Refacing your old kitchen cabinets can give your kitchen a whole new look for a fraction of the cost of installing brand new cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers, and exterior surfaces of your existing cabinets with new materials and hardware. This update can transform dated or worn cabinets into a modern, stylish kitchen while avoiding the expense and hassle of a full kitchen remodel. Here is an in-depth guide on how to reface kitchen cabinets to make them look like new again.
Assess Your Existing Cabinets
The first step is to take a close look at your current kitchen cabinets to determine if they are good candidates for refacing. Ideal cabinets for refacing have structurally sound frames and boxes that are not damaged or warped. Look inside the cabinets and inspect the sides, top and bottom rails, face frames, and shelves. Check for signs of excessive wear, rotting, splitting wood, peeling laminate, or damage. If the internal structure is still sturdy, then refacing can give worn exterior surfaces a fresh new look.
If the cabinet boxes are structurally unsound, have moisture damage, or are warped or split, it is best to replace them fully instead of refacing. Refacing cannot fix fundamental construction issues. You also want to ensure existing cabinet layouts work efficiently for your kitchen space. If the current configuration does not function well, refacing may not be the best option.
Carefully examine every interior and exterior surface of each cabinet to determine their structural soundness. Refacing can only upgrade what is visually facing outwards. Make notes on any problem areas or deficiencies found during the inspection. This will help determine if refacing is viable or replacement makes more sense.
Choose New Facing Materials
Once existing cabinets are deemed suitable candidates for refacing, the next step is selecting your new exterior surface materials. There are many options available to fit all design tastes and budget levels.
Types of Refacing Materials:
- Wood veneers – Real wood veneer comes in many stainable and paintable species like oak, cherry, maple, and hickory. Veneer provides an authentic wood look at an affordable cost.
- Engineered wood – Engineered wood doors and drawer frontsoffer consistency in grain, texture, and color. Materials like MDF and veneer overlay are very cost-effective.
- Laminate – Formica and other laminates provide a wide range of solid colors and realistic faux woodgrain patterns. Laminate is easy to clean and maintain.
- Thermofoil – This is a furniture-grade vinyl that covers a medium density fiberboard core. Available in many colors and realistic woodgrain patterns.
- Stained or painted – Existing cabinet boxes can be painted, stained, or re-lacquered in a new color. The possibilities are endless.
Take color scheme, style, and budget into consideration when selecting your new exterior finish. Darker, richer colors tend to hide flaws better than light neutrals. Matte finishes minimize the appearance of surface damage. Smooth glossy finishes show more defects.
Which Finish is Best?
Pros and Cons of Different Refacing Materials:
- Wood Veneers – Natural beauty of wood with lower cost than solid wood. Requires proper sealing and some maintenance.
- Engineered Wood – Very affordable, many patterns/colors available. Won’t warp or crack over time.
- Laminates – Inexpensive, huge range of options. Tends to show scratches and can peel over time.
- Thermofoils – Very durable and easy to clean finish. Not easily repairable if damaged.
- Painted Finishes – Relatively affordable, unlimited color choices. Requires prep work and re-painting over time.
Get cabinet door samples from home improvement stores to view options in person. Many companies also offer free samples to help you select your materials.
Refacing Process Step-By-Step
Once you have determined existing cabinets are structurally sound and selected new facing materials, the refacing work can begin. This is a good project for an experienced DIYer, but can also be completed by a professional refacing contractor. Here is the basic process:
Remove Existing Doors and Drawer Fronts
Carefully detach each cabinet door by removing hinges and sliding drawer fronts off tracks or unscrewing them. Set hardware pieces aside for potential reuse or replacement. Remove all doors and drawers and label them with painter’s tape by cabinet for easy re-installation.
Sand Cabinet Boxes (Optional)
If your cabinet boxes will be receiving a new painted finish, now is the time to sand them with 120-180 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface for painting. Clean with a tack cloth after sanding to remove dust.
Fill Any Holes
Examine the cabinet frames and use wood filler to patch any holes, cracks, or flaws. Once dry, sand smooth. This helps create an even finish surface.
Prime and Paint Boxes
For painted cabinet boxes, apply a high-quality bonding primer in 1-2 coats, sanding lightly between coats. Follow by painting 1-2 finish coats in your selected cabinet color, allowing proper dry time between coats.
Install New Doors, Drawer Fronts & Hardware
Once painted cabinet boxes are thoroughly dry, you are ready to install the new exterior refacing components. Attach new doors, drawer fronts, and hardware using the existing hinges and screw holes whenever possible.
Refinish or Stain Wood Veneer
For stain-grade wood veneers, apply a few thin coats of clear wood finish, lightly sanding between each. For stained wood, use a wood conditioner first for even absorption. Then apply wood stain and seal with a polyurethane finish.
