How to change kitchen handles on cabinets to create a whole new vibe

Revamp your kitchen with this easy hack.

Forget about ripping out your old kitchen cabinets and spending thousands on creating a contemporary new look. This quick and easy hack will bring your kitchen bang up to date on a minimal budget.

“Creating a new look for your kitchen can be a great chance to put your own personal stamp on to one of the busiest rooms in your home,” says Ryan Smith, kitchen buyer at B&Q. “When your kitchen starts to look a little lacklustre, learning how to install a fresh set of cabinet handles can be a subtle and cost-effective way of refreshing your space.”

Robert Hall, builder at HiiGuru, says: “I often get asked by customers, ‘What can I do to spice up my kitchen?’ as they don’t want to rip it out and start again.” Changing the handles, updating the work top or replacing a splashback can give your kitchen a new lease of life.

With help from the experts, we show you how to change kitchen handles to add the wow factor to your space.

Blue kitchen drawer with gold coloured twisted handleCredit: Plank Hardware
Changing your kitchen handles can bring your kitchen up to date without blowing your budget

Choosing new kitchen handles

There are no rules

Connor Prestwood, interior design specialist at Dowsing & Reynolds, believes changing your kitchen handles should be anything but boring: “There are no rules style-wise – handles on drawers, knobs on cupboards, mix and match or all uniform. The choice is yours. Have fun with finishes, textures, styles and sizes to create a look that’s practical for you and your space.”

Prestwood certainly believes in mixing it up: “You don’t have to stick to the same size handles that are already on your cupboards – be brave and swap them out for a heftier size or go discreet and opt for knobs – you can always refill the holes. If you’d prefer to conceal the old holes rather than fill them, go for a handle with a backplate.

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Dowsing & Reynolds Gold Skyscraper Handle with Backplate on a black kitchen unitCredit: Dowsing & Reynolds
The backplate on these handles mean that any unsightly holes are covered and do not need to be filled

1. Once you’ve chosen your handles, prepare your tools

Have everything you need to hand

Once you’ve decided on the style of kitchen handles to go for, it’s time to prepare for installation.

“First and foremost, you need to be prepared with the right tools for your kitchen cabinets,” says Tom Revill, co-founder of Plank Hardware. Here’s his recommended list of equipment:

  • Cordless drill
  • Combination square
  • Screwdriver
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Spirit level
  • Handles

How long will it take to change kitchen handles?

The time you need to set aside will vary depending on how many handles you have to change and if you can simply replace like for like. If you need to drill holes, you can expect the task to take longer.

However, once you’ve installed the first kitchen handle, you’ll get into a rhythm and will find you speed up as you go.

2. Decide where to position your kitchen handles

Keep them in easy reach

Usability is the key point when deciding where to position your kitchen handles. “As a general rule of thumb,” says Revill, “base unit handles tend to go at the top of the door, so you don’t need to reach too far down for them.”

Smith has similar advice when positioning wall handle units: “They should be fixed towards the bottom of the door to avoid you having to reach up high to open the cabinet.”

For drawers, think about how you open them – to give visual balance and for ease of opening, drawer handles are best positioned centrally.

And if you are opting for knobs rather than handles, they should be placed on the opposite side to the cabinet’s hinges.

Featured product

Brushed satin copper finish Como cabinet knob, The Handle Studio

RRP: £4.97

Brushed satin copper finish Como cabinet knob, The Handle Studio

How to position your handles

Where you place your handles will impact on how easily you can access your cupboards and whether they are hard to open. Although there’s no defined science behind where they need to go, here Revill guides us on their ideal position.

On drawers, place your handles in the horizontal and vertical middle of each drawer face.

Position them roughly 5cm (2in) in from the edge of the top side, opposite the hinges.

Place them approximately 5cm (2in) in from the edge of the cabinet, on the opposite side to the hinges, only this time position them near the bottom of the door.

Usability is key when it comes to positioning your kitchen handlesCredit: Plan Hardware
Usability is key when it comes to positioning your kitchen handles

Like for like

Replacing like for like is the simplest option, so it’s worth checking the screw hole positions of the handles you are about to buy. “Ideally these will match up, meaning you can re-use the holes without having to do more drilling,” says Smith. “If they don’t match, however, keep in mind that after drilling new holes you may be left with visible holes where the previous handles were fixed.”

