Should I Refinish, Reface or Replace My Kitchen Cabinets?

The answer to this very important question depends on many things. Some of us are limited in what financial restraints we have to live within. Others are free to make the decision based on other factors such as the personal reward and satisfaction gained from doing their kitchen cabinet redo themselves.

Everyone’s available budget will be as varied as the priority level different people place on aesthetics and the long-term view of improved home values. So, figuring out your budget has to be above all other considerations. Again that will be determined in part by prioritizing your family’s wants, needs and financial resources.

Another consideration is time. In today’s society, this seems to be the biggest inhibitor of getting things done. Refinishing takes less time than re-facing. Replacement takes the most time but as this site is geared to do-it-yourselfers, there is an assumption that only a small minority of readers have the required experience and skill level to do an excellent job the first time. So in the case of total cabinet replacement, the time commitment would be zero because in most cases an expert would be hired for the job. However this will cost a great deal of money.

Another consideration of course is the condition of the existing cabinets and the style and standard of decor desired for the kitchen. If the style is nice, then refinishing with paint or stain may be all that is required. This is the least expensive and least time-consuming option. If cabinets are old and your family wants the most current styles (or if you are getting your house ready for sale) then consider re-facing, even if the old cabinets are in good condition. If the style or design is dated, then that alone could be enough reason to re-face.

Look hard at the cabinets you have. Would the lesser process of refinishing do a terrific job of updating the style. A trip to Lowes or Home Depot or a cabinet shop can help you decide if your cabinets are classic or enough in style for an update through refinishing or whether it would be a waste of your time.

Another important consideration is the craftsmanship and type of wood used in the existing cabinets. Pine is lesser quality than hardwood. It can look great but is not as dense, and therefore not as durable as hardwood. Having old pine cabinets will add justification to a decision that re-facing or even replacing the cabinetry would be best.

Cabinets made of highly desirable hardwood like oak in one sense never go out of style. Most homeowners will do well if they choose to refurbish high-quality hardwood cabinets that have a kind of timeless style to them, rather than choose the other options.

These days, modernizing a kitchen may be as simple as adding a few new touches that give your existing cabinets furniture-like features. For instance, you can add molding at the top of your existing cabinets and other pieces of trim at corners or carved feet at the base of cabinet sections and change finishes between sections.

If your cabinets are in poor condition, then replacement may be the only option. You can save costs by purchasing ready-to-assemble cabinets. They are shipped to your home in flat boxes and you assemble them. This is an inexpensive option, but these kits sometimes do not have the quality that many people would prefer. A high skill level is also required in order to do a good job with the ready-to-assemble kits.

Another option is to build the cabinet boxes, better known as carcasses, yourself. Then purchase the doors from a building center. This does require a relatively high skill level.

Whatever options you choose, there is one thing above all to watch out for. No matter how much money it will save, you should never get cabinets made entirely of particleboard or any similar material. It won’t pass the test of time and appraisers will knock extra points off the value of your house. Potential buyers certainly will think that if you’re willing to cut corners on the visible areas, then you’ve probably done it on the less visible parts of the house.

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