Is It a Good Idea to Reface Your Kitchen Cabinets?

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Take a look at your kitchen cabinets. Are you satisfied with them? Chances are, unless they were installed within the last decade or two, they may look worn, out of place with the rest of your house, or otherwise less impressive than you’d like them to. You always have the option to remodel your kitchen, but a full kitchen overhaul can cost you $22,000 or more—which is out of budget for the majority of American homeowners, especially if your cabinets are the biggest eyesore in your kitchen.

Fortunately, there’s a cost-effective way to improve the appearance of your cabinets without that significant an investment: refacing your cabinetry.

How Cabinet Refacing Works

Kitchen cabinet refacing is not the same as cabinet replacement. With a cabinet replacement, you’ll hire a contractor to fully remove your old cabinets and install entirely new ones—which can easily cost more than $10,000. In refacing, you’ll choose a new type of kitchen cabinet finish to apply to your existing cabinets, such as painted, varnished, or UV-coated finishes.

The process is relatively simple. Generally, you’ll hire a contractor for this type of job. You’ll cover the existing kitchen cabinets with a new veneer—which is a thin surface—of wood, thermofoil, or laminate, all of which will be the same materials you find in new cabinets. Depending on the nature of the job, most contractors will replace cabinet doors, drawer boxes, and drawer faces as well. The end result is that the cabinets look new—without the need to fully replace the cabinets from scratch.

Depending on the specifics of the job (including the finish you select), this can cost you a few thousand dollars.

Advantages

There are a number of advantages to refacing your kitchen cabinets:

  • Lower costs. The first and most obvious benefit is a much lower cost. You won’t spend as much as you would on a full-scale cabinet replacement, and you’ll spend far less than you would on a kitchen remodel. Generally, cabinet refacing costs less than half of cabinet replacement—sometimes only a third as much.
  • Green living. Refacing your kitchen cabinets is also a greener option than fully replacing them. This option keeps your cabinets in your kitchen, rather than sending them to a landfill.
  • Speed. Fully replacing your kitchen cabinets is intensive work. Even if you can afford the job, it’s probably going to take at least six weeks for your contractors to complete it. That means your kitchen will be largely unavailable during this time. Kitchen cabinet refacing, on the other hand, can be done in the span of a week—sometimes even just a few days.

Disadvantages

However, there are also a handful of disadvantages:

  • Unsatisfying finished look. The look of the finished product depends on the choices you make throughout this process. Your choice of finish is the most obvious factor here, but don’t forget—different contractors will be using different materials and different approaches. Make sure you read reviews and talk to former customers to ensure you’re working with a high-quality contracting professional.
  • Issues with poorly designed kitchens. Kitchen cabinet refacing will help your cabinets look new, but it won’t change anything about how your cabinets are laid out. If your kitchen is poorly designed, refacing the cabinets won’t magically transform it into a new design. It can only add a new layer of aesthetic design to your existing layout.
  • Relying on cabinets as the focal point. If the rest of your kitchen leaves something to be desired, a new set of cabinets may not be enough to overcome your other design challenges.

The Bottom Line

Is kitchen cabinet refacing right for you?

If you’re looking for a cost-efficient way to spruce up your kitchen, and your cabinets are one of the biggest aesthetic problems you face, kitchen cabinet refacing may be in your best interest. However, if there’s a problem with the functionality of your cabinets, or if there are persistent kitchen design problems you need to address, a full-scale replacement or kitchen remodel may be a better investment.

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