a plastic filler to cover and fix the water damage.

In the case of particleboard cabinets, you need to ensure that the plastic filler is added thoroughly.

Make sure you apply the filler on the affected areas sufficiently for the surface to smooth down. The amount of filler that you need to use depends on the size and type of damage.

Just make sure that your cabinet surface is flat and smooth after this step.

Sand the Wood

After you have applied the primer and filler, it’s time to begin sanding the kitchen cabinets.

Sanding is essential for cabinets with water damage in order to remove swollen areas and water bubbles. It makes the wooden surface even again.

Make sure you buy a high-quality sander from a reliable manufacturer. Use 120-grit sandpaper for the sanding process. If possible, use an electric sander to make this step easier and more efficient.

It’s important not to go overboard with the sanding process at this point. Since you’ll have to repeat this process again, just sand it enough so that the surface looks smoother than before.

Repeat the Steps

After the sanding process, the cabinets are usually painted to complete the repairing process.

However, it’s important to evaluate your cabinets at this point and see if they are really completely damage-free.

More often than not, the previous steps need to be repeated multiple times to ensure that all the damage has been covered and the cabinet surfaces are smooth again.

We recommend repeating the steps at least one more time in case of minor damages. If the damage is major, then keep repeating the steps until you feel satisfied with the results.

It’s important to smooth out the surfaces properly before you get started with painting them.

Paint the Cabinets

When you’re satisfied with the results of the previous steps, get ready to then paint the cabinets. Make sure the surface of the wood is smooth and dry.

We recommend using the same type of paint that was used on the cabinets originally.

The primer coating will help the paint adhere to the surface of the wood properly. Consider using a paint roller for painting large-sized cabinets.

You can use a paintbrush if you like. It all depends on your preferences and what you’re comfortable with.

Make sure you paint the entire cabinet door surface, so it looks even and smooth. When you have painted the entire cabinet door, let it dry completely. It can take several hours to dry, depending on the type of paint you used.

Also read: What is the Best Paint to Use On Kitchen Cabinets?

Sand the Cabinet Door Again

After you have painted the cabinet doors, you need to sand them again. When the paint has dried, sand down the cabinet door with sandpaper.

Use 220-grit sandpaper for sanding down the painted cabinet door. This process is done to ensure that the paint finishing looks smooth.

The sanding will also help the paint coat adhere to the surface when you need to paint the cabinet door again. In this step, consider sanding the wood with your hands so you can do it more gently.

Apply the Final Coat of Paint and Sand It again

Now, apply the last coat of paint and let the cabinet door dry. Then, gently sand it down again with the help of 220-grit sandpaper.

Repeat this process once or twice until you’re satisfied with the results. When you’re done, you’ll notice that there is no visible sign of water damage on your cabinet door anymore. Just one more step to go now.

Use a Water-Proofing Seal

Finally, apply a coat of waterproof varnish or seal on the cabinet doors. This will ensure that your cabinets stay protected from water damage in the future.

Waterproof seals and varnishes are easily available, and you can use one that is suitable for the type of wood that your cabinets are made of.

Waterproof seals are clear coats and do not affect the color of your cabinets. Although the seal will not make your cabinets waterproof, it will still prevent moisture from penetrating inside the wood significantly.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Future Damage

Taking preventive measures can help you avoid future water damage to your kitchen cabinets. In this section, we will discuss regular maintenance tips and improving kitchen ventilation to prevent damage caused by high humidity and spills.

Regular Maintenance Tips

To ensure the longevity of your kitchen cabinets and prevent future water damage, follow these maintenance tips:

  • Inspect cabinets regularly: Check for any signs of water damage, such as discoloration or swelling. Address any issues immediately to prevent further deterioration.
  • Clean spills promptly: Wipe up any spills as soon as they occur. This helps prevent damage caused by standing water.
  • Use waterproof liners: Invest in waterproof liners or mats for the shelves. They protect the cabinets from potential leaks or spills.
  • Seal vulnerable areas: Apply waterproof sealants on any areas that may be exposed to water, such as around the sink or dishwasher.

Improving Kitchen Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining the health of your kitchen cabinets. A well-ventilated kitchen can help prevent damage from high humidity levels, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. Here are some tips for improving kitchen ventilation:

  • Install an exhaust fan: Ensure you have an exhaust fan installed above your stove or cooktop to extract heat, steam, and humidity.
  • Use a dehumidifier: If you live in an area with high humidity, consider using a dehumidifier to help maintain a balanced moisture level in your kitchen.
  • Keep windows open: Whenever possible, open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. This will help to control moisture levels in the kitchen.
  • Regularly clean air vents and filters: Clean and replace air vents and filters as needed to ensure proper airflow and ventilation in your kitchen.

