Give your kitchen a cost-effective makeover with cabinet resurfacing. This innovative technique allows you to refresh and renew the look of your existing cabinets for a fraction of the cost of full replacement. Resurfacing kits contain everything you need to transform tired cabinets into a like-new finish with beautiful results.
What is Cabinet Resurfacing?
Cabinet resurfacing, also known as cabinet refacing, is a process of applying new veneer surfaces and hardware to existing cabinet boxes and frames. Specialty kits contain laminates, wood veneers, moldings, doors, and drawers to update the look of your current cabinets. Resurfacing provides a custom upgraded style without the expense of tearing out your cabinets and installing completely new ones. It also allows you to modify and improve without the mess and dust of a full remodel.
During resurfacing, the old surfaces are lightly sanded and prepared for the new covering materials. New doors, drawers, and hardware are added to match the updated exterior laminates and veneers. Resurfacing typically takes just a few days compared to weeks for new cabinet installation. The results are stunning, with a cohesive up-to-date look that appears like built-in custom cabinetry.
Benefits of Resurfacing Kitchen Cabinets
Resurfacing offers many advantages over completely replacing your kitchen cabinets:
- Cost Savings – Cabinet replacement can cost tens of thousands of dollars, while resurfacing averages $2,000-$8,000 depending on the size of your kitchen. You save significantly on materials and labor.
- Less Disruption – Resurfacing can usually be completed in 2-3 days. New cabinets require demolition of your existing layout and several weeks for installation.
- Retain Current Layout – You can upgrade your cabinets without altering the current footprint. New cabinets often require tweaking the layout to accommodate different sizes.
- Eco-Friendly – Refacing recycles the cabinet boxes so no materials go to waste. It’s a greener solution than tossing your old cabinets in a landfill.
- Easy Upgrade – Resurfacing kits allow DIY installation if you’re reasonably handy. New cabinets typically require hiring professional installers.
- Customized Choices – Kits offer various door styles, finishes, organizational accessories and hardware so you can create a personalized look.
- Enhanced Storage – You can add pull-out shelves, lazy susans and other functional elements with an organizational resurfacing kit.
For a budget-friendly kitchen makeover, resurfacing provides a quick, simple and customizable solution compared to full replacement.
How to Resurface Kitchen Cabinets
Resurfacing your kitchen cabinets is a relatively straightforward process you can often tackle as a DIY project. Here are the basic steps:
Step 1: Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware
Detach all existing hardware, including knobs, pulls, hinges and handles, using a screwdriver. Also remove all doors and drawers from the cabinet frames and set hardware aside for potential reuse or replacement.
Step 2: Clean Cabinet Boxes
Thoroughly clean all cabinet surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner or mild soap and water solution. Remove any oil, dirt or grease so new materials will adhere properly.
Step 3: Lightly Sand Cabinet Boxes
Use 100-120 grit sandpaper to scuff up the cabinet boxes. This helps the new laminate or veneer adhere securely. Clean off any dust after sanding.
Step 4: Measure and Prepare New Veneer Pieces
Many kits provide pre-cut laminate or veneer sheets for each cabinet side, top and bottom. You may need to trim pieces to fit your specific cabinet sizes. Number each cabinet opening and piece for easy matching during installation.
Step 5: Apply Adhesive
Brush on a thin layer of adhesive to the back of each laminate or veneer piece per kit instructions. Also apply adhesive to cabinet surfaces where new materials will be positioned.
Step 6: Affix New Surfaces
Carefully align each pre-cut piece onto the matching cabinet section, applying even pressure to form a tight bond free of bubbles or ripples. Use a plastic smoother to help ensure good adhesion.
Step 7: Replace Doors, Drawers and Hardware
Reattach newly refaced doors, drawers and any replaced handles or knobs you wish to reuse onto cabinets with screws. Install any new hardware if needed.
Step 8: Seal and Finish
Use caulk to seal any edges or gaps for a seamless appearance. Once adhesive dries thoroughly, apply protective clear coats for a shiny durable finish per kit guidelines.
With these simple steps, you can give your kitchen a beautiful updated look in less than a week. Be sure to follow all instructions for preparing surfaces, applying adhesive and sealing the finish for long-lasting results.
