Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Kitchen makeover: tips and tales from real homeowners

by Gina Pogol
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Pros offer many tips for upgrading a kitchen, but sometimes the best advice comes from regular folks in the trenches. These homeowners have stepped up to offer advice that pros might not think to give.

Waste not

While your kitchen may require updating every 15 years, kitchen cabinets last about 50 years, says the National Association of Homebuilders, or NAHB. Replacing kitchen cabinets every time you replace appliances and counter tops is throwing money away. Pam Guyer of HIPP Moms remodeled her three-year-old kitchen to make her home easier to sell. "I re-purposed some of the cabinetry and created a designer kitchen. This project helped us sell our house and increased the value; this was right before the market dropped!" Reusing existing cabinetry is key to containing remodeling costs. Kitchen cabinet refacing costs are considerably cheaper than replacing cabinets, and refacing makes sense, especially if your existing cabinets are well-made and still have plenty of good years ahead of them.

Messed for success

Jackie Barry bought a century-old home in Olympia, Wash., and began renovating it. "I moved out of my kitchen and back room. I cooked in a microwave, an electric frying pan and on a barbecue grill for six months or so. I even baked a cake on the grill. When expecting a visitor from my company, I forgot to tell her that my porch contained a lawnmower, weed-eater, shovels, planting supplies, brooms, a grill, etc. etc. etc. She called me from her car in front of my house. 'Jackie, I'm at the address you gave me. I don't think this can be the place.' The trashy home of an association executive director. Gotta love it." If your sanity can't withstand six months of sawdust, minimize the mess by refacing your cabinets instead. Not only does kitchen cabinet refacing cost less, it's faster and involves much less mess.

All buck, no bang

Kitchen cabinetry accounts for about half the cost of a full kitchen remodel, and custom cupboards are a big reason these jobs average about $60,000. But even if you can spend $60,000, should you? Remodeling Magazine's famous cost-benefit analysis concludes that lower-cost renovations net homeowners a much better return on their investment.

Want more for your money?

  1. Try DIY: repaint or refinish the cabinetry yourself. Cost? A few hundred dollars and a couple weekends.
  2. Reface, if you can. Cabinet refacing costs are less than half that of a complete installation and the results are indistinguishable from new cabinetry. According to Homewyse's cost estimator, cabinet refacing costs between $141 and $209 per linear foot (average kitchens have about 30 feet), while replacement runs between $406 and $526.
  3. Cabinets beyond wrecked? Save with RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinetry from retailers like IKEA, or pre-finished stock cabinetry options--Millennial Living recommends Home Depot's Distinctions line and Lowe's unfinished cabinetry. They cost on average $50 to $200 per linear foot, plus labor for tear-out and installation ($1,500 to $4,500).

Saving with style

Millennial Living says stock cabinets don't have to look cheap. "Dress them up with some nice cabinet knobs and pulls and most people won't know the difference." Pam Guyer explains how she paid less without getting less. "Cabinets are medium quality; we added woodwork to the ceiling to make it look like custom cabinetry." According to the NAHB, the life expectancy of the average kitchen remodel is about 15 years. You'll want to spend those years enjoying your kitchen renovation, not paying for it.

About the Author

Gina Pogol has been writing about mortgage and finance since 1994. In addition to a decade in mortgage lending, she has worked as a business credit systems consultant for Experian and as an accountant for Deloitte. She graduated with High Distinction from the University of Nevada with a BS in Financial Management.

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