Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Self-stick veneer: affordable cabinet door makeover

by Shannon Lee
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Depending upon your experiences with wood veneer, you might be in one of two camps of thought. The first side tends to see veneer as an inlaid masterpiece, a way of decorating mere wood into something more. But there is another side that sees veneer as a cheap, unreliable alternative to the "real thing."

The truth is that good, high-quality veneer can look wonderful on your kitchen cabinets. The trick lies in choosing the right self-adhesive covering, and then taking your time with meticulous installation to ensure a beautiful finish.

What to expect from wood veneer

Today's wood veneer comes in a wide variety of colors, grains and thicknesses. A veneer of 1/16-inch thick used to be the standard but is now considered very thick; thinner veneer can be 1/40-inch or 1/90-inch thick. You can choose anything from exotic woods with a hefty price tag to lower-priced versions that fit in with even the tightest budgets.

Veneers come in many different cuts. There is the rotary cut, which results in a variable grain pattern that might be difficult to match. The "plain" cut produces several different pieces of veneer that have the same pattern, a look that is well-suited to kitchen cabinets. Other potential cuts include quarter slicing, half-round slicing and rift slicing. Each creates unique patterns that can look great on your kitchen cabinets, but some cuts are more expensive than others.

A self-adhesive covering is often pressure-sensitive, so that simply pressing firmly on the veneer can be enough to anchor it in place on your cabinet doors. Sometimes called "peel and stick" -- or the more industry-appropriate "contact cement" veneer -- this allows you to move and reposition the veneer until you are happy with the placement, then apply pressure in order to seal the wood and veneer together. If you aren't very familiar with veneer, this is likely your easiest option.

What should you expect to pay?

Some veneers are much cheaper than others. A do-it-yourself cabinet project can run between $200 and $500 for materials, and another $5 to $60 for the basic tools. Rigid thermofoil, or RTF, is considered one of the cheapest veneers, while real wood veneers can cost up to 25 percent more. Don't forget new knobs and hinges to complete the look; these can cost anywhere between $2 to $4 for the cheapest options and up to $50 for luxury items.

If you choose to let someone else handle the work, you might expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for RTF or laminate cabinet doors. Real wood veneer can cost between $2,500 and $6,000, and the highest quality veneers might run from $7,000 to $9,000 or more.

Whether you choose to apply veneer yourself or hire a contractor, you might be impressed by the wide variety of veneer options out there. If you're not sure where to begin, our pre-screened contractors can advise you on which veneers might fit best with your kitchen design and give you quotes on having the work done professionally.

About the Author
Shannon Lee has written professionally for two decades on a wide variety of topics, including medical and health issues, home repair, education and relationships.

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