Adhere new coordinating molding or trim pieces around the cabinet tops, bottoms, and face frames using caulking and finish nails. This gives a built-in custom look.
Update Other Surfaces
Consider refacing further surfaces like soffits, island side panels, or pot shelves to extend the new look. Use matching materials and finishes to create a cohesive appearance.
DIY vs Professional Refacing
Refacing kitchen cabinets is a project that either a skilled DIYer or contractor can tackle. Here are some pros and cons of each approach:
- Significant cost savings
- Customize to your preferences
- Enjoy personal accomplishment
- Inexperience can lead to mistakes
- Physically demanding
- Time consuming
- Need to buy tools and materials
- Experts handle all work
- Warranties on labor & materials
- Efficient installation
- Licensed and insured
- Higher project cost
- Wait times for availability
- Less control over details
Assess your skill level and budget to decide if DIY or professional help is the best fit. Some homeowners DIY the demo work, then hire a pro for installing the new materials for the best of both worlds.
Cost to Reface Kitchen Cabinets
The cost to reface your kitchen cabinets can vary based on factors like location, materials used, and DIY vs. professional refacing. Here are some typical price ranges:
- DIY Refacing Labor – $2000-$4000
- Contractor Refacing Labor – $4000-$8000
- New Door/Drawer replacements – $100-$500 per opening
- New Refacing Materials – $5000+ for average 10×10 kitchen
- Other costs – Hardware, tools, primer, paint
Replacing just the doors and drawer fronts provides the simplest and most affordable transformation. Refacing all visible surfaces bumps costs up but gives a unified, built-in appearance. The quality of materials selected impacts prices as well. Refacing with real wood veneers costs more than engineered woods or laminates. Light DIY refacing can save thousands over hiring out an extensive contractor renovation.
In general, expect to invest 10-50% of the cost of brand new custom cabinetry. Refacing provides cost savings of 40% or more over cabinet replacement.
Should I Reface or Replace Kitchen Cabinets?
How do you know whether refacing or replacing makes more sense for your kitchen? Here are some key factors to consider:
When to Reface:
- Sturdy, structurally sound frames
- Satisfied with layout/footprint
- Want to retain kitchen footprint
- Prefer an updated look on a budget
- Existing utilities should stay in place
- Limited time for a renovation
When to Replace:
- Cabinet boxes are damaged or warped
- Need to alter kitchen footprint or layout
- Dislike current finishes and materials
- Want significantly more storage space
- Willing to take on a longer renovation
- Budget allows for new custom cabinetry
Unless the cabinet boxes themselves are structurally compromised or the layout needs change, refacing is typically the more sensible, cost-effective route to breathe new life into worn kitchens.
Refacing Tips & Ideas
Here are some extra tips and creative ideas to make your kitchen cabinet refacing project a success:
- Incorporate glass doors to open up dark corner cabinets or highlight dish collections.
- Swap boxy doors for recessed panel styles to add depth and dimension.
- Consider two contrasting colors for upper and lower cabinets for a striking look.
- Upgrade hardware to knobs and pulls in matte black, brass, or nickel finishes.
- Install functional extras like roll-out trays, spice racks, or tilt-out storage in lower cabinets.
- Add accent lighting inside glass cabinets or under upper rails to beautifully illuminate tasks.
With strategic upgrades like new recessed panel doors, accent colors, and latest hardware trends, refacing offers an affordable kitchen update that looks amazingly custom.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about refacing kitchen cabinets:
Does refacing kitchen cabinets update their appearance?
Yes, refacing is an excellent way to update the look of your kitchen cabinets both aesthetically and functionally without undertaking a full replacement. Refacing provides a modern facelift.
Is it worth it to reface kitchen cabinets?
In most cases, yes. If your cabinet boxes and layouts are structurally sound, refacing offers a budget-friendly way to give your kitchen a fresh new look for a fraction of the cost of new cabinets.
Do you have to redo the kitchen when refacing cabinets?
Replacing cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware allows you to reface without needing to redo entire kitchen. Some supplemental cosmetic upgrades like adding new backsplashes, countertops or sinks can complement your new cabinet refacing.
Can you mix and match cabinet styles when refacing?
Yes! Refacing actually offers wonderful flexibility to get creative with different cabinet styles and finishes. You can reface upper and lower cabinets in different colors, mix stained wood and painted finishes, or integrate new doors with glass fronts just on select cabinets.
Should I go with DIY or professional for a refacing project?
Assess your DIY skills and willingness to take on this project independently. Refacing has lower complexity than full cabinetry installation. If unfamiliar, having professional refacing services may yield you better results.
