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Changing Cabinet Handles

These tips for changing cabinet door hardware (or “handles”) will save you time and money. I’ve been installing decorative knobs and pulls on cupboard for over sixteen years. I’m going to teach you how to remove and replace your kitchen or bathroom hardware, without many frustrations.


This is perhaps the most important factor in succeeding at switching out cabinet door handles, precise measuring is a must. Open the cabinet door and measure the distance from the center of one screw head to the other. Remove a handle and take it with you when you go to the cabinet supply or hardware store. Don’t forget to take your tape measure along as well.

Equally important as being accurate with the hole centers, you must also measure the thickness of the doors. Also, if the screws holding the handles onto the drawer faces extend all the way through the decorative front and the front of the drawer box, you will need to know the combined thickness of the two. For example, if the decorative drawer front is ¾” thick and the drawer box face is ½” thick, the overall is 1 ¼.” That’s the dimension you need to know. Hopefully you won’t have to remove a decorative drawer front to switch out the cabinetry handles.

  • Tip: If you have existing cabinet knobs, you can drill an additional hole to transform the door design into being able receive a handle. But you will only be able to do this on the doors. The drawers must remain knobs because they have to be centered.

Screw Sizes and Types

This can be the most frustrating part of changing kitchen cabinet door knobs or handles. DO NOT EVER FORCE a screw into the new hardware which is not inserting smoothly. Resistance means that it is either the wrong type of thread or it is too long.

Forcing the issue could cause you to strip the threads on the handle or break the bond on ceramic or porcelain styles which have metal inserts for the screws. Many plastic or nylon pulls may crack if excessive force is used to attach them to the doors.

Most pulls that are sold today come with screws in the packages. If you’re changing the old handles for new ones, make sure to save the existing screws. You may need to use them, especially when you change the ones on the drawers.

There are two types of thread sizes that cabinet knobs or pulls are designed for; they are standard thread and metric. Make sure you get the proper ones and remember do not force the screws at any time.

When you have decided which cabinetry handle you will be installing, select the proper screw lengths that you will need. Measure the length of the screw that came with the handle and then screw it all the way into the threads of the pull. Measure the distance from the edge of the decorative hardware to the flat side of the screw head, next to the threads. Is this dimension going to work with the thickness of your doors?

Now determine what length screw you are going to need in order for the new cabinet handle to work with the thicknesses of the drawer-faces and fronts.

If the correct screw sizes are not available, you can use longer screws in combination with washers to achieve the proper length. Just keep the project looking like a professional did the installation.

  • Tip: If you go to Lowe’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware to get your replacement parts, be careful when you are picking them out of the bins. Due to so many people handling the merchandise different sized cabinet handles that look the same get mixed in the same bins.

Removing and Installing  Kitchen Cupboard Handles

Before you start installing all of the cupboard  handles, first test a door and drawer to make sure you have the correct screws.

Then start removing all of the existing parts to be replaced. When you have them all removed, insert the proper length screws into all of the holes.

Next go around to every cabinet part and pre- screw the handles and let them hang loose, but fastened. Then, using your chord less drill, screw all of them secure. Be careful not to over tighten them.

The process of changing out the decorative hardware on your cabinets should go smoothly if you apply the suggestions that I have made. You may encounter a few things when you’re removing the handles or knobs and installing the new ones that I did not review. One of the main points I wanted to get across is the importance of selecting the correct screw lengths and types when you are purchasing the new decorative hardware. Of all the obstacles I’ve encountered, the screw lengths and thread types are the most common ones I’ve had to be prepared for. Changing the look of your kitchen with new handles makes for a great improvement and can be done for a reasonable price. Apply my tips and save yourself from headaches too.

  1. Norm
    June 30th, 2009 at 17:32 | #1

    I love how those 70’s cabinets have all the handles in the middle. What the heck where they thinking?

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