Best DIY way to replace cabinet handles and pulls
Replacing cabinet handles and pulls is one of the easiest ways to update a kitchen or bathroom without breaking the bank. Most of us think that changing out large items like cabinets and countertops is the only way to make a significant change. And, we underestimate that impact that changing cabinet hardware can really have. It can change the entire look of your cabinetry and for a fraction of the cost.
The good news is that this is one of the easier DIY projects to tackle. For starters, there are no plumbing or electrical tasks involved. Another piece of good news is that it’s inexpensive. Hardware is much cheaper than countertops or cabinets.
Better still, most of the equipment you will need you probably already have. Most of us own screwdrivers and power drills. The rest is generally not that expensive.
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Steps to replace and install cabinet handles yourself
The best part about replacing your cabinet handles and knobs is that the holes are already drilled for you. 90% of the labor has been done by someone else. If you are just swapping out one set of hardware for another, all you need is the hardware and a screwdriver.
Related article: 13 Kitchen hardware trends you won’t want to miss
Simple replacement without drilling
You can change out knobs to your heart’s content. Knobs only have one drill hole, so there is almost a limitless range of possibilities.
Drawer pulls come in a multitude of sizes and shapes. Some of the new modern drawer pulls are very oversized. For deep drawers or a very tall cabinet, drawer pulls can be as long as 2 feet. Chances are that the holes already in your cabinetry will not match up if this is the look you are going for.
If you want to do this in the easiest way possible way, your drawer pulls will need to have the same spacing between attachment points that you had before. Although opting for something different is possible, it will leave you with a big job. You will not only have to drill new holes to accommodate your new hardware but also fill in the holes left behind by the drawer pulls you removed.
You will also have to touch up the paint or finish. If you can possibly avoid this glitch and still get the look that you want, it will save you a tremendous amount of time and work.
If you are opting to work with your existing drill holes, I would suggest that you start your selection with drawer pulls. The selection is going to be somewhat limited, so finding the best drawer pull that fits your parameters is going to be a bit harder. But given the variety of knobs that are at your disposal, finding a great knob that works with the pull you select should not be difficult.
To know what size you need, remove a drawer pull and measure carefully between the holes. Take the drawer pull that you removed and bring it with you to the hardware store. This will help you find the correctly sized pulls for your drawers.
This trend guide should help you with your selections and even show you where you can buy them online for the best price: 13 Kitchen hardware trends you won’t want to miss
Once you have purchased your pulls and knobs, you are almost good to go. One thing that many people who do cabinet hardware installation suggest is that you purchase screws that are sized for the thickness of your cabinets and drawers.
They should be about 1/4″ longer than the width of your cabinet/drawer. This prevents problems with cutting the screws that come with your hardware. It’s an easy and inexpensive fix.
Once you have all these materials, grab your screwdriver and get to work! Since you don’t have to drill new holes, you should have a new look for your cabinets and drawers in almost no time!
Frequently asked questions on cabinet handles and hardware
How do you choose cabinet hardware and what’s the best size?
Standard cabinetry and drawers range generally from 12″-36″. Most pulls for this sort of standard cabinetry measure either 3″ or 4″ between contact points. Knobs tend to range from 1 1/4″- 1 3/8″ in diameter.
This, of course, is subject to personal taste and can vary. There are no hard and fast rules. Long drawer pulls are fashionable right now in modern and minimalist kitchens and these tend to be far longer than 4″.
Once again, this is very much a matter of personal taste. These are just guidelines. There is no reason why you can’t go outside the box if that is what you like.
What types of hardware and cabinet handles are in style?
Oversized drawer pulls are extremely popular in modern kitchens. This is particularly true in minimalist kitchen design. Sometimes these drawer and cabinet pulls can as long as 2 feet.
Flat black finishes have become increasingly popular for cabinet hardware. This is a relatively new trend that is really catching on. This finish has a very high impact on white or light cabinetry.
Gold-toned finishes are a new and compelling trend. They add a warm rich look to your cabinetry and can look stunning on both light and dark cabinetry.
Weathered nickel and brass finishes are growing in popularity. Weathered finishes add extra depth to hardware. They can create a rustic or industrial vibe.
Don’t confuse weathered nickel with brushed nickel, they are two completely different things.
Polished brass was very popular about 20 years ago, but weathered brass is nothing like that dated look.
Exposed screws are a new retro favorite. For years we have been hiding the fact that drawer pulls and knobs are actually screwed into our cabinets!
A new popular trend is to show the screws in all their glory.
Glass knobs and pulls are another popular retro look. My Grandmother had glass knobs in her kitchen.
This is a new-old look that has its origins in the early 20th century. The 21st-century rediscovery has a lot to do with the versatility and unique style that has to offer.
For more information on current trends in cabinet hardware, you can read this article: Kitchen Hardware Trends for 2019-2020.