Achieve a Barndominium Kitchen Look by Refacing
The barndominium home trend pairs industrial metal building materials with warm, rustic finishes. You can give your kitchen a modern farmhouse barndo vibe through refacing with reclaimed wood and metal accents. Here are some tips:
Mix natural and industrial
Combine refaced cabinets with exposed timber beams, and metal finishes on fixtures or hardware for an on-trend mixed material look.
Incorporate reclaimed wood
Use antique reclaimed wood panels or siding to reface existing cabinet doors and drawer fronts for imperfect, rustic textures.
Add black steel hardware
Matte black hardware like cup pulls, handles, and hinges adds striking industrial edge against wood refacing.
Paint accents bold black or white
Use crisp white or bold black color on one set of upper or lower cabinets to contrast natural wood refacing.
Add galvanized metal backsplash
A galvanized metal backsplash introduces factory flair while also being waterproof and protective behind sinks and ranges.
Floating shelves from black pipe and reclaimed wood boards provide perfect barndo inspired open storage.
Blending natural and industrial elements through inventive refacing allows you to gain a modern rustic style without demolition or new cabinet costs.
Refresh a Dark Oak Kitchen with Refacing
Dated oak kitchens tend to have bulky, ornate carved cabinetry that makes spaces feel dark and heavy. Refacing can provide an easy makeover:
Paint boxes and panels
Cover existing oak cabinet boxes and soffits in a light, soft white or greige paint. This instantly brightens the space.
New recessed panel doors
Install new recessed panel doors in a painted white finish instead of heavy oak for a streamlined look.
Change uppers to glass fronts
Switch some upper cabinet doors to glass-front for openness and to spotlight decorative dishware.
Satin nickel hardware
Matte black or oil rubbed bronze knobs and pulls help lighten up the look. Avoid ornate wrought iron that feels too heavy.
White quartz countertops
Quartz in a crisp white or pale gray tone complements painted cabinets while avoiding yellow oak undertones.
Subway tile backsplash
Classic white 3×6 subway tiles also enhance the lightness and brightness of the newly refaced kitchen.
Strategic refacing provides an affordable way to transform dark, dated oak kitchens into fresh, contemporary spaces filled with light.
Upgrade to Shaker Style with Refacing
Shaker style kitchen cabinets are a versatile and enduring look. The simple, clean-lined aesthetic works well in settings from traditional to modern. Refacing allows you to easily convert existing cabinets into beautiful shaker style on a budget.
Paint boxes and panels
Shaker cabinets look best in light, airy paint or stain hues. Whites, pale blues and grays, or light wood tones work wonderfully.
Install new Shaker doors
Swap outdated doors for classic shaker style cabinet doors. Recessed center panels aligned with a square outer frame define the look.
Matte black hardware
Black cup pulls or bar handles in a matte finish complement and nicely pop against light painted shaker cabinets.
Quartz waterfall edge
A quartz countertop with modern waterfall edge becomes an integral part of the streamlined, minimalist design.
Wood open shelving
Floating reclaimed wood shelves reinforce the versatile simplicity of shaker style while adding warmth.
With smart refacing strategies, it is inexpensive to transform your existing kitchen into a chic and timeless shaker aesthetic.
Warm up a Modern Kitchen Through Refacing
Sleek modern kitchens can sometimes feel stark and cold. The addition of wood through refacing warms up the look without losing the clean lined contemporary vibe.
Soft matte cabinet colors
Use muted grays, organic greens, or warm off-whites on existing cabinetry to create a soothing backdrop.
Reface base cabinets in oak
Natural oak veneers or stained wood doors on lower cabinets add organic texture and contrast against uppers.
Open oak shelving
Floating reclaimed oak shelves reinforce the wood accents while keeping surfaces clutter-free.
Black metal hardware
Matte black hardware pops crisply against wood and painted surfaces for definition.
Wood counter stools
Barstools with wood seats coordinate with the oak refacing while metal bases retain modern edge.
Plants and textiles
Finally, add living plants and woven textiles for natural elements that further soften and warm the space.
Replacing kitchen cabinets can be a tedious, disruptive, and downright expensive endeavor. Refacing provides an easy, budget-friendly alternative to give your kitchen a full transformation. As long as existing cabinet boxes are structurally sound, refacing through replacing doors, drawer fronts, moldings, and hardware can make worn cabinets look completely custom.
There are many material options from real wood veneers to sleek laminates and contemporary matte lacquers. Refacing can even allow you to get creative and mix different colors, finishes, and styles. By refacing with materials that complement your interior design vision – whether traditional, modern, industrial or farmhouse – you can reinvigorate your kitchen into a cohesive space that looks upscale and custom without the hefty price tag.