Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Refinishing or refacing cabinets: which is right for your kitchen?

by Jeffrey Anderson
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Giving your existing cabinets a face-lift can be a good way to give your kitchen a fresh look without spending a bundle, but which method might be best for your situation and budget? Refacing and refinishing both use your original cabinet boxes and can result in the faces looking brand new, but that's pretty much where the similarities end for these two kitchen makeover procedures. Which method is best for you can depend on your DIY skills, time frame, or the type of contractors that are available in your area.

Refacing and refinishing kitchen cabinets: what are the differences?

The primary difference when refinishing kitchen cabinets is that all the primary components of your existing cabinets are being used over again -- you are just giving them a new look in much the same fashion as repainting a room. In most cases the old finish is removed from the faces, doors, and any exposed sides of your cabinets and new stain and sealant is applied. Or you can choose to go with a painted finish over the natural wood. Many homeowners elect to upgrade their cabinet hardware to complete the transformation.

Refacing cabinets involves applying a new veneer over the faces and exposed sides of your existing units and installing new doors and drawer fronts. Which is the best method for your kitchen can depend on these considerations:

  1. Skill level. If you are planning a DIY project, many homeowners are more comfortable working with stains or paint than applying new veneers. It may also be easier to find a painting contractor in your area who has experience in refinishing kitchen cabinets than a skilled refacing contractor.
  2. Time. Refacing cabinets normally can be done in several days depending on the size of the kitchen, but refinishing can stretch into weeks -- especially when doing the task in your spare time.
  3. Cost. This can vary depending on the new doors and veneer type you choose, but when hiring a contractor for the project, refacing is often less expensive than refinishing due to labor costs.
  4. Style. Refacing kitchen cabinets allows you to completely change the style of the room -- casual oak doors with a shaker design can be replaced with elegant cathedral doors in a cherry finish and when combined with new veneer, may give your old country kitchen a more formal look.

Whichever makeover method you choose, reusing your existing cabinet boxes and giving the exteriors a face-lift can be a great way to give your kitchen a fresh look on a limited budget.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.

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