Should You "ReFace" or "Replace" your Kitchen Cabinets?

Scratches, grease, food stains and paint chips – it is clear that your cabinets have seen better days. You are ready for an upgrade to help your kitchen feel fresh and new again. While discussing your kitchen remodel with your contractor, they ask the million dollar question…. Do you want to reface your current cabinets or completely replace them?

If you are struggling to make a choice, you are NOT alone. When approaching a kitchen remodel, this is a very common question that many clients wrestle with. The answer will vary based on the starting point of your kitchen and what your vision for your final dream space entails.

Some ideas to ponder and discuss with your family prior to making this decision include:

  • Why do you need new cabinets? Strictly aesthetics or more than that?
  • Are you in need of more storage space?
  • Are the current cabinet “boxes” still in good condition?
  • Does your kitchen need a completely different layout?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your time frame?

As you mull over your cabinetry wants and needs, let’s dive a bit further into what exactly a “reface” entails…

The Myth

Refacing cabinets tends to get a bad rap when really the process is simply misunderstood. Many people confuse refacing with refinishing. Refinishing is a different process which involves removing the existing finish, and applying a new one. Refacing cabinets is a more complex process than just adding a new stain which involves applying a new layer of wood.

Some people may think that that refaced cabinetry looks junky, cheap and mismatched – This is simply not true. When done correctly, the process of refacing can make your cabinets look just as gorgeous as brand new ones.

Let’s dive a little deeper into this process.

The Refacing Process

Step 1: Remove all old doors and drawers

You will be left with just the cabinet box.

Step 2: Sand outer surface of cabinet box

This removes grease, grime and dirt. It also creates a good surface texture for the wood veneer to adhere to.

Step 3: Cut ⅛” thick wood veneer for a custom fit

This will be used to cover all outside surfaces that were sanded. Precision is extremely important in this step. The final pieces need to fit like a perfect puzzle to allow for a seamless transition between the edges.

Step 4: Attach wood veneer to the cabinet box

The pieces are glued, pin nailed and then filled onto the cabinet face. The veneer is wrapped around the edge so nothing looks unfinished. The edge gets finished in the same stain color as the inside of the cabinet. The outer sides of the box and door get finished – including underneath. All of the seams are covered so it appears as a brand new cabinet from the outside. 

Step 5: Attach the doors and drawers

The wood can then be stained or painted to our customer’s liking. Using this method, we have the opportunity to install new doors and drawers in an updated style. Soft close features are an option that can also be added.

The PROS of Refacing

  • Much more cost effective – 50% (half the price) of new custom cabinets
  • Less intrusive to your home – Can be done with flooring and countertops still intact
  • Less time – Refacing can take a few weeks. New cabinets take a few months from start to finish, especially with a new layout.
  • Looks brand new from the outside.
  • Some flexibility with layout – We are able to move, add or remove cabinets.

The CONS of Refacing

  • The INSIDE of the cabinets are NOT altered. This means the shelving and the whole inside will look the same as when you started the project. This may be a deal breaker for some. You ARE able to refinish the shelving, but the cost starts to increase and gets closer to installing brand new cabinetry.
  • There is less flexibility for layout, size and design changes – Although refacing allows for some flexibility, huge changes are not an option. For example, if you want an upper cabinet that goes all the way to the ceiling, and you currently have a large gap there, refacing probably won’t work well for your upper cabinets.

The Verdict

Refacing is a great option for a customer that is not needing huge changes to their initial cabinetry layout. The refacing process lends itself well to customers on a tighter budget or timeframe. The ideal candidate would need their original cabinetry “boxes” to be sturdy and in good condition. Refacing can offer you quality, fresh, new-looking cabinetry for less money and time.

Replacing is a great option for someone looking to completely renovate their old kitchen and cabinetry layout. This client might want to completely rethink their kitchen with custom made, built-in cabinetry with all the “bells and whistles”. They may need more storage than their original “boxes” are able to offer or want to rethink the layout of their cabinetry for functionality and convenience purposes. This is also a good option for when the original cabinetry “boxes” are no longer in good shape or there are some major structural issues with the kitchen remodel.

Whichever you end up choosing, we believe both options will lend themselves to a beautiful kitchen remodel you will love!