Cabinetry is one of the most impactful investments you can make in your kitchen. Your cabinet layout, built-in storage, door styles, and finishes you select will hugely impact the way you use and enjoy your kitchen for many years. We have heard homeowners over the years ask us whether they should replace, refinish/repaint, or reface their kitchen cabinets, so we’re answering this question here!

Let’s break down the differences between each, the pros and cons, and how your decision will impact the rest of your kitchen remodel.

 

REPLACE, REFINISH, OR REFACE?

What is the replacing process?

Cabinet boxes are completely removed and replaced, generally within the scope of an overall kitchen renovation. New doors and drawers are installed. Interiors include full-extension dovetailed drawer boxes, rollout trays, storage items, and other accessories.  Completely transforms the look and quality of your cabinetry while achieving a major re-design for functionality and aesthetic benefit. Ensures the structure of your cabinet boxes is secure moving forward. Offers the widest variety of cabinet door designs, paints/stains, and built-in storage solutions for a seamless redesign. Modern appliances dictate the kitchen functionality and design for a more polished look.

Working with a design expert is recommended, especially if cabinet layout changes are involved. Installation should be handled by experts to ensure the integrity, look, and function of the cabinetry and surrounding materials are protected. Countertops, backsplash, and flooring are often renovated if cabinets are replaced.

What is the refinishing process?

When it comes to refinishing/repainting, there are two main approaches. Both involve removing the cabinet doors and painting them separately from the boxes. Cabinet boxes are not replaced, and the structural integrity of the box is not improved. Refinishing/repainting may seem faster, cheaper, and simpler than replacing or refacing, but unless done by a high-level professional painter, the results can be frustrating. Paint done on-site can be prone to chip, peel, bubble, or look uneven within a few weeks or months, resulting in lots of touch-up work and a less-than-professional finish. Refinishing cabinets at home can be a messy process, you will need space to paint your cabinets so they can dry unevenly and undisturbed.

You could also hire a professional painting company to paint the cabinets. Cabinet doors are sent to a facility to be spray painted in a high-tech spray booth. This is often completed by sanding or chemically stripping the existing finish from the door, and then applying a new stain or paint. The doors and drawers are reinstalled by an expert to limit damage and ensure proper alignment. 

If there is a local professional in your area who can do this, often the cost can approach that of replacement.

What is the refacing process?

Refacing should be completed by a specialized refacing company. The company will measure each of your cabinet drawers and door surfaces, so it’s best to do them all at once. Cabinet boxes are not replaced, and the structural integrity of the box remains unchanged.

New cabinet doors are built and installed based on the style and finish you select – there are a variety of options to choose from typically. Existing cabinet boxes are painted to match the new doors as closely as possible, though a veneer or panel may be used to match a stain. Existing or new hardware can be used. To ensure proper alignment and limit damage, use a professional install team.

Next, let’s break down the pros and cons of replacing, refinishing, and refacing cabinets, as well as the situations wherein they are used.

REPLACING KITCHEN CABINETS

BENEFITS:

1. Replacing your kitchen cabinets will completely transform the quality and longevity of your cabinets, inside and out. Every aspect of your cabinetry – the box, doors, trim – will be new. The color/stain will match throughout and will age together.

2. You can fully customize and overhaul your cabinetry configurations, materials, door styles, cabinet lighting, and storage upgrades. Features like decorative cabinet mesh, mirrors, glass mullions, or panels can be seamlessly integrated. You will get exactly what you want in your new cabinet design and function.

3. Removing all cabinetry provides an opportunity to address any underlying structural issues, such as deteriorating materials, water damage, or uneven floors. This ensures long-term durability and stability for you and any future owners.

4. Investing in well-crafted, custom cabinetry will add more to your home’s value than refinishing or refacing will.

5. The visual impact of completely new cabinetry is unmatched compared to refinishing or refacing.

6. Replacing cabinets is the best option if you are replacing your floors, countertops, or backsplash. What’s more, if you are working with a full design-build firm, all your materials will be procured together and any warranty issues with your new cabinets and any other materials will be taken care of by one team.

DRAWBACKS:

1. The material and labor costs to remove and replace all cabinetry will naturally be higher than only refacing or refinishing cabinet doors.

2. Removing and disposing of old cabinets is less sustainable than refinishing or refacing.

3. Ordering new cabinetry may take longer to procure, extending your project’s length. However, an experienced team will build material ordering into your project timeline and know how to handle shipping delays or damaged materials if issues arise.

