How to Install New Cabinet Handles to Transform a Kitchen

Kitchen cabinets


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If you're like anyone else, you've looked at your kitchen more than once and wanted to fix it up, but without spending a fortune. Kitchens are one of the most expensive parts of the house to remodel because everything in the kitchen costs so much: appliances, tile, countertops, electrical and plumbing work, and more. But there is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to freshen up your kitchen: by installing new cabinet handles and drawer pulls. It's not a total kitchen transformation, but it is surprisingly effective.

3 Reasons Why New Hardware Is So Effective

  • Hardware is prominent—it physically sticks out more than any other feature of the kitchen cabinetry.
  • Amazing, colorful, and detailed designs are possible in cabinet hardware—aspects that would be overwhelming in other parts of the kitchen.
  • You can use materials and finishes not found elsewhere in the kitchen: everything from shiny, mirror-like finishes to weathered bronze and cast-iron finishes.

Replacing Cabinet Knobs With Handles

Removing knobs and replacing them with handles is a popular project. This updates the kitchen and makes it easier to grab and pull drawers and cabinet doors.

Knobs require one hole; pulls usually require two holes. Going from one hole to two holes on cabinet doors is usually a simple matter since the holes are aligned vertically. You can reuse the previous hole and add a second hole. The handle might be slightly higher or lower, but usually this will not be noticed.

Drawers are different, though. Drawer knobs are usually installed at the center of the drawer fronts. Once the knob is removed, the centered two-hole drawer handle will have a hole in the middle. Off-centering the drawer handle is not an option, either.

So, use matching wood filler to fill in the center hole. Many manufacturers sell touch-up pens or wood filler to match stain colors.

Tips For Replacing Cabinet Hardware

Visual Positioning, Not Mathematical

You and other visitors to your kitchen will be taking in a quick visual picture of your cabinet hardware. In that short time span, powers of perception and intuition can determine if the hardware looks right or wrong. One drawer pull that's just a bit lower than adjacent pulls can stand out.

Following measurements by rote, on a drawer-by-drawer or door-by-door basis, without an eye toward the entire stretch of drawers or doors, is a recipe for poor visual design.

Think in Terms of Rows and Columns

In most cases, you are not installing just one cabinet pull, you're installing a line of them: either a horizontal row or a vertical column. Think in terms of completing entire sets that work together rather than one fixture at a time.

For example, when you look at a line of six drawers on a set of kitchen base cabinets, you will see the six handles all in relation to each other. That's why it's so important to create lines, either vertically or horizontally, to keep yourself in check when installing fixtures.

Use a Laser Level or Chalk Snap Line

A laser level is the best way to create a long, perfect, unwavering line across a row of drawers or cabinets. You can even set the laser level to its plumb function to set a vertical line, for a stack of cabinets.

A chalk snap line works just as well. You can install a fixture at each end of the run, then use those fixtures as supports to hold the snap line in place. Snap the line, then remove.

Use Painter's Tape to Help Prevent Damage

A square of painter's tape in the spot you intend to drill prevents your drill from walking and creating unsightly grooves on the finish. However, it does not really do much to prevent the chipping-out of wood on the backend of your drill spot. Careful, slow drilling can help to reduce the likelihood of this problem.

Choose Single Screw or Double Screw Hardware

Some cabinet hardware is attached by means of a single screw or bolt. This is by far the easiest type of hardware to attach, not because you cut your drilling work in half, but because it makes it easier to position.

If you have two types of handles to choose from and you have a lot of hardware to install, the work will go much faster if you choose the single-screw type.


To speed up cabinet handle or knob installation, buy an easily adjustable cabinet handle installation jig at your local hardware store or home center. The tool simplifies locating drill spots so you don't have to measure each one individually. You can also easily build your own jig using a couple of small pieces of scrap wood.