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.

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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