By following these tips and keeping up with regular maintenance, you can effectively prevent future water damage to your kitchen cabinets and keep them looking pristine for years to come.

Evaluating Restoration Versus Replacement

When to Repair vs. Replace

When dealing with water damaged kitchen cabinets, it’s essential to determine if they can be repaired or if it’s more cost-effective to replace them. The extent of damage, type of material, and age of the cabinets play a significant role in this decision. Some signs that indicate it’s time for repairs include:

  • Minor swelling or warping
  • Discoloration or mold growth that can be removed by cleaning

On the other hand, you should consider replacing your kitchen cabinets if:

  1. the cabinets have severe structural damages, such as rotting wood.
  2. the water damage has compromised the strength of the cabinets.
  3. the cabinets have been damaged beyond repair and pose a safety threat.

Cost Considerations

The cost of repairing or replacing your water-damaged cabinets depends on several factors. Here are rough estimates for repair costs:

  • Refacing cabinets: $1,000 – $3,000
  • Repairing structural damage: $250 – $500 per cabinet
  • Water damage restoration: varies based on the extent of damage and contractor fees

Comparatively, the cost of replacing your cabinets can range from $5,000 – $15,000, depending on the size of your kitchen and the materials you choose.

When evaluating your options, consider the following points to make an informed decision:

  • Age of the cabinets: If your cabinets are relatively new and show minimal damage, repairing may be the best option
  • Extent of damage: Repairing may not be worth it if the damage is too severe or extensive, leading to a higher repair cost than replacement.
  • Long-term investment: If you’re planning to stay in your home for a long time, it might be more cost-effective to replace cabinets for increased durability and a higher return on investment.

By carefully weighing the factors and costs involved in repairing vs. replacing water damaged kitchen cabinets, you can make the best choice for your situation and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can water-damaged kitchen cabinets be salvaged and restored?

Yes, water-damaged kitchen cabinets can often be salvaged and restored. The key is to identify the extent of the damage, dry the cabinets thoroughly, and use appropriate repair techniques.

If the damage is limited and the cabinet’s structure is still intact, you can repair water-damaged kitchen cabinets to restore their functionality and appearance.

What are the steps to repair swollen wooden cabinets?

To repair swollen wooden cabinets, follow these steps:

  1. Remove all items from the cabinets and assess the extent of the swelling.
  2. If the swelling is minor, you can sand the swollen area with an orbital sander until it returns to its original shape.
  3. If the swelling is severe, you might need to disassemble the cabinet, replace the damaged parts, and reassemble the cabinet.
  4. Once the swelling is remedied, clean the cabinets with a damp cloth or sponge, and allow them to air dry.
  5. Apply a wood sealant to protect the cabinets from future moisture damage.

How can you dry out cabinets effectively after a water leak?

To dry out your cabinets effectively:

  1. Remove all items from the cabinets.
  2. Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove any standing water.
  3. A dehumidifier or fan can be used to speed up the drying process.
  4. Inspect your cabinets after drying to ensure that they are thoroughly dry before putting any items back.

What measures can be taken to protect kitchen cabinets from future water damage?

To protect your kitchen cabinets from future water damage, consider these preventive measures:

  1. Ensure that your plumbing is in proper working order and fix any leaks promptly.
  2. Install water-resistant materials, such as waterproof cabinet liners.
  3. Regularly clean and maintain your cabinets, including addressing spills, moisture, or accumulated dirt quickly.
  4. Apply sealants or water-resistant finishes to your cabinets to provide added protection.

Is it possible to repair laminate cabinets that have undergone water damage?

Yes, laminate cabinets can be repaired after experiencing water damage. If the damage isn’t too severe, you can follow these steps:

  1. Remove the damaged laminate layer.
  2. Allow the cabinet surface to dry completely.
  3. Purchase a matching laminate sheet and apply it to the damaged area using contact cement.
  4. Use a roller or block of wood to press the laminate into place and ensure proper adhesion.

Will homeowners insurance typically cover water damage to kitchen cabinets?

In most cases, homeowners insurance will cover water damage to kitchen cabinets as long as it’s caused by a sudden and accidental event, like a burst pipe. However, insurance may not cover damage resulting from gradual leaks or poor maintenance.

Always check with your insurance provider to understand the specifics of your policy and which damages are covered.

Final Thoughts

Repairing water damaged kitchen cabinets is a process that you can do at home by following the steps exactly how we explained them.

However, it’s important to note that you can only do this for minor water damage. If your cabinets have been completely waterlogged or damaged, you’ll need to seek the help of a professional.

Make sure you identify any surfaces that are beyond repair. You need to discard and replace them entirely as they can’t be restored.

Once you’re finished with repairing the minor damages, make sure you clean the cabinets with a household cleaner to get rid of any smells or algae that may have accumulated due to the water penetration.

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