How to Shorten a Kitchen Cabinet Door for a Microwave or Exhaust Hood
New kitchen appliances aren't always sized for older kitchens, but you don't want to replace all of your kitchen cabinets just because you got a new refrigerator, stove, or microwave. With counter space at a premium, most modern kitchen remodels involve microwaves that are over the counter, but those microwaves may require the cabinets above them to be shortened, which can lead to problems. Taller modern refrigerators can also lead to some of the same concerns.
While installers and handymen can often modify the size of the cabinets themselves as part of an appliance installation, many of them cannot adjust the size of the cabinet doors. That leaves you with two options: Invest in new cabinet replacement doors, which can be expensive and difficult to match to your current cabinets, or shorten the kitchen cabinet doors yourself!
Shortening your own kitchen cabinet doors may seem like a daunting task—and there are certainly some unique challenges associated with the process—it's not a big job if you have the right tools and the proper know-how. Most cabinet doors involve a raised central panel, but the same basic process works for flat panel doors as well, albeit with minor modifications.
At first glance, the process of shortening a cabinet door is as simple as cutting a middle section—usually around 4" for most microwave exhaust hoods and other modern appliances—out of the door and then fitting the top and bottom sections back together. Of course, it's a little more complicated than that. First off, you'll want to make sure that your cuts are very clean, so that the wood can be fitted back together as seamlessly as possible.
Some cabinet doors can be disassembled and re-assembled, making for easier shortening without seam or grain lines. No matter how carefully you cut your cabinet doors, however, a certain amount of seam is likely to be visible, especially when you're dealing with finished wood cabinets with visible grain lines. Try to match the grain lines up as closely as possible before re-gluing the cabinet door; touching up the wood stain can sometimes take care of the rest. In the case of painted cabinets, doors that have been re-sized will almost always have to be re-painted as well.
The final complication when it comes to shortening a cabinet door to accommodate a microwave exhaust hood or other appliance is that the hinge slot—or plunge—may need to be recut. This requires the use of a specialty tool, and so if you need to recut a hinge slot in your cabinet doors, it might be best to take them to a wood working expert for that last touch.
Shortening cabinet doors can be a tricky proposition, but if done right, the results can save existing doors and keep the beautiful matching look of your kitchen intact. As with any modification to existing cabinets, it's important to be sure of your measurements before you cut, and to always put safety first when doing the work.
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