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Cabinet Refacing

An Easier Kitchen Upgrade

Cabinet refacing can be an easy and cost effective way to upgrade your kitchen and give it a new look. It avoids the muss and hassle of a more extensive remodel and depending on the choices you make, it can be much less expensive.

Determining if a cabinet reface is the right decision depends on several factors including the status of your existing cabinetry, your budget and what it is you want to achieve with your kitchen improvement.

Another thing to consider is that there are 'variations on a theme' when it comes to cabinet refacing. A conventional reface where doors are replaced and new veneers applied isn't the only route you can take. There are options to fit several kitchen upgrade scenarios.

What Should I Know About Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing is a process that takes your existing cabinets and refurbishes them to a like-new status. In its most common form, it involves applying a thin wood veneer over the face frames and sides of the cabinets along with replacement doors that match the new veneer. In some instances laminate is used as the veneer instead of wood. The result, if done well, ends up looking like you bought entirely new cabinets.


There are several benefits associated with cabinet refacing, not the least of which is cost. A cabinet reface can cost much less than the price of new cabinets, depending on the specific options you choose and the level of refurbishment.

cabinet refacing

Second, it's much less disruptive than a kitchen remodel that involves the replacement of the old cabinets. In many cases this level of work renders your kitchen unusable.

Removing the base cabinets means the countertops will have to come off too. A project of this scope can take weeks or months to accomplish. A cabinet reface doesn't involve this level of disruption and can be done in just a few days.

Third, it's easier on the environment. Unless you reuse your old cabinets in the garage or give them to a building salvage store, they usually end up in a landfill. By refurbishing what you already have, you're not using up additional resources to supply your kitchen with new cabinets.

When You Should & Shouldn't

So now you're familiar with why refacing your cabinets is a good idea. But that doesn't mean it's always the appropriate choice.

Refacing your cabinets makes sense when there's no need or desire on your part to change the existing kitchen and cabinet layout and the cabinets are structurally sound. Maybe the finish is worn or the doors are outdated but if your cabinets are still solid and not falling apart, refacing makes sense.

On the other hand it makes no sense to put money into cabinets that are truly falling apart or are simply on the cheap side. Cabinets that have moisture damage or that are just flimsy to begin with aren't worth the investment. You're better off putting the money into some newer, better cabinets.

Product Differences

cabinet refacing

From a product perspective not all cabinet refacing is the same, particularly as it relates to the veneers applied to the cabinet boxes. A veneer is a thin layer of wood (or other material) that's applied over the cabinet's face frame and sides. However the thickness of this veneer can vary.

Veneers can be as thin as 0.010" (about as thick as a few sheets of paper) to 1/4" thick. Both thin and thick veneers will work but their successful application depends on the skill of the person applying them. Just be aware of this difference as you shop for refacing suppliers.

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Cabinet Refacing Options & Considerations

The term "cabinet refacing" is often associated with the re-skinning of your existing cabinets with a thin veneer. But there are other options that exist for refurbishing your cabinets that don't necessarily involve the application of a new veneer.

Cabinet Restoration Options

Upgrading your existing cabinets can take several forms, each with their own cost and required level of work.

  • Full Cabinet Refacing
    The is the concept mentioned above whereby your cabinet face frames and sides are covered with a thin veneer and the cabinet doors and drawer fronts are replaced. This is typically the most expensive cabinet refurbishment option since it involves the most extensive work and labor.
  • Cabinet Re-Dooring

    cabinet doors

    Re-dooring involves replacing just the doors of your cabinets. This can still achieve a big visual change since the doors make up most of what you see.

    The challenge here is getting new doors that are a good color match with the rest of the cabinetry including the drawer fronts. It's not so much of an issue if you paint your cabinets along with the new doors.

  • Cabinet Refinishing
    Cabinet refinishing involves changing just the finish, with no door replacement or veneering. The cabinet doors are usually removed to facilitate the refinishing process. Two examples of refinishing include painting and stripping/re-staining.

    Another type of refinishing involves faux finishing and decorative painting. Special paint textures and effects are applied to the cabinets to give them a new look and feel.

  • Cabinet Reconditioning
    Cabinet reconditioning comprises a deep cleaning and possibly touch-up of the existing cabinet finish. Over time, grease, dirt and oils collect on the cabinet's finish and/or the finish coat itself wears off revealing spots of bare wood. Reconditioning refurbishes the finish so that it looks new or as close to new as possible. It's the least costly cabinet refurbishment process and is usually the quickest and least invasive.

Any of these processes can be combined too. For example, you could replace your cabinet doors and recondition the existing cabinet boxes.

The cabinet interior can also be refurbished in conjunction with any of these processes. This practice usually means cleaning the interior walls and shelves and applying white paint to these surfaces. The result is a cleaner and brighter cabinet interior making it easier to see the contents.

Additional Considerations

To help with the decision process on whether or not cabinet refurbishment is right for your situation, consider these following points:

  • Consider Who Can Best Do The Job (Including Yourself)
    Cabinet refacing and refurbishment is something that can be handled by the do-it-yourself'er. However if you're thinking about this approach, make sure you accurately assess your skills and whether you have the right tools for the job. Professionals will cost more than if you do it yourself but they do this on a day to day basis and have developed both skill and efficiency in the task.
  • Door & Veneer Choice Have A Big Impact On The Cost

    cabinet refacing

    The cabinet doors and the type of wood veneer you choose play a big role in the cost of your cabinet refurbishment. Depending on your choices they can bring the cost close to the price of new cabinets. Price out several door/wood styles from a few different sources to understand the price impact. This will help you determine if you should reconsider refacing or go with a lower-cost door and veneer option.