Overcoming this problem is simple if your intention is to add an extra level of transformation to your kitchen by painting the cupboard fronts. This will allow you to fill any visible holes then paint over them.

3. Measure up and mark out

You’ll need a tape measure and a pencil

Once you’ve decided on where you want your handles to go, you can mark out their position.

  1. “From the leading edge (the side opposite the hinges), measure in 5cm (2in) top and bottom [if these are the measurements you’ve chosen],” says Revill. With a pencil, make a light mark on the positions. Then draw a line to connect your marks using a spirit level, for added reassurance that the line is straight.
  2. “Then measure the total height of the door and divide this by three to get the sizes of your top, middle and bottom thirds,” adds Revill. “Once you have these measurements, from the top of the door, measure one third down and mark the point with your pencil. Your handle is going to go somewhere in this top third.”
  3. Grab hold of your handle and measure the distance between the centre of one fixing hole to the next. “Then subtract this measurement from the height of the top third of your door, then divide this by two,” says Revill. “Now you have the distance from the top of the door to where your first screw hole will go – mark this with a pencil.
  4. “Measure down from the first screw hole mark on the door, the distance you measured earlier between the two screw holes on the handle. Make a light pencil mark for your final screw hole.”
  5. Check the fixing centres and place the handle in the desired position. “Before you start drilling,” advises Revill, “place your handles against the door to check you’re happy with the position. Each mark should correspond with a screw hole.”

4. Drill the hole

Start from the outside in

“Always drill your holes starting from the outside to ensure your new handles sit exactly where you want them to,” says Prestwood. “The beginning of the hole is also neater, so drilling this way will give you the most professional-looking finish.”

Revill recommends using a smaller drill bit to drill a “starter hole”. “This will give your larger drill bit something to grip on to,” he says. “Line up your drill to the pencil mark you made using your template and slowly drill into the wood, keeping your hand as level and steady as possible.”

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Tip

Before you start, Prestwood suggests checking the length of your screws: “Too long and you risk damaging your handles, too short and they won’t be secure enough.”

5. Secure the handle

The final stage

“Then it’s time to secure your new kitchen cabinet handles,” says Revill. “You can now push the screw through the drawer front into the handle and tighten by hand.”

Prestwood also suggests tightening the screws with a manual screwdriver: “Avoid using an electric screwdriver to secure the handles – this can over-tighten the screw, causing it to snap.”

Tip

If you’ve experienced kitchen handles that don’t stay in place, Prestwood has a handy trick: “Use a dab of superglue when fitting drawer knobs to prevent them from spinning.”

Cup handles add a contemporary country look to a kitchenCredit: B&Q
Cup handles add a contemporary country look to a kitchen

Top tips on choosing kitchen handles

Interior designer Sian Astley reveals all

Saga Exceptional spoke to Sian Astley, interior designer at Moregeous, to discover her top tips on updating a kitchen with new handles.

What’s trending?

“Knurled industrial handles, both in bar and knob styles, are very popular at the moment. My clients are definitely stepping away from boring T-bars and looking for handles to add character and personality to their doors – picking up brass or black details from taps, sockets or appliances.”

Featured product

T-bar black, Buster & Punch

RRP: £45

T-bar black, Buster & Punch

What should you look out for?

Astley also has a top tip to avoid fitting issues: “It’s always a good idea to use standard-width handles, which can then be changed at a later date should you fall out of love with copper or a particular on-trend style.”

From small to big budget – what can you recommend?

“Your choice of manufacturer will be governed by budget. Ikea and Ironmongery Direct are super- affordable and well-made for the price. I’ve specified Ikea for years on rentals and they always last the distance,” says Astley. “Decent mid-range and on-trend brands include Dowsing and Reynolds or Corston. But if you have the budget to splash out on top quality, head to Armac Martin, Buster & Punch or Croft – they are absolute handle heaven!”

Featured product

Leebank solid brass cabinet knob, Armac Martin

RRP: £58.80

Leebank solid brass cabinet knob, Armac Martin
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Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

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With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.