How To Fix A Racked Cabinet: Recover Your Dying Cabinet




Hey! Is there a lot of different damage in your cabinet? Is it out of shape to the point that it’s dying? Do not throw it. 

I experienced the same issues and thought my cabinet was dying. To my surprise, one of my friends, who is a craftsman, was able to revamp it, and now, it is as good as a new one. So, there might be a second chance for your cabinet too.

How To Fix A Racked Cabinet

How to fix a racked cabinet? Here are the things I learned watching my friend repair my cabinet so you can fix yours too.

Fix A Racked Cabinet

Assess the cabinet carefully and gather all the necessary tools. Fix the damage following the specific methods for each of the damage. Lastly, sand the cabinet, apply a few coats of wood stain or paint, and add a finish for a final touch.

Wait! This is not everything in the process. I have mentioned all the details of the process in this article. To learn the entire process, let’s dive into this.

An overview of the project-

Some main facts-

  • Racked or out-of-shape cabinet is mostly caused by external forces and damages.
  • Low-quality materials used in cabinets make them more prone to racking.
  • Tighten the loosened screws to fix misaligned doors.

The Signs Of A Racked Cabinet

Before we start the actual process, let me ask you a question. What is a racked cabinet? 

Are you sure your cabinet is actually racked, and you are not mixing it with other issues?

You must know what is wrong with your cabinet before you start any project, or you might ruin your cabinet. 

The Signs Of A Racked Cabinet

So, let’s talk about the signs of a racked cabinet;

Misaligned Doors

Are you facing problems opening and closing the cabinet doors? The doors won’t completely close? Do you need to pull the cabinet doors too hard to open?

If you face any of these problems with your kitchen cabinet or any other wood cabinets, there is a high chance that your cabinet is racked.

Uneven Shelves

Are all your shelves crooked or bent on a side? Are you facing problems storing your items in the cabinet because your shelves are out of place?

If these are part of your story, your square cabinet may be racked.

Stressed Joints

There are different kinds of joints used in cabinet boxes and cabinet frames, such as dowel joints, pocket joints, dado joints, tongue and groove, mortise and tenon, etc.

Do you know what a stressed joint is? A stressed joint is when there is tension between two joints.

It causes a lot of visible damage along with misalignment and difficulty in operations.

Cracked Wood

Are there any visible cracks, splits, or chips in your beautiful cabinet? If you answered yes, your nice cabinet might be racked.

Warped Wood

Does your cool cabinet seem warped in any of the parts? It may be because your kitchen cabinet is racked.

Racking is a lot worse than most damages. If your cabinet has all of these issues at the same time, your cabinet is definitely racked.

How To Fix A Racked Cabinet: Step-By-Step Guidelines

Here is the part you were waiting for. However, be careful while following the steps.

It may not be as good as a professional craftsman, but I can assure you it will turn out great if you follow all the tips. Here is the whole process:

How To Fix A Racked Cabinet

Assess The Cabinet

Carefully assess the entire cabinet. Make sure to check all the parts, such as the drawer box, cabinet box, cabinet frame, cabinet front square, cabinet track, cabinet door knob, roller catches, and other hardware. 

Take mental or physical notes of the damages so that you don’t miss to fix any. You can also just mark them using pencils or markers.

Gather The Tools

It takes a lot of time to fix a racked cabinet as there are a lot of things to fix.

So, gather all the necessary tools in one place so that you don’t need to look for them one by one while working and lose additional time.

You may need a utility knife, screwdrivers (a few different kinds), depth screws, grit sandpaper, wood blocks, thread adhesive, and a bunch of cabinet finishing tools of your choice.

Fix The Damage

As you know already, there is a lot to fix in a racked cabinet. Each of these has different fixing methods.

No need to worry. I am mentioning details about all the specific fixing methods. So, just follow along;

Misaligned Doors

The reason for misaligned doors is the loosened screws. 

If you open the cabinet doors, you will see the cabinet door latches. There are some pilot holes and screws in there. 

You will see some of the screws are loose and maybe coming out from the screw holes. Tighten them using a Philip head screwdriver.

Test if the door closes completely or not. If the cabinet door has roller catches and self-closing hinges, test them. If they do, your misaligned doors are fixed.

For misaligned drawers, change the ordinary slider to anti racking drawer slide.

Uneven Shelves

If your shelves are uneven or saggy, it’s because they need more support.

So, take out all the shelves and reinstall them one by one. For additional support, put depth screws on the joints of the shelves. 

If you think it’s going to need more support, install wood blocks under each of the shelf joints using nails or depth screws.

Stressed Joints

It happens because of tight joints. Take a utility knife and scrap some wood from the part of the groove. 

Do it until the other piece of wood fits perfectly without any tension between the joints.

Cracked Wood

To fix a wood crack, take some wood fillers and put them in the cracked part using a utility knife. Give it enough time to rest. When it dries, it would be a whole wood cabinet again.

Warped Wood

To fix warped wood, put the warped part of the cabinet in the sunlight with some damp towel on top of it.

Let the moisture level in the wood come to a balanced level and the warped part will be fixed. If it is a wobbly cabinet, fix the wobbly cabinet with the other problems too.

Final Touches

For final touches, sand the cabinet with grit sandpaper. You can sand only the repairs or the entire cabinet. It is a personal choice. 

If there are too many repairs, I would suggest sanding the entire cabinet for a smooth finish.

Paint Or Stain

Choose the paint or stain according to the color of the rest of the cabinet finish. You can choose another color of your choice if you are sanding the entire cabinet.

Use a few coats of paint or stain and apply them in thin layers. Make sure to sand between the coats. 


