How Do You Fix Water Damaged Particle Board Cabinets?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart
Particle board is strong and resilient, but water damage can wreak havoc on it rendering the material useless. Luckily, you can repair damaged particle board cabinets if you remove the wet parts and patch them with wood filler. Follow along as we explore the simple steps that it takes to repair damaged particle board cabinets.

If there is one thing that homeowners dread, it’s water damage. Water damage can warp wood, destroy particle board, and also cause mold to grow throughout your home. That’s what makes flooding such a nightmare to deal with. If you have particle board cabinets that have been affected by water damage, it’s easy to panic and worry that you will have to replace them. Good news: you might not have to.

Dry the cabinets with a rag and remove soft or water-damaged parts of the board with a screwdriver. Fill dips and divots in the cabinet with wood filler, sand it to even it out, and clean the surface. Apply a sealer to the wood filler and vacuum the area to remove wood particles and dust.

This process is relatively simple compared to other forms of water damage remediation, which makes it a huge relief to people who have been affected by flooding. However, there are still some things you need to know about the damage. This article will explain everything in detail, and help you figure out your next steps.

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Are Your Particle Board Cabinets Beyond Repair?

It’s rare to see particle board that has been damaged beyond repair, at least from water. However, it can still happen. If you notice that your particle board cabinets have extensive signs of rot, have grown scary amounts of mold, or have become seriously weakened by water exposure, you may not be able to fix them. In this case, your only option is to replace your cabinetry and learn from mistakes.

The good news here is that this level of extreme damage is usually a result of flooding. Most homeowner insurance policies will have flooding clauses in them that will pay for the replacement of your cabinetry. If you bought flood insurance, a quick call to your insurance agent will help get the ball rolling.

Do You Need To Call A Professional?

Believe it or not, fixing particle board cabinets is actually an easy and affordable task. Knowing that, it’s safe to say that this is a DIY project that anyone can do. There’s no need to call your local handyman when you can usually do it in a couple of hours, for under $50 in supplies.

How To Fix Water Damaged Particle Board Cabinetry

Assuming that you’ve got a fixable case, there’s some more good news. Fixing your cabinets won’t be too difficult, especially if you leap into action the moment that water hits your cabinets. Here’s how you can fix it on your own:

  • First things first, dry your cabinetry off as soon as possible. The sooner you notice water on your cabinets, the faster you should act. To dry off your cabinetry, use a rag to sop up the excess water. Then, use a hair dryer to blow dry your cabinets. Don’t use a very hot heat gun, since this can actually further damage your particle board.
  • Dig out soft areas using a screwdriver or chisel. Once soft areas have dried, vacuum up any particles that have remained as dust. A handheld vacuum works best here.
  • Add wood filler into the areas that have dips. Use the instructions on the wood filler’s can when you’re working on filling in the holes. To get an even surface, use a putty knife or similar tool to even things out after the filler has been applied. Let the filler dry.
  • If you have raised areas, sand them down. To ensure that you continue to have an even surface, grab a slice of medium-grit sandpaper and sand it down.
  • Even out the filled areas with sanding, too. This helps maintain your evenness throughout the cabinetry.
  • Vacuum up the rest of the dust. This is a must, since you’re going to be painting or finishing your cabinetry in the next step.
  • Once everything has been dried and vacuumed, add a sealer to ensure you don’t have this problem again. You can choose to use a particle board sealant, a wood finish, or paint to help prevent water damage. The important thing here is that you’re making sure that you help block water from getting in your particle board in the future.

Do You Need To Waterproof Your Particle Board Cabinets?

This all depends on how likely it is to have water enter them again. If your cabinets are next to your sink, then adding a sealant just makes sense. No one wants to have to do the same repairs over and over again, and if you add sealant, then you won’t have to deal with this nuisance again.

On the other hand, if your cabinets are nowhere near water most of the time, sealant is optional. Even so, it’s often better to be safe than sorry, don’t you agree?

What Can You Do If Mold Started To Grow On Particle Board?

If your water damage is extensive enough to cause mold or mildew to grow on your cabinets, you are going to have to treat it before it becomes an even bigger hazard. Besides, eating food that was prepared near moldy cabinets is seriously unhealthy and can spark an allergic reaction.

The good news is that treating mold on particle board or pressed wood is still relatively easy and inexpensive to do. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Prior to repairing your cabinets, grab a knife and scrape any mold you see off the particle board. Your goal here is to get as much of the mold off your cabinets as possible before you treat it. If you have thicker patches, spraying it down with bleach won’t necessarily kill off all of it. Dispose of the mold in a garbage can, or vacuum it up.
  • Open a window if you can. Bleach can get pretty smelly, so you might want to get more ventilation in your workspace. If you don’t have a window, turn on your vents.
  • Use a mixture of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water to spray the area. The bleach will kill off any remaining mold and prevent it from growing back in the future. You can also use extra strength Clorox wipes to kill off the mold, if you have them on hand.
  • Let the particle board dry, then continue fixing your cabinets using the instructions outlined above. To make the drying process a little faster, you can point a fan in the affected area.

Fixing Swollen Particle Board

If your particle board is swollen due to water damage then there are some steps you can take to fix it. Replace your particle board entirely if the water has completely penetrated it. That means that it is beyond repair.

If your particle board is swollen due to water damage then there are some steps you can take to fix it. Replace your particle board entirely if the water has completely penetrated it. That means that it is beyond repair.

Simply sand the swollen particle board with 100 grit sandpaper. Apply contact cement to the spot that you flattened and let it sit for 10 minutes. Set new laminate in place to even out the particle board, secure it with c-clamps, and let it cure overnight.

How Long Does Particle Board Typically Last?

Particle board will last you anywhere from three to five years, depending on the user and how well the board is taken care of. On the other hand, solid wood cabinets have been known to last more than 30 years, also depending on the care that they receive.

So, if you have particle board that was penetrated and damaged by water, you should weigh the age factors before trying to repair it. If your board is 5 years old, then it would be a better idea to replace it instead of repair it as it’s already at the end of its life. There’s no point in playing to repair something you’re going to end up replacing so soon anyway, so you might as well just replace it now.

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Related Questions

Is particle board water-resistant?

Particle board is somewhat water-resistant, but you can help waterproof it with a waterproof sealant. Some manufacturers use wax and strong release agents to make particle board more waterproof and durable.

Can particle board cabinets be refaced?

You can reface particle board cabinets if you sand them down. Use a sand pad with 100 grit sandpaper to sand the surface before you reface it. You can repaint and seal your particle board cabinets if you sand them properly.

Does particle board have formaldehyde?

Particle board contains urea-formaldehyde glue, and it can be dangerous if it is unsealed. The level of formaldehyde present in particle board is generally safe, but it is still carcinogenic and associated with cancer at high levels. Large stocks of particle board can be dangerous if it is unsealed and left exposed.

Our Final Take

Though you might initially assume that your particle board cabinets are gone for good, this is rarely ever the case. It’s only in extreme situations that you won’t be able to fully fix your cabinetry, and even then, you can usually file a claim with your homeowners’ insurance policy to get the funding you need to replace your cabinets. So if you think about it, there’s no need to worry.

When it comes to the actual repairs, you are going to need to remove any mold you see, scrape away the damaged parts of your cabinet, fill in any holes with a wood filler, and then top it with paint. It sounds easy, because it is easy. Even a person who doesn’t consider themselves a DIY aficionado can do it.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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