How to Repair Kitchen Cabinets with Water Damage

How to Repair Kitchen Cabinets with Water Damage

How to Repair Kitchen Cabinets with Water Damage

We have just passed the monsoon season. Many of us are fond of rain and enjoy it to the fullest, however, rains can be devastating. A flood or leak can leave your kitchen cabinets in a sloppy mess. Even a small amount of water can cause them to swell, or even fall apart. Do you have water damaged kitchen cabinets too?

If yes, then acting quickly is the key and here comes the main question that how to repair kitchen cabinets with water damage. If you do not attend to the damaged cabinets immediately then the water can destroy the outer shell of your kitchen cabinets, destroying the finishing and darkening the wood. In extreme scenarios, water leaks can also leave your cabinets useless, especially in cases where you are dealing with a water leak in the cabinets under your kitchen and bathroom sink.

Do not worry you can take care of many cosmetic and structural defects yourself once things have dried out. Just continue reading the article.

Cabinet Type:

Your kitchen cabinets are either made of MDF or plywood.

Former means mid-density fiberboard. It is a manufactured wood that is very much like fiberboard but is hardy and denser. It is also cheapest than plywood, and more smooth, so you need not worry about imperfections within the surface.

Plywood, on the opposite hand, is additionally and manufactured by wood materials but is formed by bunch sheets of wood veneer at one place into one, solid piece. The plywood is out there in several thicknesses and grades, so it is possible to seek out the best one for your kitchen.

Plywood is additionally stronger than MDF, and won’t be as vulnerable to water damage if it gets wet.

First thing first Evaluating the damage and Professional Opinion:

Understanding exactly how serious the damage under your kitchen cabinets is very important.

This evaluation will guide the overall strategy regarding repairing water damaged kitchen cabinets. This will depend on whether your cabinets got wet due to leaking water because of a burst pipe, or high humidity.

While you’re at it you should also evaluate whether or not your water damaged kitchen cabinets are structurally sound. Are the joints stable? Have the cabinets warped? What parts of the cabinet are damaged? Is the bottom shelf of the cabinet strong enough, or is it sagging and waterlogged? Has delamination occurred?

If your final evaluation is that your water damage is severe, it is best to hire a professional to take a look. Even if the water damage does not seems severe, having a professional assess the situation is recommended.

In most cases, there can be additional water damage or mold hidden in the layers of the cabinets, and having the damage professionally repaired is one of the best ways to prevent it from spreading further.

Structural Damage: 

Since you have understood the scope of the structural damage now it’s time to consider how to proceed. Once you have completely evaluated the damage, you should start gathering supplies.