4. Replacing your cabinets will likely require new countertops, backsplash, or flooring. However, we’ve worked with clients who want to keep or refinish their existing kitchen floors but get all-new cabinetry, and this can be done depending on the project’s size and scope. Ask your designer about your unique project to find the best solution.

Replacing might be for you if:

  • Your kitchen requires layout changes
  • You want to remove soffits
  • You’re planning to remodel more than just your cabinets
  • You want cabinets that are of quality construction with customized door styles or finishes
  • You need more storage in the interior of your cabinets
  • Your existing boxes are worn
  • You’d like to add cabinetry to your kitchen layout

kitchen cabinets replace

 

REFINISHING KITCHEN CABINETS

BENEFITS:

1. The existing cabinet frame, structure, and doors are reused, so it’s often less expensive than replacing or refacing. However, hiring a qualified, experienced refinisher can quickly become comparable to the cost of replacing depending on the size and scope of your cabinetry layout.

2. Refinishing can be done relatively quickly. You’ll be able to use your kitchen while the doors are removed, meaning less disruption to your daily routines.

3. Less design work is required compared to replacing, surrounding materials don’t need to be replaced.

DRAWBACKS:

1. Damaged or worn doors may not look new with a simple surface refresh. Deep scratches or dents may still be visible even after refinishing. Whether you DIY or hire a team to do it for you, refinishing cabinets is like a bandaid – it’s a temporary fix that will help short term, but it’s not a long-lasting solution.

2. Repainting your doors will not solve any design issues in your existing kitchen. You will be working with the same cabinet style and layout.

3. A proper refinishing job can be more expensive than you think. The process is very labor intensive, and an expert needs to be involved if you want a quality result.

4. Many full-service firms aren’t able to refinish cabinetry as part of your full kitchen remodel because they aren’t equipped to produce a high-quality refinishing job for your entire kitchen’s worth of cabinetry.

5. Matching your cabinet doors to a specific finish or color may be difficult with refinishing, even for an expert. Your existing door material or wood species makes a difference when refinishing.

6. Your selection of finish and color options may be limited compared to the wide range available when replacing.


Refinishing/repainting might be a viable option if:

  • Your budget prevents you from replacing your cabinets
  • You love everything about your current cabinets but want a cosmetic refresh
  • You don’t want to replace any countertops, backsplash, or flooring

REFACING KITCHEN CABINETS

BENEFITS:

1. Existing cabinet boxes don’t need to be replaced.

2. Refacing is often faster and less invasive than a full replacement.

3. Refacing generates less waste since only doors are replaced, making it more eco-friendly than a full replacement.

4. You don’t need to replace counters/backsplash.

5. Your kitchen has fresh doors and drawers.

DRAWBACKS:

1. The cost to successfully reface an entire kitchen of cabinetry often comes close to the cost of completely replacing them. Why? 75% of the expense of new cabinetry resides in the solid wood front frame, drawer boxes and hardware, and the door/drawer fronts.  The actual boxes themselves are not the major cost.  You’ll likely need a designer to consult you on your new drawer selections and hire a refacing company to complete the construction, painting, and installation for a full kitchen.

1. The interior structure of your cabinets is the same. Refacing your cabinets is not recommended if your cabinet boxes are worn, damaged, or structurally unstable. Most older cabinetry does not contain accessories such as rollouts/dovetail drawer boxes, spice racks, etc.….  Sometimes these items can be retrofitted, which increases the cost of your remodel.

2. Refacing can offer some customization for door styles and finishes, but your choices are limited compared to a full replacement.

3. While refacing can update the overall look of your kitchen, the value added to your home will be less than a full replacement since most changes to kitchen cabinetry configurations will improve the workflow of the kitchen, accommodate modern appliances, and overall increase the beauty and efficiency of the kitchen as a whole.

4. You are limited to your kitchen’s original layout and cabinet design.

5. Many full-service firms aren’t able to refinish cabinetry as part of your full kitchen remodel because they aren’t equipped to reface a full kitchen of cabinets.

Refacing might be for you if:

  • Your budget prevents you from doing a full kitchen renovation
  • You want a quick fix with a better result than repainting
  • You want to stain instead of paint
  • You don’t want to replace countertops, backsplash, or flooring

 

OTHER REMODELING RESOURCES:

As you gather ideas for your kitchen, here are a few of our most popular kitchens to help inspire you.

It’s important to know where other homeowners have struggled. To help, we’ve curated a list of the most common mistakes homeowners make when remodeling (and how to avoid them).

Learn how to maximize your kitchen’s potential without major layout changes here.

Interested in learning more about our remodeling process and chat with an expert designer? Schedule a free complimentary consultation with our design team below. We can help you bring your vision to life from design through construction.