How we did a Laundry Room Makeover using repurposed cabinets (with pictures)

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As part of our laundry room makeover we painted the laundry room, and I found some used, brown kitchen cabinets, painted them white and installed them to give us more storage space.  Here is a quick review of how I painted these brown cabinets white and then installed them in our laundry room.

Laundry room makeover by painting wood paneling and using old kitchen cabinets to add extra laundry room staoge.

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I am not a professional carpenter or builder. This is simply documenting what I did as part of our laundry room makeover. And I made mistakes. I can’t be held responsible for any mishaps or accidents that occur as a result of you reading this. (Consider it for entertainment purposes.) If you are in doubt, I suggest you hire a professional to install laundry room cabinets for you.

Project Goal:

The goal of our laundry room makeover was to make the laundry room look brighter, have more storage and be more functional. We just want a better looking space…I don’t care about having it look “Instagram-worthy”. Maybe in the future I’ll “stage” some pictures…but for now, you’re getting the nitty gritty. 🙂

Laundry Room Before Picture

Laundry Room in early 70’s house with brown wood paneling

Above is a picture of the laundry room before we started the remodel. It is an early 70’s house with the original wood paneling.

We’ve had to deal with a lot of wood paneling in this house and I even wrote an article on how to paint wood paneling. I followed those steps to paint the laundry room white.

We chose white to make it look brighter. It looked bleak with all the brown.

Laundry Room After Painting Picture

Here is the “after” picture of the laundry room after I painted it. It isn’t the finished product yet, but even just painting the wood paneling makes it look a lot better. (See all the wasted space above the laundry machines?)

Laundry room after painting the paneling white

Laundry Room Before and After Picture (just after painting)

Before/After – what a difference just painting made for our laundry room makeover.

Laundry Room Storage

Before the remodel we didn’t have much storage in our laundry room. There was an old built-in broom closet and tool bench, but it didn’t hold much.

I added these strong, open wooden shelves along the back wall for storage.

Laundry Room Remodel - built laundry room storage shelves
Laundry Room Storage Shelves (made from wood)

But the space above the washer and dryer was not being used

Remodeling Old Kitchen Cabinets to use in the Laundry Room

old kitchen cabinets on Facebook Marketplace and I proceeded to remodel them for our laundry room
The used, brown kitchen cabinets before I painted them

I found these brown kitchen cabinets on Facebook Marketplace. I liked their configuration potential so I bought them. (They were cheap!)

Step 1: Clean the Old Cabinets and Remove the Doors and Hardware

The kitchen cabinets I got were in good shape and clean. If you try this DIY cabinet makeover yourself, and the cabinets are dirty, you should clean them first.

I removed the doors and hardware because I find it easier if the doors are off.

Soap and water should do the trick to clean the cabinets. – just make sure the cabinets are dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Sand the Cabinets

Laundry room cabinets after a light sanding. You want to sand them so the paint sticks better.
Cabinet Doors after a light sanding

The next step it to lightly sand the cabinets so there is some “texture” or grit for the paint to stick to. 
I believe I used 150-grit sandpaper then went over it with a 220-grit sandpaper. 
Remove all the sanding dust from the cabinets with a cloth or spray it off with an air compressor.

Step 3: Prime the Cabinets with a Primer

Laundry cabinet doors after being primed with a low VOC primer
Laundry Cabinet doors after being primed

After sanding the cabinets, I applied a coat of low VOC primer. I didn’t document it well at the time, but I believe I only did one coat of primer. Read the directions on your primer to see if they recommend two coats. (I use the primer from Home Hardware in Canada.)

I used a paint brush to paint the primer onto the cabinet doors, and used a roller for the cabinets themselves.

(I am not good with a paint brush so I try to roll as much as possible. 🙂

Step 4: Paint the primed cabinets and cabinet doors

After priming the cabinets and allowing them to thoroughly dry, I painted the first coat of paint. 
I didn’t use a fancy, dedicated cabinet paint. I still wanted them to be easily wipeable so I opted for a semi-gloss paint. You could likely use an eggshell paint too. 

If my memory serves me, I put on two coats of paint.  (This was a few months ago.)

One Tip about Painting Cabinets

A tip about painting wood cabinets - pay extra attention to the spots where people grab the cabinets - such as around hardware
Note the peeling paint around the areas touched the most

A couple years ago we painted the brown, oak cabinets in our kitchen white. They look really nice and bright. One thing that has worn over the years though is the paint around the hardware and other spots that get touched the most. (See photo above.)

If your cabinets look good with two coats of paint and you don’t want to paint all the cabinets over again – you could try painting an extra coat just around the cabinet hardware and other “grab” spots. 

Laundry Room Cabinet Installation

I am definitely not an expert on this. In fact, this is really the only time I’ve ever successfully installed cabinets. (I tried at our old house and after seeing me struggle with one corner cabinet my girlfriend hired a company to do it. She is a smart lady.)

(If you are in doubt about this process at all I suggest you hire a professional to hang your laundry room cabinets for you.)

To install the laundry room cabinets I followed the directions laid out in this article on the Family Handyman website about installing upper cabinets. (I’ll summarize what I did but go to this site for thorough instructions.)

