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Q: I just bought a condo and the cabinets are all peeling. It looks like a vinyl-type contact paper that’s peeling.  How can I repair them???  I have no money for new cabinets.  

There’s pressed board under the vinyl—can I paint the board? How do I prep it?


A.  Our BrickTank experts presented a range of options besides replacing the cabinets: While your financial outlay will be less than brand new, you will still need to spend some money.

(1) Send the doors out for refinishing

From the sound of things, you may have Thermofoil cabinet doors—a low maintenance and inexpensive type of cabinet door made out of medium density fiberboard and covered in a thin layer of heat-fused vinyl or laminate, says resident manager Joseph Shkreli.

“This type of door is known to peel and chip easily,” says Shkreli.  “One of the buildings I used to work in had a company come and pick up the cabinet doors and refinish them for about $1,200, but that's on the cheap end.”

(2) Replace the peeling surfaces yourself

Most home improvement stores carry a wide selection of laminates, says Curt Bergeest, a resident manager and the vice-president of the Superintendent's Technical Association. Laminates are sold generally in two sizes, 4’x8’ or 5’x10’.

However, judging by the instructions Begreest sent us—and a quick look at the video he recommended for step-by-step instructions on replacing a laminate coutnertop--this is not a DIY job for a beginner.

(3) Throw out the upper cabinets & fix up the lower ones

“The latest craze is open shelves, and they make a space look larger,” says Kelly Giesen, a Manhattan designer with an ingenious knack for eye-pleasing storage solutions.

Spend your money on replacing the lower cabinets with new ones, or just the doors: Go to a salvage yard for some nice reclaimed cabinet doors and repaint them, says Giesen.  (This may be a good option for the upper doors too if you’re intent on keeping those cabinets.)

For additional storage, consider adding a ‘wall of doors’: “You only need 8 inches of depth to pull this off,” she says. “Use French doors if you want display space and solid doors if you want to hide the mess.”

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