Choose a wood sealer of your choice. The applying process is the same as the staining process.

If you face any problems during the process, I would suggest going through some of the forum posts. You will find plenty of solutions there.

You can fix the dog-chewed corner of the cabinet if you have one while you are fixing the racked cabinet.

Factors That Cause Racking In A Cabinet

Though we have already talked about the signs and the repair process, there are a few more things you should know.

You should know the factors that cause racking in cabinets so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent them from happening again. Here you go;

Material Quality

Low-quality materials are more prone to racking. Low-quality wood tends to crack, split, and warp easily.

Also, the hardware used in cabinets or any other wooden furniture wears a lot faster than the good-quality ones.

Poor Structure

It is already hard to make a perfect square cabinet. Fixing an out-of-square cabinet becomes a common thing when the structure is also poor.


Wood has a natural moisture content level. Humidity creates an imbalance in the natural moisture content level and causes the wood to warp.

Temperature Fluctuation

Sudden or extreme fluctuations in the temperature around the cabinet, especially kitchen cabinets, cause an imbalance in the wood’s natural moisture content level.

It causes a lot of damage, such as cracks, splits, warp, etc.

Uneven Weight Distribution

The cabinet needs to have a proper balance to stand tall and strong. Uneven weight distribution causes it to lose balance and pushes it towards damage.

That is why, bun feet adding in kitchen cabinets is a must so that it doesn’t crush the LVP installed under cabinets.

External Force

Most of the time, the cabinet gets racked while installing it. It is because of improper handling and mismanagement. 

It causes sudden external force or impact applied in the cabinet, which results in damage to the cabinet’s structure.

If you can avoid these factors from affecting your cabinet, you will be safe from racking in the future.

Risks Of A Racked Cabinet

With damage always comes risk. Racking is a lot worse than most of the damage, and it is full of risks.

Do you know about the risks that come with racking? It’s fine if you don’t. Here are some of the most severe ones:

Structural Instability

You must have already experienced this. Racked cabinets become structurally unstable.

The misalignment and warping causes the cabinet to lose its structural integrity and the cabinet loses its balance.

Prone To Damage

You have already seen how much a racked cabinet attracts damage. A racked cabinet becomes inappropriate for daily use because it becomes prone to wear and tear.

Reduced Functionality

I know, you can already feel this as you are experiencing this right now. A racked cabinet loses all its functionality.

Extreme racking can cause a cabinet piece to die because of the amount of damage it attracts.

Crooked Appearance

A racked cabinet loses all its beauty because of the damage. It appears crooked, misaligned, cracked, and warped.

Most of these risks you already know as you have experienced them already. So, you can understand how badly racking affects a cabinet.

Tips Prevent A Cabinet From Racking

Even after repair; maintenance is quite important. It helps to prevent the cabinet from future racking. Here are some tips to do so;

Tips Prevent A Cabinet From Racking
  • Regularly inspect and repair immediately no matter how small the damage is.
  • Keep the cabinet in a balanced and maintained temperature so that humidity and temperature fluctuations don’t cause any damage.
  • For custom kitchen cabinets, choose high-quality materials and hire an experienced craftsman, especially for cabinet face construction.
  • Always additional support to the cabinet, especially to the shelves.
  • Be extremely careful while installing to prevent improper handling.

If you can follow all these tips, you can not only save your cabinet but also increase its lifespan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is A Racked Cabinet?

A racked cabinet is a cabinet that is out of square because of the external force while installing it and the bunch of damage it is experiencing.

Can I Fix A Racked Cabinet Without Removing It From The Wall?

If the damages are accessible to you such as misaligned doors, uneven shelves, cracks, etc, you can fix the racked cabinet while being installed in the wall.

Can I Fix A Cabinet That Has Been Damaged By Water Or Moisture?

Yes, the damage is called warping and you can easily fix it by balancing the natural moisture content level in the wood.

When Is It Advisable To Seek Professional Assistance For Cabinet Repairs?

Suppose the racked cabinet is vulnerable and full of serious damage, and you don’t have much experience in fixing damaged wood. In that case, it is advisable to seek professional assistance for the repairs.


How to fix a racked cabinet? It is pretty simple. The only thing you need to be careful about is that there are multiple damages and each of them has different repair methods.

To recap the whole process, assess and mark all the damaged parts. Gather the necessary tools before to save time.

Fix the individual problems and add the final touch, sand, stain, and refinish the cabinet.

It may seem a lot but it is easier than it seems. I hope you get a great outcome like I did. All the best!

If you are interested in learning more about restoring a Cabinet, stay with- Restore Journey.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

  • How to Restore a Metal Table?  Step-By-Step Metal Table Restoration Guide

    How to Restore a Metal Table? Step-By-Step Metal Table Restoration Guide

    Metal table restoration is about making your table look nice again and keeping it for a long time. If you are curious about how to restore a metal table, we will tell you all the details. To restore your metal table, follow the process below: Doing this is super important now because it’s better to…

  • Round Table Restoration Simplified| From Novice to Expert

    Round Table Restoration Simplified| From Novice to Expert

    Round table restoration is like giving a new lease on life to a piece full of stories and memories. These tables often stand at the heart of a home, gathering people together. So, if you think, what can I do with an old round table? This guide is for you. Round Table Restoration By restoring…

  • Cost To Refinish Wood Table| Real Costing Guide To Tips To Reduce Cost

    Cost To Refinish Wood Table| Real Costing Guide To Tips To Reduce Cost

    Giving your wood table a new finish is like giving it a new lease on life. It not only makes your table look great again but also keeps its story going. This is why refinishing your wood table matters a lot. But if you wanna learn about the cost to refinish wood table, then there…