What shades of cabinet hardware are best for dark cabinets?
For the most part, we like to see cabinet hardware stand out a bit and offer a contrast with the cabinet. So, dark cabinets such as black, chocolate brown, or espresso, will really shine with hardware like chrome, brushed nickel, gold and perhaps weathered nickel and weathered brass.
Don’t overlook the possibility of glass Glass or jewel-toned hardware or contrasting ceramic knobs. Very dark finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze or black would be a bit more problematic.
The caveat here is to remember that there are no hard and fast rules and that variations in cabinet finishes may make a difference in the hardware finish you choose.
What shades of cabinet hardware go best with white cabinets?
Almost everything goes with white. Of course brushed nickel, chrome, and stainless steel all work very well with white cabinetry. Gold hardware can add a surprising but pleasing and elegant touch.
Finishes like weathered nickel and brass can add a distinctive look. Oil-rubbed bronze and matte black hardware create a strong contrast and can be very compelling.
Glass hardware could also work well, but clear glass hardware on a white background might not create enough contrast. Colored glass hardware could be very compelling.
If you have gray cabinets, which types of handles go best?
For the most part, gray cabinets are paired with silver-toned hardware. Polished chrome, stainless steel, and brushed nickel are all go-to finishes for gray cabinetry.
However, you should not feel limited to these options. Flat black can create a very bold look for most shades of gray. For warm gray cabinets, gold hardware can add a stunning and unexpectedly elegant. Weathered nickel is another alternative finish that can be quite striking depending on the tone of gray.
Best shades of hardware for oak cabinets
Oak cabinets tend to have a slightly dated vibe. They were very popular in the 90s, but not so much since then. So, if you want to change out the hardware, you might want to consider something very modern to update the whole feel of your cabinets.
A bold look would be flat black or oil-rubbed bronze hardware. These finishes work with the warmer tones that oak tends to have while creating an updated feel. Because most oak finishes tend to be quite warm, silver-toned hardware might be problematic.
If you want to change the color of your cabinets, here’s a great article that show you how to paint cabinets the right way.
How do you clean cabinet hardware?
Cabinet knobs and pulls get a lot of use. If you have children, it doesn’t take much for them to become sticky and gunky. So it’s important to keep them clean and sanitary. Here is a go-to method to thoroughly clean your hardware.
– Remove the cabinet hardware.
– Fill a large bowl (or your sink) with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water
– Put your hardware in the bowl and allow to soak for 1-2 hours.
– Pour out the vinegar solution and refill the bowl with warm water and add few drops of dishwashing detergent.
– Gently scrub each piece of hardware. You can use a soft brush like a toothbrush to do this. The vinegar will have broken down the grease, so they shouldn’t need any heavy-duty scrubbing.
– Rinse the water thoroughly and allow to air-dry on paper towels.
– Once dry, reinstall the hardware.
How to Install Cabinet Hardware in your kitchen
This section is for those who are installing cabinet hardware into new cabinets where drilling is required.
Tools needed for installing cabinet hardware
- Cordless Power Drill
If you don’t have one, you will need one. The Black & Decker cordless power drill/driver comes with 30 accessories which include drill and screw bits as well as nut drivers.
The battery pack allows for the freedom of cordless drilling which you will need if you are installing hardware for an entire kitchen. If you can find it for under $60.00 it’s an excellent value.
- Manual Screw Driver
Most people have one of these, but just in case you don’t, this Klein Tools Screwdriver and Nut Driver is an all-around basic with 8 popular tips and 3 nut drivers.
Not only will it help you with this project, but it will serve you well for any number of basic household tasks over time.
- A Template
This Amerock Cabinet Door/Drawer template will work for most typical hardware installations. It is simple and easy to use and allows you to target the exact right spot for drilling.
If you have unusual hardware such as extremely long drawer pulls, you may need a hardware jig that will accommodate a greater range of options. More on that later.
- Appropriate size drill bit(s)
For the vast majority of installations, you will need 3/16” bit. The screw should fit through the drilled hole without catching or getting caught. If you have difficulty fitting the screw through the hole, you may need to increase the drill bit by 1/16th” (to 1/4”).
This Dewalt 6-piece drill bit set contains a 3/16”, 1/4”, and 5/16” bits which should cover the full range of what you could possibly need.
- Mounting Putty
Mounting putty lets you eyeball where you would like to place your hardware BEFORE drilling. Just place the putty on the knobs or pulls and move them around until you find what works best for you.
Loctite Fun-Tak works well and is inexpensive too.
- Regular Tape
The video below suggests using simple tape to cover the hole that you plan to use before marking your cabinets. It’s a good idea that helps prevent mistakes, so it’s a good idea to have some simple tape on hand.