Types of Resurfacing Materials
There are several options when selecting materials for resurfacing kitchen cabinets:
This is one of the most budget-friendly choices. High-pressure plastic laminate sheets consisting of resin-saturated paper layers provide an attractive facelift for cabinets. Kits include decorative laminates to adhere to cabinet fronts and neutral finishes for sides and tops. The results emulate wood, stone or metal textures with a durable easy-care finish.
Thin sheets of real wood veneer give a rich updated look. Maple, oak and other wood veneers come pre-finished in stains like cherry, espresso or distressed gray. Wood veneer costs more than plastic laminates but offers natural grain patterns and depth. The veneer is adhered using contact cement or adhesive backing.
Thermofoil finishes bond plastic laminate sheets to MDF or wood substrate using heat and pressure. The laminate is permanently fused to the substrate, forming a solid surface that resists chipping or peeling. Thermofoil provides extensive design options from solid colors to wood grain patterns. It’s more durable than adhered laminates.
For a simple DIY refresher, high-quality cabinet paint can be applied directly over existing surfaces. Painting is the most affordable resurfacing choice but requires thorough preparation and primer for good adhesion. The finish also tends to show signs of wear sooner than laminates or veneers.
Plaster veneer resurfacing applies layers of plaster over existing cabinets for a seamless built-in look. The process is highly specialized and requires hiring professional plasterers. Veneer plaster resurfacing is rare for kitchens but produces a contemporary sleek result.
The optimal material depends on your budget, DIY skill level and desired aesthetic. Many homeowners choose plastic laminate or wood veneer kits for the best value and ease of installation.
Design Options for Resurfaced Cabinets
One of the biggest advantages of resurfacing is the wide range of style options for customizing your kitchen.
From simple shaker to ornate cathedral, the cabinet door style makes the biggest impact. Kits offer pre-fabricated doors in different solid hardwoods, like oak, maple or cherry, as well as wood veneers or thermofoil in numerous designs.
Wood stains, paints, laminates and thermofoils are available in every color imaginable to coordinate with your kitchen decor. Warm neutral, bright white, bold colors, or even black finishes give cabinets a fresh modern look.
Updating cabinet hardware makes a noticeable change. Matte black, bronze, chrome, glass and other knobs and pulls enable you to match any design aesthetic.
Add functional elements like pull-out shelves, lazy susans, spice racks and other specialty accessories to maximize storage efficiency.
Moldings and Trim
Molding kits replace existing trim or add new trims and accents in materials matching your cabinet resurfacing for a cohesive finished appearance.
With unlimited style and color combinations, you can create a completely customized kitchen during resurfacing. Mix and match components and finishes for a designer look at a fraction of the cost.
Hiring a Contractor vs. DIY Resurfacing
You have two options for your resurfacing project:
Hiring a Professional Contractor
A qualified contractor handles the entire process, including:
- Initial consultation to determine needs
- Removing old cabinet surfaces
- Preparing surfaces and applying new materials
- Installing accessories, trimwork and hardware
- Sealing and protecting the finish
- Experienced installing resurfacing kits
- Quality workmanship
- Completed quickly
- Manufacturer warranties honored
- Added cost for labor
- Schedule contractor availability
With DIY kits, you perform the work yourself. Kits include detailed instructions for:
- Detaching and removing cabinet doors
- Lightly sanding cabinet boxes
- Cutting veneer sheets to size
- Applying adhesive and affixing new surfaces
- Reattaching doors, drawers and hardware
- Significant cost savings on labor
- Work on your own timeline
- Personalized custom results
- Learning curve for process
- Time intensive
- No professional experience
Thoroughly review kit requirements and watch tutorial videos to determine if DIY resurfacing matches your skill level and time commitment. Many find the process very doable for the cost savings.
Are There Any Limitations to Resurfacing?
While cabinet resurfacing provides gorgeous renovations, there are a few limitations to note:
- Existing Cabinet Structure – Resurfacing works best on solid wood or plywood box construction. Particle board or pressboard may not hold up.
- Severely Damaged Cabinets – Cabinets with peeling laminate, warped doors, excess water damage or structural issues in the frame require replacement, not resurfacing.
