dark kitchen cabinets with gold handles

How to Repair Water-Damaged Kitchen Cabinets

Water Restoration

Dealing with water damage in the kitchen can be an anxiety-inducing experience. The place where we cook and converge is a source of pride and practicality, housing everything from our morning coffee stash to our treasured collection of family recipes. However, when water enters the equation, it can transform your cozy cooking hub into a kitchen nightmare.

Fortunately, water damage doesn’t have to spell the end for your kitchen cabinets. This guide will help you restore and rejuvenate your cabinets, providing detailed instructions and insights to complete the project. With these step-by-step directions, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to bring your kitchen cabinets back to life.

How Does Water Damage My Kitchen Cabinets?

Water can wreak havoc on your kitchen cabinets in various ways. The damage can be visible or hidden, from the discoloration of wood surfaces to warping, swelling, and mold growth. Common culprits include plumbing water leaks, flooding, and even high humidity levels over time.

Facing the Facts

Water damage spreads as soon as it contacts wood. When excess water is absorbed, wood fibers can swell, raising the grain and causing the wood to warp. It isn’t just the aesthetics at stake, either. Warped wood cabinet doors and drawers may need to be fixed, hindering the functionality of your kitchen.

kitchen with slight flooding
Water damage can warp, swell, and eventually ruin your wooden cabinets.

Mold is another concern. If cabinets are left wet and untreated, mold spores, a dangerous allergen, can begin to grow in as little as 24-48 hours. Once mold takes hold, it can be difficult to remove entirely and may lead to health issues, making swift action crucial.

MDF vs Plywood: What’s the Difference?

MDF(Medium Density Fiberboard)

MDF is an engineered wood product composed of wood fibers and resin. It’s often used in cabinet construction due to its affordability and smooth surface, which is excellent for paint finishes. 

However, MDF is highly susceptible to water damage. When wet, cabinet structure breaks down faster than natural wood, causing swelling and warping.


Plywood is a sturdier option, made of several layers of thin wood veneers glued together. It’s known for its structural stability and resistance to moisture, making it a better choice for damp areas of your home. When plywood does come into contact with water, it’s less likely to warp or be permanently damaged.

The distinction is clear. Plywood is the winner in terms of water resistance. However, all is not lost if your cabinets are constructed with MDF. With the right approach and diligence, it’s possible to rehabilitate water-damaged cabinets, no matter the material.

Can Water-Damaged Wood Be Repaired?

The good news is that not all water-damaged cabinets are a lost cause. With the proper methods, they can be brought back to life. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

The Importance of Swift Action

The quicker you address water damage, the better your chances of successful restoration. Promptly drying the affected area can mitigate further damage and, in some cases, reverse initial signs of water damage.

Exterior vs Internal Damage

Exterior damage, such as discoloration and minor warping on cabinet surfaces, can often be repaired more easily than structural damage, which affects the cabinet’s framework. For water that has penetrated the varnish, you may need to refinish the wood after it’s cleaned and repaired.

How to Repair Water-Damaged Cabinets: 3 Steps

Step 1: Assess the Extent of the Damage

  • Survey the affected area. Begin by inspecting your cabinets and cabinet doors. Look for areas that are discolored, swollen, or have visible signs of water exposure.
  • Test for structural integrity. Check the doors and drawers to ensure they open and close correctly. Jiggle them to see if they are loose, and examine their fit against the cabinet’s frame.
  • Look for mold. Carefully inspect for any signs of mold growth, which can appear as black or green spots. If you see it, you may need to address it before any other repairs are made.
mold on wood flooring
Mold deserves attention first before you consider repairing your cabinets.

Step 2: Dry and Clean

  • Dry the cabinets. Fans and dehumidifiers can dry out the affected areas. If there is severe water damage, consider removing the cabinet from the wall to ensure all surfaces are moisture-free.
  • Wipe down cabinets. Use a cleaning solution and sponge to clean cabinets. Ensure the area is well-ventilated, and wear appropriate protection, such as a mask and gloves, during this process.
  • Sand and refinish (if necessary). Sand the affected areas on cabinets with surface damage to remove discoloration or roughness. After, refinish the wood with a new coat of varnish or paint to protect it against future damage.

Step 3: Repair and Replace

  • Repair minor damage. For minor warping or separation, apply wood glue to the affected area and use clamps to hold it until the glue sets. This should help to restore the wood to its original shape.
  • Replace irreparable parts. In some cases, water damage may be too severe for repair. If sections of your cabinets are beyond restoration, consider replacing them. Ensuring the new sections match the existing cabinets in color and style is crucial.
  • Use a waterproof sealant. Once the repairs are complete, consider applying a waterproof sealant to the damaged areas. This can provide an extra layer of protection against future water exposure.

These steps are a general outline for repairing water-damaged kitchen cabinets. Depending on the extent of the damage and the type of cabinets you have, you may need to adjust these steps to suit your specific situation. You may also consider calling a professional.

Get a Professional Opinion

If your kitchen cabinets have extensive damage or you’re unsure how to proceed, it’s always a good idea to consult an IICRC-certified professional. They can provide an accurate assessment, identify any hidden mold or water damage, and recommend the best course of action for repair. Hiring a professional may be an added expense, but it can save you time, frustration, and potentially the cost of replacing your cabinets.

person with a drill fixing a cabinet door
Professionals are the best choice for cabinet repairs.

Are Your Kitchen Cabinets Soaked? Call PuroClean for Premier Water Damage Restoration Experts Today!

If your home or business has experienced water damage, don’t hesitate to contact PuroClean for professional and efficient water damage restoration services. Our experienced team is available 24/7 to assess the damage, develop a plan of action, and restore your property to its pre-loss condition. With state-of-the-art equipment and years of expertise, we ensure your property is treated with the utmost care and attention to detail. Call us at (800) 775-7876 to schedule a consultation, or use our online office locator today.

Last edited on 28th of May 2024