  • As a general rule, it is smart to have carpenter’s glue, clamps, and screws on hand. While the exact fixes required will depend on the extent of the damage, you can begin to fix a delaminated cabinet by spreading glue between layers of delamination after you’ve emptied out your cabinets. Spread the carpenter’s glue between the delaminated layers of the cabinets, then use the clamps to press them back together.
  • Once the cabinets are empty you should salvage the items stored in glass or plastic containers, however, throw away anything in a box or bag. Similarly, wash towels and other fabrics and throw away paper goods.
  • Next, use thick towels or blankets to remove the water. Remove as much water as possible until the cabinet feels dry to the touch otherwise, it will continue to soak into your cabinets and cause more damage.
  • You can remove the cabinet doors to speed up the drying process. Lay the cabinet doors down flat on the ground to prevent them from warping and use high-volume fans to dry them.
  • With the doors out of the way, start drying wet kitchen cabinets. Get high-volume fans and structural drying dehumidifiers from an equipment rental company to get the job done.
  • Do not rely on household fans as they will take too long to dry out the cabinets. It is more likely that your cabinets will fall apart before they dry.
  • For extremely warped or swollen cabinets, screw 2×4 boards in as braces to help straighten them out.
  • When fixing doors, screw into the back to hide the damage afterward. Once the cabinets and doors have dried, you can remove the braces.
  • However, you can not always save water damaged cabinets. Since water weakens the glue, particleboard cabinets are more likely to fall apart than solid wood. Once they start crumbling, no amount of glue will fix them.
  • Another problem which you’re likely to encounter is water stains.
  • The best way to remove water stains from wood is with oxalic acid.
  • Unfortunately, you will need to sand off the finish first. You usually need to mix the oxalic acid with water, so follow the instructions on the label.
  • Then use a brush to apply the solution to your stained cabinets and let it dry.
  • One coat may work for minor stains, but it usually takes at least two.
  • Once the stain is gone, you need to neutralize the acid.
  • Wash the cabinets with a mixture of half a cup of baking soda and a gallon of water.
  • Then rinse the cabinets with clean water and allow them to dry completely.
  • Even though your cabinets are dry, odors and mold can still develop over time.
  • Wipe your cabinets down with a solution of one cup of bleach per gallon of water. This will kill mold and bacteria as well as remove smells.
  • Alternatively, you can get rid of odors by opening your windows.
  • For strong odors, sprinkle on baking soda at night and then vacuum it up in the morning.
  • You may need to repeat this a few times, but the baking soda will absorb most odors.
  • In some cases, you may need to refinish kitchen cabinets after water damage.
  • Lightly sand the wood to remove the existing finish.
  • Then wipe the wood down with a damp rag to remove dust and dirt and let it air dry.
  • Use a sealant to protect the wood and form a base for the stain, then apply an even coat of stain.
  • Finish the process with a finish coat or top coat to protect the wood.

Always follow the instructions on the label for the best results.

Repairing water damaged Particleboard Cabinets:

  • At first, use a hairdryer to dry the wet area.
  • Otherwise, you may ignite the particleboard using a heat gun to raise the temperature.
  • Once the particleboard has dried out, take sandpaper and sand the damaged area. Do it gently.
  • You can also use electric sandpaper to do the job.
  • Clean the sand dust to find out the soft spots on the board.
  • Use wood filler to strengthen the weak board.
  • Then use waterproof glue on the area to make their watertight.
  • This will protect them from further water damage.
  • Last but not the least, sand the area once again to get an excellent finish.

Replacing Parts:

In some cases the bottom shelf becomes so waterlogged that it sags, it’s time for a new one.

Depending on the cabinet design, you may not be able to extract it in one piece, so be sure to get its exact dimensions before demolishing it.

If the veneer has separated from the side or front of the cabinet, you may be able to re-skin it by gluing on a new veneer with contact cement as an alternative to replacing it.

Just be sure to cut off as much of the old veneer as possible first.

Why the damage occurs:

We usually underestimate the power of water, but it’s an amazing solvent that can damage or even destroy pretty much anything.

However, the biggest factor for kitchen cabinet water damage is actually how they are made. Almost all kitchen cabinets are made of particleboard.

This a wide range of manufactured wood products formed by mixing small bits of wood with glue.

Usually, the outside of the particleboard is covered with a veneer to make it look more like solid wood. Unfortunately, two things happen when participle board cabinets get wet.

First, the wood absorbs the water and starts to swell.

Second, the water starts to dissolve the glue that holds the cabinet together. As the wood absorbs more water, it will speed up how fast the cabinet falls apart.

This is why it’s important to remove the water and start drying your cabinets as soon as possible. If you don’t have the time or equipment, you should call a restoration company for help.


Particleboard or cabinets are vulnerable to water damage in the kitchen since they come in direct contact with water. So, it would be very helpful if you made sure that water does not leak underneath the sink to damage the cabinet. However, once you notice any damages, you must act immediately. Or else, you may need to go through costly replacement. Thankfully, the repairing of water damaged cabinet and particleboard is pretty straightforward- given the fact you follow the steps as mentioned above.

So, don’t get frustrated next time you see any damage.


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