Replacing your kitchen cabinets can seem like a daunting task, but with some planning and know-how, it can be a manageable and rewarding project. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process of replacing kitchen cabinets, from deciding whether to refinish or replace, to choosing new cabinets, to the removal and installation process. We’ll provide tips to make the project go smoothly and the best practices to follow for high-quality results. Let’s get started!

Deciding Between Refinishing or Replacing Kitchen Cabinets

The first step is determining if you want to refinish your existing kitchen cabinets or do a full replacement. Here are some factors to consider:

Reasons to Refinish

  • Cost savings – Refinishing is typically less expensive than a full replacement.
  • Preserve cabinet boxes – If the cabinet boxes and layout are in good shape, refinishing allows you to keep them.
  • Quick update – Refinishing takes less time compared to replacing.

Reasons to Replace

  • Severely damaged cabinets – If cabinets are structurally unsound or damaged beyond repair.
  • Outdated layout – If the layout needs to be changed, replacement is likely better.
  • Desire for different material – Refinishing can’t change the type of wood, laminate, etc.
  • Need for improved functionality – Older cabinets may lack organizational features.

Consider your budget, timeline, cabinet condition and desired end result. Refinishing makes sense if cabinet boxes are in good shape but surfaces need updating. Replacing is better for a more significant upgrade.

Choosing New Replacement Kitchen Cabinets

If you decide to do a full replacement, choosing the new cabinets is an exciting part of the project. Key factors to consider:

Cabinet Quality

Opt for plywood box construction and dovetail joinery for durability. Avoid particle board.


Popular options include wood, stainless steel, laminate and thermofoil. Consider your budget and aesthetic.

Door Styles

There are many door styles including shaker, inset, overlay, flat panel, etc. Select a style suited to your kitchen’s decor.

Organizational Features

Consider pull-out shelves, lazy susans, wine racks, drawers vs. cabinets, etc. Measure your space and needs.

Set a Budget

Cabinets come in a wide range of price points. Setting a budget will help narrow down options. Expect to invest at least 10-15% of your total kitchen remodel budget on cabinets.

Work With a Designer

A kitchen designer can help you select the optimal cabinet solutions for your kitchen, lifestyle and budget. Consider hiring one.

Removing Existing Kitchen Cabinets

Once you’ve selected new cabinets, it’s time to remove the old. Proper removal techniques will preserve the surrounding kitchen elements for the new cabinet installation.

Create a Removal Plan

Map out cabinet removal order. Start with upper cabinets, then corner cabinets and finally base cabinets.

Clear Cabinets and Counters

Empty all cabinets and clear counters of appliances and debris.

Protect Floors, Walls and Backsplashes

Use drop cloths and masking tape.

Remove Doors and Drawers

Detach all hardware, doors, shelves and drawers. Set aside anything being reused.

Disconnect Appliances

Unplug and disconnect sinks, dishwashers, etc. Cap any exposed pipes.

Unfasten Cabinets from Walls

Remove screws anchoring them to walls and any soffits.

Cut Sealant Beads

Slice any caulk or sealant attaching cabinets to walls with a utility knife.

Remove Cabinets

Pull firmly on the front edge. Use pry bars as needed to loosen from walls.

Remove Debris

Dispose of old cabinets responsibly. Recycle materials if possible.

Address Wall and Floor Damage

Repair any holes or damage to existing walls and floors from cabinet removal.

Installing Replacement Kitchen Cabinets

Installation is key for proper cabinet function and your kitchen’s finished look. Follow best practices to get it right:

Read Manufacturer’s Instructions

Review the cabinet installation manual thoroughly before beginning.

Start with Wall Cabinets

Anchor the upper wall cabinets first using hangers secured to studs.

Use Proper Height and Leveling

Check each cabinet for level and use shims as needed to adjust.

Fasten Cabinets Securely

Attach cabinets to each other and the walls through cabinet backs and sides.

Add Roll-out Trays and Organizers

Insert interior fittings like drawers, shelves, trays.

Install Decorative Hardware and Molding

Attach handles/knobs, end panels, trim molding, lighting, etc.

Caulk and Seal Cabinets

Apply bead of silicone caulk where cabinets meet walls, ceiling, etc.

Add Toekicks and Finish Pieces

Install matching toekicks on base cabinets and any filler panels.

Reconnect Appliances

Hook up the sink, dishwasher electrical and water supply again.

Let Cabinets Cure

Do not use cabinets for 24-48 hours after installation to allow caulk and adhesives to fully cure.

Replacing Kitchen Cabinets: FAQ

Q: How much does it cost to replace kitchen cabinets?

A: For mid-range cabinets, expect to pay $100-$300 per linear foot installed. Budget at least 10-15% of your total kitchen remodel cost for cabinets.

Q: Can I install new kitchen cabinets myself?

A: With some DIY experience, you may be able to self-install. Make sure to follow best practices like securing cabinets to studs and using levelers. Consider hiring a pro if you’re unsure.

Q: Should I replace kitchen cabinets all at once?

A: It’s best to replace all cabinets for a cohesive look. But if needed, you can do it in phases, starting with most damaged cabinets first.

Q: How long does it take to replace kitchen cabinets?

A: The installation alone takes 2-5 days. Full cabinet replacement projects typically span 4-8 weeks, factoring in design, purchase, delivery and installation.

Q: What should I know before replacing kitchen cabinets?

A: Check for plumbing or electrical that may be hidden in walls behind cabinets. Know your cabinet’s dimensions and have a plan for new layout and organizing features.


Replacing your kitchen cabinets is a big project but following this guide will ensure you select the best cabinet solution and execute the cabinet installation properly. Invest time upfront in planning and hire professionals as needed. Your new dream kitchen will be well worth it! Let us know if you have any other cabinet replacement questions.