  • Determine What Additional Upgrades You Want
    Refacing your cabinets offers a good opportunity to inject some additional upgrades. Could you use some rollout trays and shelves? Does the interior cabinet space need brightening up? What about new cabinet knobs and pulls, new door hinges or self-closing drawer slides? Obviously additional bells and whistles will increase the cost but it's a good time to put them in place. They'll provide some additional functionality in addition to the upgrade in aesthetics.
  • Consider An Open Shelving Arrangment

    kitchen cabinets

    Going with an open-shelf cabinet arrangement (no doors) can defray the overall refurbishment cost because you won't need to buy new doors. However this is a definite style change and the interior of your cabinets might need sprucing up. Despite it's somewhat unconventional style however it might be a unique option, perhaps in a more casual type of kitchen.

  • Do You Want Additional Cabinets?
    If your kitchen has the room you might also want to consider adding some additional cabinets. Some refacing companies can install new cabinets in addition to refacing your existing ones, matching the color and style of the old and new.
  • Understand What You're Comparing (Refacing vs. New)
    If you're comparing costs and value between new and refaced cabinets make sure you understand what you're getting with both.

    In other words, new but cheap (lower quality) cabinets are not comparable to a professional refacing using high quality wood doors, thick veneers and quality installation and finish. This is particularly true if you have very solid cabinets to begin with. Refacing thick 3/4" plywood cabinets will probably net you a better product in the end as compared with buying new but cheaper 1/2" particle board cabinets.

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Cabinet Refacing Cost

Determining the cost of cabinet refacing isn't a precise exercise and understandably so; it's a function of the size of your kitchen, the number of cabinets and the choices you make for refurbishment options.

If you search the web for information on refacing prices what you'll find are cost ranges, percentages of total kitchen renovations, average expenditures and numbers representing savings over the price of new cabinets.

It's virtually impossible to publish precise cost information because there are just too many variables involves.

To give you some feel for the kind of information you'll come across, here are some quotes from various articles and cabinet refacing companies across the web:

"1/3 the cost of cabinet replacement"

"$1000 to $9000 depending on laminate, thermofoil or wood veneer"

"about 50% of the cost of custom cabinet installation"

"$2500 to $15,000, depending on materials, etc."

"30%-50% less than replacing existing cabinets of comparable quality"

"ranges from $125 to $325 per linear foot"

"typical jobs average between $4900 to $8900"

"as low as $3000 up to $10,000"

At best, the information above will give you a rough, ballpark feel for what you might expect to pay for cabinet refacing. You can probably make some crude assessments based on whether you're planning on a simple, low end upgrade or a full-blown, high quality refacing.

Clearly, the best way to determine cabinet refacing cost is to get several estimates after you've planned exactly what it is you want.

The more specific you can be with your plan, the better apples-to-apples comparison you'll have when you compare quotes. In other words, give the same specifications to all the bidders.

Also, if you're considering doing the upgrade yourself, don't forget to factor in the cost of materials, any required tooling you might have to buy or rent as well as your time. A cabinet refacing professional can be in and out of your house in several days. If you do the job, understand what sort of time commitment it'll take and how long your cabinets and kitchen will be disrupted. A realistic assessment of those intangibles will help you in your bid comparison.

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Finding Cabinet Refurbishment Sources

Cabinet refacing has developed into its own niche industry as an established and effective alternative to full kitchen remodeling. As a result, there are plenty of sources for cabinet refurbishment. Having a clear plan on the level of restoration you want will help narrow down your available options (see the information above about cabinet refurbishment choices).

To start with, there are companies that specialize in cabinet refacing and kitchen upgrades. Some are regional companies like Kitchen Magic, located in the northeast U.S., while others are franchise operations, like Kitchen Tune-Up, that cover all of the U.S. and Canada.

If you need help finding a cabinet source in your local area you can use the locator widget below to get a free quote on local sources for cabinet refurbishment.

Other sources for wood cabinet restoration include service companies like N-Hance and Furniture Medic. Both are franchise operations that cater to wood restoration including furniture, wood floors and cabinetry.

Faux painting services may be a little harder to find depending on your location but a local internet search is your best bet. Search for "faux painting" or "decorative painting" plus your city or zip code in a search engine.

One final option is to do it yourself. Again, make sure you're up to the task and have the right tools and equipment. For help in that department, you can check out sources of cabinet refacing supplies like ReFaceDepot.com. They offer a range of products geared specifically for refacing and restoring cabinets including doors, hardware, tools and veneers.

Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Kitchen Cabinet Replacement Doors - If you need to replace your cabinet doors take a look at this article on what the process entails and where to find sources.

Kitchen Cabinet Knobs And Pulls - Refacing your cabinets usually goes hand in hand with replacing the knobs too. This article shows you that there's a bit more to choosing cabinet knobs than just finding what looks good.

Kitchen Cabinet Hinges - If you have to replace your cabinet hinges find out what types are available along with what they offer in the way of looks and convenience.

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