Kitchen Cabinet Refacing: Make Sense for Your Kitchen?

Are you dreaming of a new kitchen, but losing sleep over the costs associated with buying and installing brand new cabinets? Well, you can rest easy, for there’s another option: cabinet refacing.  Kitchen cabinet refacing provides a quick and affordable way to completely transform the look of a kitchen without replacing a single cabinet. Refacing consists of installing all new cabinet doors and drawer fronts, but leaving the existing cabinets and drawer boxes intact. The face frames of the cabinets and any exposed ends are veneered or painted to match the finish on the new doors and drawer fronts. All the old knobs, pulls and hinges are replaced as well.

As you can imagine, cabinet refacing is a whole lot quicker and neater than ripping out your old cabinets and installing new ones. If you are ordering custom-made doors and drawers, you’ll need to allow a few weeks of manufacturing time beforehand. But while it usually takes six to eight days to replace cabinets in the average-size kitchen, installation for refacing only takes about three to five days. Plus, you can reface the cabinets without disturbing your existing countertops. However, not every kitchen is a candidate for refacing. Here’s how to determine if it’s a viable option for your kitchen.

How to Evaluate Your Kitchen for Cabinet Refacing

The great thing about cabinet refacing is that it doesn’t matter how outdated, dingy or dilapidated the doors and drawer fronts are. What’s important is that the cabinets themselves, along with the drawer boxes, are in sound condition and good working order.

Start by inspecting the inside of each cabinet to ensure there aren’t any obvious signs of structural damage, such as cracked side panels or loose bottoms. Gently poke around inside the cabinet with an awl or similar tool. If you discover any soft, spongy areas, that could be an indication of wood rot or water damage.
Be sure that the upper cabinets are securely fastened to the walls and each other.
Check base cabinets for water damage, too, especially under the sink. The bottom of the cabinets should be firm and flat, not warped, sagging or dislodged.
The face frames, if any, must be firmly attached to the cabinets, and their edges and corners should be smooth and flat. Small cracks and holes can be filled with wood putty, but face frames that are split in two must be replaced.
Make sure that all shelves are securely attached and not cracked, loose or warped.

With cabinet refacing, you gain new doors, drawers, hardware, slides and glides without having to uproot your whole kitchen. You can also choose to add new countertops or a backsplash during the refacing process.

What’s the Difference: Kitchen Cabinet Refacing vs. Refinishing

Don’t confuse cabinet refacing with cabinet refinishing. While the terms are sometimes used synonymously, they have two separate meanings. As mentioned earlier, refacing includes the installation of brand new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. With cabinet refinishing, the old doors and drawer fronts are removed, refinished and reinstalled. Refinishing is a good option if you just want to freshen up the new look of the cabinets, but to completely transform your kitchen, consider refacing instead.

The Cabinet Refacing Process
kitchen cabinet hinges, cabinet refacingCabinet refacing includes the installation of all new hardware, including door hinges, and pulls and knobs for all doors and drawers.

Once you’ve determined that cabinet refacing is a viable option for your kitchen, you must decide whether to tackle the job yourself or hire a professional cabinet refacing contractor.

If you choose the DIY approach, start by measuring carefully to ensure that the new components will precisely fit the existing cabinets. You can order custom-made doors to fit your measurements, or  buy prefinished, ready-to-install doors and drawer fronts. You’ll also need to purchase veneer and plywood for covering the face frames and exposed cabinet ends. You’ll also have to purchase all the necessary hardware, such as hinges, pulls and knobs. This is a large, time-consuming project to take on yourself, so consider this approach only if you’re an experienced DIYer.

While it may cost a bit more to hire a professional contractor for your kitchen cabinet refacing project than to do the work yourself, the upside is that the installation will be done faster and neater, and the quality of the work will be guaranteed by licensed professionals.

To find a suitable contractor, you could visit the kitchen showroom at a local home improvement center or schedule an in-home consultation, usually free of charge. A sales associate will explain the installation process and help you choose your new cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware.

Next, a professional will measure your kitchen cabinets, order the correct size and number of doors and drawer fronts, and schedule an installation date.

When the contractor arrives, he or she will start by removing all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. The cabinet surfaces will then be prepped and the face frames veneered. Plywood panels will be attached to any exposed cabinet ends. The new doors and drawer fronts will be installed along with all new hinges, knobs and pulls. The contractor will then haul away debris and clean up the kitchen.

Therein lies the biggest benefit of cabinet refacing: Your dream kitchen can become a reality in just a few short days!

Editors Note: Joseph Truini is a carpenter with many years of experience advising homeowners on kitchen cabinets and other home storage solutions. He shares his expertise online for The Home Depot. To research cabinet refacing options, including those discussed by Joseph, you can visit The Home Depot’s website.

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