A stupid mistake I made (that cost me $$)

But even with sound instructions to follow, I still messed up.

I screwed right into a water line!!  

Luckily it was the supply line to the outside water faucet and it had its own shut-off valve.  So I was able to quickly shut it off and minimize the damage, but it was still a big disappointment.
I had to remove the wood paneling, Shop-Vac up the water, and then let everything dry for a few days. Then I paid for plumber to fix the pipe. He wasn’t at my house long but it still cost me money.

It was a stupid mistake. The stud finder beeped signaling a stud behind the paneling, but it wasn’t a stud…it was the water line.  

If I would have taken more time and measured from the last stud, I would have seen it was not 16-inches away from it.  And if I would have just looked up, I would have seen the copper water line going down into the wall cavity between the studs. 

After being deflated by this mistake for a few days, I resumed the project.

Lesson Learned:

Take my time and verify there is actually a stud where the stud finder claims there is. Considering you’re going to hang heavy cabinets up, make sure you hit the studs.

Step 1: Mark where the wall studs are

You want to make sure you are securing your cabinets into the wall studs, and not just paneling or drywall. Use a stud finder to find wall studs and verify its beeping because of studs and not something else.

I marked where the studs are with green tape, as shown in the photo below.

Installing laundry cabinet upper – tape to mark studs and horizontal ledger boards

Step 2: Measure and Mark where the bottom of the cabinets will bethen install ledger boards

I measured the height of my cabinets and determined how close to the ceiling I could install them without hitting the various obstructions I have in my laundry room (like pipes sticking out of the wall). Then I measured down and marked where the bottom of the cabinets would be.

After that I installed horizontal boards on the walls (called ledger boards) to rest the cabinets on while I screwed the cabinets into the wall studs.  (The top edge of these horizontal boards was level with my mark for the bottom of the cabinets.)

I installed the corner cabinet first. You can see it in the picture above (shown in Step 1). You can see that the right side of the corner cabinet is not painted. This is because I knew my next cabinet would be tight against the cabinet so you wouldn’t see this.

Should you connect your cabinets together on the floor first?

Some references (like this one from This Old House) say to screw your upper cabinets together while still on the floor then lift the multiple, connected cabinets up onto the ledger board, make sure they’re level, then screw them into the wall.

But because I’m working by myself, I can’t lift that much. I had to put up each cabinet individually. I can see how this would make things a little easier had I had help.

Step 3: Set the next cabinet on the ledger board

Laundry cabinets installed as part of our laundry room remodel

I lifted the next laundry cabinet onto the ledger board and used a clamp to secure it to the corner cabinet. Before clamping them together I made sure the front face of the cabinets were flush and level with each other.

I had to put some shims behind this second cabinet to ensure it was flush on the front face with the corner cabinet.

Then I screwed the second cabinet into the wall, and screwed it into the corner cabinet.

Step 4: Put the doors back on

To minimize weight I installed the cabinets on the wall without their doors. It is easier to handle the cabinets when they are lighter.

After I secured the cabinets to the wall, I put the doors back on. I still need to get some new knobs or handles for the cabinets.

Change of Plans

I was initially going to put the small upper cabinets (ones that would usually go above a stove or fridge) above the washer and dryer to the left of the corner cabinet.

But after hitting that water line, it made my plans less ambitious.

I just kept these two cabinets up and then install a narrow cabinet on another wall to hold rag clothes and towels.

It is funny how doing something stupid can really affect your plans. The psychological highs and lows of home renovations can really get to you.

When something goes well and looks good you feel like you could build and entire house by hand, but when something doesn’t go well – or you do something stupid like I did – then you feel like you should never pick up another tool again.

New Laundry Machines

Through some unfortunate circumstances we had to replace our laundry machines. The washing machine malfunctioned and flooded the basement of our house. During the rinse cycle the washing machine kept filling with more and more water – it didn’t shut off!

The water overflowed from the machine and by the time I discovered this, there was about an inch of water all over our laundry room floor and it flowed into adjacent rooms too.

What a mess!

We bought a LG washing machine. We’ve had it close to a year now and I really like it.

Of course we could have saved some money buying a new dryer at the same time as the washing machine, but I said “our old dryer works fine.”  And then just a couple months later the old dryer broke too!

We found a new LG dryer at a good price and bought it. 
The two new laundry machines look real good together, and they are both energy efficient models. 
(I hang my clothes but my daughters often don’t.)

It wasn’t in our initial budget, but getting new energy efficient laundry machines helped update our laundry room makeover.

Is our Laundry Room Makeover complete?

Unfortunately no. Like a lot of projects I start, this one is dragging on. I need to fix the laundry sink, get hardware for the cabinets, cover up some of the plumbing and electrical lines, and put a backsplash behind the laundry sink.

But even with just the new paint, cabinets and storage shelves the laundry room looks way better and is more functional.

I hope you’ve been able to learn a few things from the mistakes I made during our laundry room makeover. I’ll try to update this as the progress continues. (And maybe I’ll make the laundry room look “cuter” with some signs or laundry room decor.)

Up Next:

How to build strong wooden storage shelves (like I did in our laundry room)

how to build strong DIY wooden storage shelves

Save Money with Laundry Drying Racks

Clothes Drying Rack Ideas

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