Water can wreak havoc on the outer and inner layers of wooden cabinets, destroying the finish and even causing structural damage in the process. Due to this, it is crucial to act fast whenever you suspect your cabinet is a victim of water damage.

To repair kitchen cabinets with water damage, evaluate the extent of the damage. Structural and cosmetic defects are usually the easiest to fix and can be repaired without professional assistance. However, delamination and warping are serious defects that might need you to replace the entire cabinet.

In this article, we will discuss ways to repair kitchen cabinets with water damage. We will also provide proven tips on how to maintain and increase the lifespan of wooden cabinets.

Evaluate the Extent of Damage

Before you attempt to fix your water-damaged kitchen cabinets, you’ll need first to assess the extent of the damage. Determining the seriousness of the damage will help you to understand where and how to get started.

As you look to determine the extent of damage, you’ll need to clear the entire cabinet, removing all the stored items. Be sure to remove all containers and stored items in order to have a clear view of the entire cabinet system.

You’ll need to check for signs such as loose glue joints, warping, and delamination. The damage could be caused by a pipe burst or high humidity, exactly why it’s crucial to check all parts of the cabinets.

Check the bottom shelf to see if it’s sagging or waterlogged while also examining the contact point of the wooden frames.

Remove the Water

After emptying the cabinets and examining the extent of damage, you should be well-placed to determine the problematic areas. That is the exact area where water is leaking. It could be leaking water valves, burst pipes, high humidity, or even leaking faucets. Whatever the problem might be, you should address it first before attempting to repair the cabinets.

Consider calling a plumber if your piping is problematic. Once the leaking problem has been addressed, dry the affected area such that it resembles the other unaffected parts.

You should use thick towels or heavy blankets to wipe the kitchen cabinets dry. You can also use dehumidifiers or air movers like the XPower Axial Air Mover to eliminate moisture completely from the cabinets.

Re-Evaluate the Cabinets Again

Dealing with under-sink kitchen cabinets can be tricky, especially when looking to identify the problematic areas. Therefore, be sure to re-examine the cabinets once you’ve wiped them dry. Check to confirm the extent of damage and whether the leaking problem was adequately addressed.

Don’t proceed with the repair activities if the kitchen cabinets get wet after a while. The trick is to fix the leaking issues before fixing the cabinets.

Ready Your Tools and Start Fixing

Once you’ve assessed the damage and concluded that the cabinets could be fixed, it’s time to ready your tools. For this DIY project, you’ll need screws, clamps, and carpenter’s glue as your primary tools.

Carpenter’s glue like Elmer’s E7010 Wood Glue will come in handy when looking to fix the delaminated layers in your cabinets. Spread the glue carefully between the affected areas and use the clamps to press the layers together.

Fixing particle boards is more complicated than repairing solid wood since the latter usually weakens and starts crumbling, making it almost impossible to glue. Therefore, when dealing with particle boards, you’ll need to identify the problematic area and replace the old braces.

Adding new braces will help improve the particle board’s stability and moisture-resistance, which enhances the overall durability of your cabinet.

Replace the Damaged Cabinets

Unfortunately, some sections might be more damaged than others. Particle board cabinets are notorious for crumbling when exposed to water, which explains why they’re mostly replaced when damaged.

Therefore, don’t hesitate to replace damaged cabinets with new units. Point to note, though, finding identical replacement cabinets might prove problematic. Therefore, take the relevant measurements before heading to the local store in search of replacements.

Perfect fitting replacement units can come in different colors to your cabinet. In such a situation, applying a veneer cover can help to match the colors such that all cabinets match.

Clean the Stains

Water stains are common in under-sink kitchen cabinets. Even cabinets that are fit for repair are likely to have water stains that developed over time.

Luckily, bleaching out water stains in your kitchen cabinet shouldn’t be an uphill task. All you’ll need to do is mix the oxalic acid with a generous amount of water, and voila! The unsightly water stains will disappear. 

But for the oxalic acid to work its magic and strip your wooden cabinets of the water stains, you’ll need to sand the surface. Sanding allows the acidic agents to work on the exact stain, consequently ensuring the stain is successfully removed.

Once the stain is successfully eliminated, it’s time to neutralize the acid. Place half a cup of baking soda in a bowl and mix with a gallon of water. Dip a soft rug inside the solution and rinse the cabinets such that the acid is no more. When rinsing oxalic acid from the cabinets, be sure to drain the soft rug to remove excess water.

Disinfect the Cabinets

The whole idea of repairing water-damaged cabinets is to use them in storing food containers and other kitchen accessories and products. Therefore, the job doesn’t end with basic repair—you’ll need to disinfect and rid the cabinets of any foul odor.

Mix a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Place a soft cloth inside the mixture and drain out excess moisture before wiping the cabinets. The bleach and water solution will help eliminate bacteria and mold, leaving your cabinets ready for use.

And in case you want to eliminate foul odor, you’ll need to use baking soda. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda and allow it to sit on the cabinets overnight before vacuuming in the morning.

Please note that you might need to sprinkle and vacuum baking soda severally when dealing with strong scents.

Refinish the Cabinets

Although not a compulsory step, refinishing will help to leave your cabinets looking neat as new. To refinish your kitchen cabinets, you must sand the wood lightly to remove the existing finish. Use a damp rag to remove the dust and sanding particles.

Once you’ve allowed the sanded wood to air dry, use your preferred sealant to form a base for the stain before applying an evenly balanced coat of stain. It is advisable to cap off the process with a top coat to provide additional wood protection.

Ways to Prevent Water Damage in Kitchen Cabinets

Clean Up Spills Immediately

Most kitchen cabinets are made from particle boards, which are highly susceptible to water damage. Even solid woods can be affected by spills and excessive moisture if allowed to settle for long. Therefore, the trick to extending the life of your cabinets is removing spills once they occur. All you need is a dry soft rug, and you’re good to go.

Don’t Use Excess Water to Clean Up the Cabinets

When cleaning up your kitchen cabinets, it is advisable to use a well-drained cloth or rug. Avoid pouring water directly on the cabinets as doing so might promote the formation of stains and mold.

Dip a piece of cloth in your cleaning solution and gently rinse the cabinets to remove grease and any bacteria that might be on the surface.

Check Your Kitchen Cabinet Regularly

Maintaining kitchen cabinets is all about vigilance. Never assume that your cabinet is in perfect condition, yet you don’t conduct regular checks. Remember, the kitchen area has faucets, water lines, valves, and pipes, all of which can malfunction and lead to leaks at any time.

To be on the safe side, empty your cabinets regularly and check for any signs of mold or water stains. This will ensure you identify problems and act on them well in advance.

Refinish Your Cabinet Regularly

The best way to take care of most wood surfaces is to refinish regularly. You’ll need to refinish it frequently if you live in a high-humidity area, as excessive moisture doesn’t work too well with wooden surfaces. Regular refinishing allows you to identify problematic areas, which allows you to make the necessary repairs before the cabinet becomes excessively damaged. 

Final Takeaway

Although repairing a water-damaged kitchen cabinet isn’t rocket science, you’ll need to be extra careful to avoid damaging your cabinet further.

The first step is to empty the cabinets and examine the entire cabinet in search of problematic areas. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to start repairing the cabinets without fixing the leak first.

Once you’re done repairing and replacing the faulty cabinets, don’t forget to disinfect the cabinets to eliminate bacteria. You might also need to refinish the cabinet to have it look good as new.

And since prevention is better than cure. Be on the lookout for signs of water damage. Check your cabinets regularly and always clean up immediately spills or leaks occur.

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