Everyone understands what replacing kitchen cabinets means: tearing out the existing cabinets, installing new ones, and usually spending a lot of money. On the other hand, a lot less people know or understand what refacing means.
Refacing is when the cabinet frames are left in place and covered with a layer of wood or laminate called a veneer, and the doors and hardware are replaced to match the veneer. As opposed to replacing, refacing your kitchen cabinets can save you thousands while still giving you the look of a brand new kitchen.
You’ve Got Options
There are tons of options in doors and veneers to choose from, giving you a wide variety of looks to go with. The most expensive material for both cabinet doors and veneers will be real wood, which you can get in oak, cherry, or maple, as well as plenty of stained wood color options. If you do go with real wood, you’ll need to make sure that it is well sealed to keep moisture out.
For a less expensive option, you can use durable and moisture resistant plastic laminates, which are available in hundreds of different colors and patterns. Still less expensive is RTF, or rigid thermofoil, which is fiberboard covered with a durable plastic coating. Plastic laminates are the most popular option and are relatively affordable, but you can choose to go up or down in price from there.
More than skin deep
Refacing doesn’t have to be just the exterior of your cabinets. Interiors can be refaced and upgraded as well. You’d be surprised by how dramatically kitchen styles can change with careful choice of door style and the addition of trim. If your refacing company has a cabinet workshop, you can supplement your cost-saving refacing plan with repairs and/or new cabinets.
The Before and After gallery has great examples of what refacing can do.
Huge differences in utility can be made with the addition of storage optimizers as well. You will want to check with your contractor to see if storage upgrades are offered with their refacing services.
Replace or Reface?
This comes down to two things: personal preference and how much you want to spend. There are really very few cons to cabinet refacing, and the savings can be as much as a third of the cost of replacing. If your kitchen is designed poorly to start with, refacing will leave you with a better looking version of a still badly designed kitchen, whereas replacing gives you options for starting from square one again. And if you decide to go with exotic woods or veneers for your refacing then your savings will be cut considerably. Otherwise, refacing is generally the preferable option.
As long as your kitchen cabinets are in good condition, refacing is possible. But if they are warped, water damaged, or otherwise falling apart, you should face the reality that those need to be replaced. Some companies can repair or replace cabinetry while refacing the others, so be sure to ask!
Go Pro or DIY
If you’re the DIY king or queen and have no problem taking the necessary time to get the details right, you can do your own kitchen cabinet refacing and possibly get away with spending less. When you compare the cost of doing it yourself with hiring a professional, it can be very tempting to pull up Youtube and start searching how-to videos. Just remember that if you’re not that handy, you may end up spending more than you would have in the end, when you have to hire someone to fix your mistakes and reface your cabinets.
All in all, refacing generally has less hassle, is less expensive, and takes less time than replacing all of your kitchen cabinets, plus there’s the added bonus that you can still use your kitchen pretty much unfettered while the process is going on.