- Invest in the correct sized screws
Although the hardware comes with screws but they usually have to be cut to the right length. This can be a hassle and sometimes they don’t thread properly after cutting. Avoid this by purchasing the right size screws. They should be 1/4” longer than the thickness of your cabinets and drawers.
Amazon has a large variety of cabinet hardware screws to choose from.
- Center Punch
Drill bits have a tendency to wander when you start to drill the hole. Using a center punch on the exact spot where you want to drill will act as a guide and prevent damage and mistakes.
This SE center punch set has a 3/16” and 1/4” center punch which should cover all the bases.
- Painter’s Tape
Every DIYer should have painter’s tape! This was another suggestion from the video below.
In this case, the tape is being used on the inside of the drawer/cabinet at the drill point to prevent splintering during drilling.
Some people seem to prefer a small block of wood over the tape. Scotch Painter’s Tape does the job well without leaving a residue.
- Cabinet Hardware Jig
For those who are using some of the new long drawer pulls, the simple template will not do the job. In this situation, the best solution is a cabinet hardware jig.
True Position Tools Cabinet Hardware Jig is a more flexible solution when the type of hardware or the positioning is more complex.
Also, if you have a lot of hardware to install, using a jig will probably save you a lot of time and frustration.
The jig may look intimidating. It’s kind of like a fancy T-square and once you set it up, it will make the job of installing hardware go much smoother and faster. Below is a video that shows the True Position Tools Cabinet Hardware Jig in action.
Installing cabinet knobs and pulls
Find the right placement for your knobs
Remember that once you’ve selected the position, it is important to be consistent with all of your knobs.
Use mounting putty on the knobs to find the placement that you want.
On cabinets, knobs are traditionally placed in the center of the vertical and horizontal frame faces (the raised panels at that “frame” most cabinets). This can vary according to personal taste. Please take the time to explore the best options for you before making a commitment. Drilling a hole, after all, is a commitment.
But once again, this is a convention, not a rule.
For drawers, the knobs are generally in the center of the drawer. But once again, this is a convention, not a rule.
Drilling the hole for a knob
Take your template and use the grids to stabilize it. Then find the appropriate hole in the template to mark the drill hole. Mark the wood with a pencil (or mechanical pencil). Then mark the hole in the template with tape. This way you will ensure that you mark all the cabinets/drawers the same way using the correct hole.
Use your center-punch to create a guide for drill bit.
Apply the painter’s tape (or small woodblock) to the inside of the drawer or cabinet.
Keeping your drill level, drill the hole.
Remove the tape when finished.
Mounting the cabinet knob
Push the screw through the hole and attach the knob onto the by turning it until it can go no further. Then use a manual screwdriver to tighten from the inside of the drawer or cabinet. Tighten well, without forcing.
Congratulations! You’ve done it! Now you are ready to move on to the rest!
If you are using a drawer pull, remember that different pulls have different lengths. So make sure you know the distance between the two attachment points of your pull before beginning. For drawer knobs, simply use one of the center placement options.
Once again, you will probably want to experiment with several placements using mounting putty.
Find the center by measuring the length of the drawer and mark it with a pencil.
Take the drawer template and center it to the mark you made using its center guide.
Mark the correct holes for drilling using your mechanical pencil.
Tape the appropriate holes as you did for the cabinets to make sure you use the correct holes for each installation.
Double-check before drilling to make sure your pull is the right length for the holes you selected.
Use your center punch to create a “guide” for the drill.
Put Painter’s Tape or a small block of wood on the inside of the drawer at the drill point.
Keeping your drill level, drill the holes.
Remove the tape when finished.
You can use a power screwdriver or a regular screwdriver to attach the pull. But be sure to use a manual screwdriver for the final tightening to prevent damage.
Congratulations! That’s all there is to it.
For those who have drill holes to fill
Some of you may have decided to swap out drawer pulls that don’t quite match your old drill holes. These holes need to be filled.
I tried very hard to find a video that showed this process on kitchen cabinets but to no avail. The process is well described and explained in this video even though holes being filled are in a window sill.
Naturally, you will still have to touch up the cabinet paint or stain once you’ve filled in all the holes.
Final thoughts for cabinet hardware installation
Installing cabinet hardware is one of those DIY jobs that doesn’t require special knowledge in areas like plumbing or electrical. That’s why it can be successfully done by most homeowners if they follow the steps methodically.
It can be a very rewarding job since it gives you almost instant gratification. Better still, it’s not a big, tedious ongoing project. This is a DIY job that can be completed from start to finish in a weekend. Best of all, the results can really change the look and feel of your entire kitchen.
Related kitchen articles:
- 13 Stylish trends for kitchen hardware
- Wood look tiles vs real hardwood for your kitchen – pros and cons
- The most popular farmhouse sinks and where to buy them
- How to paint kitchen cabinets the RIGHT way
- Most stylish paint colors for kitchen cabinets