Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace?

Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace?

Whether you’re planning a simple kitchen spruce-up or a complete renovation, deciding what to do about your cabinetry is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. New cabinets can account for nearly 50 percent of your total budget for a kitchen remodel. Functional cabinets can mean the difference between a kitchen that works well and one that doesn’t.

Some homeowners consider refacing rather than replacing their existing kitchen cabinets to save on cost and time. As with any home renovation project, it’s smart to look at the pros and cons of options to find the best fit for you.

Paint cans and paintbrushesThe benefits of refacing

There are three primary ways to reface cabinets:

  • Refinish or paint existing cabinet face frames, doors and drawer fronts.
  • Install new wood or laminate veneer over existing cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
  • Install completely new cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Additionally, you can choose to have the interiors of the cabinets sanded, painted or stained for a completely new look.

Fans of refacing say this mini-makeover gives a kitchen a fresh update at a significantly lower cost than the installation of new cabinets. Additionally, some homeowners consider it to be less disruptive, with shorter displacement time out of the kitchen with minimal cleanup. However, despite potential cost-savings and time management advantages, refacing has its own limitations.

The challenges of refacing

Before making the decision to reface rather than replace, you should consider several factors. Start with the “bones” of your current kitchen cabinetry:

  • Is your existing kitchen layout functional and efficient?
  • Are you considering moving walls, windows or doorways?
  • Do you plan to install new flooring, appliances or countertops?
  • Do your current cabinets function properly and include all the features you desire?

If the exterior and interior structure of your existing cabinets are in great condition – you only wish to change the look – then refacing is a practical option. However, if you’re planning to alter the floorplan in any way or remove existing flooring, countertops or appliances, refacing may be challenging, if not impossible.

Chances are, new appliances will not fit perfectly into the spots your old appliances occupied. Removing countertops can potentially damage cabinet boxes and face frames, making it difficult to install new surface material. Additionally, removing and replacing flooring requires expert care to ensure seamless transition between what is currently beneath your base cabinets and the new flooring material.

Important points to consider

Although refacing can cost less than replacing your kitchen cabinets, be careful not to rush to the assumption that it is the most economical alternative. According to online home experts The Spruce, refacing performed by an installation specialist costs around 50 percent of the cost of a new semi-custom or custom cabinet installation and about 70 to 80 percent of the cost of installing stock cabinets purchased off the shelf from home improvement centers. This cost significantly rises if the interiors of your cabinets are also sanded down and refinished.

Many homeowners who seek an easy kitchen update at a seemingly low price end up experiencing consumer remorse. The finished products are subpar, the overall costs come in higher than expected, or they regret not choosing more upgrades.

In the short-term, refacing your cabinets with a fresh exterior may be satisfying. However, you should carefully examine the advantages and disadvantages. Are there compromises you’ll be making by not updating other areas of your kitchen? Will what you dislike about your kitchen now continue to bother you for years to come?

Keep in mind that even if your original cabinets are solidly built and in good condition, refacing may not be the best option. This is especially true if your current design or layout isn’t efficient or functional.

To discuss if refacing or replacing your cabinetry is the best option for you, contact us to talk with one of our professional kitchen designers.