- Layout Changes – The cabinet footprint remains the same. Resurfacing alone cannot change the overall layout.
- Darker Finishes – Stains and paints in darker shades show imperfections easier than light finishes. Pristine surface prep is key for darker cabinet colors.
- Inside Cabinets – Resurfacing usually only covers exterior surfaces, unless you opt to replace cabinet interiors.
With proper planning and preparation, none of these limitations prevent achieving beautiful finished results in most kitchens.
Maintaining Resurfaced Cabinets
Follow these tips to keep your renewed cabinets looking like new:
- Use microfiber cloths and avoid abrasive scrubbers to prevent scratching surfaces.
- Immediately wipe up spills, splatters or water drops to avoid stains.
- Clean with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh cleaners or ammonia that may damage the finish.
- Reseal with protective clear coats annually to shield from moisture damage or yellowing.
- Inspect for signs of damage annually and touch up as needed to prevent further wear.
- Replace any damaged hardware, hinges or drawer glides to maintain functionality.
- Consider having professionals redo the surfaces after 5-10 years of heavy use to restore to like-new condition.
With proper care and maintenance, your resurfaced kitchen cabinets will stay beautiful for many years before needing a refresh.
Resurfacing Cabinet Pros Share Their Best Tips
We asked professional cabinet resurfacing contractors to share their top recommendations for a successful project.
Thoroughly Clean Cabinets First
Remove all grease and soils that could impair adhesion of new surfaces. Degrease and use mild abrasives like soft scrub formulas to ensure cabinets are totally clean before applying finishes.
Check for Damage
Inspect inside cabinet boxes closely for leaks, peeling laminate or other damage before investing in materials. Repairs or replacement may be needed for cabinets in poor structural condition.
Handle Doors with Care
Take doors completely off hinges and keep door fronts protected during the process to prevent damage that would be visible after refacing.
Prepare Surfaces Properly
Following all instructions for sanding cabinet boxes helps new finishes bond tightly. Roughening up glossy surfaces is also key for maximum adhesion.
Allow Proper Dry Times
Rushing the curing times for adhesives or finishes can ruin the results. Be patient and let each step completely dry before moving to the next steps.
Seal Edges Thoroughly
Run a bead of caulk along every seam and edge for an integrated look. Fill any cracks or imperfections for a smooth uniform appearance.
Ask About Compatible Materials
Not all laminates, paints or veneers work with all cabinet materials. Consult with manufacturers to ensure you choose compatible resurfacing products.
With the right prep work and materials, resurfacing your outdated kitchen cabinets is a very achievable process resulting in beautiful new cabinet styling at a fraction of replacement cost. Follow tips from the experts for success with your project.
Kitchen Cabinet Resurfacing Cost Breakdown
The cost of resurfacing your kitchen ranges widely based on the quality of materials, amount of cabinets, and hiring a contractor vs DIY. Use this price guide to estimate your project:
- Basic Plastic Laminate DIY Kit – $80 – $300 per cabinet
- Plastic Laminate Professional Install – $150 – $500 per cabinet
- Wood Veneer DIY Kit- $200 – $800 per cabinet
- Wood Veneer Professional Install – $250 – $1000 per cabinet
- Thermofoil DIY Kit – $180 – $600 per cabinet
- Thermofoil Professional Install – $220 – $750 per cabinet
- Cabinet Painting DIY – $50 – $250 per cabinet
- Cabinet Painting Professional – $100 – $500 per cabinet
- Accessories like drawers, trays,trim – $20-$100 each
Keep in mind, costs vary based on your location, the quality of finishes chosen, the complexity of your cabinet layout and modifications needed. Basic DIY laminate resurfacing for an average 10 cabinet kitchen starts around $800-$1000. Hiring a contractor or using premium wood veneers, the cost for a 10-cabinet kitchen averages $2000-$4000. High-end custom handcrafted finishes could be $5000 or more. Calculate costs closely once you select your preferred materials and options.
Is Refacing Or Resurfacing Better?
There is little difference between the terms cabinet refacing and cabinet resurfacing. Both refer to applying new surfaces over existing cabinet boxes rather than replacing the entire cabinets. Refacing and resurfacing provide equally excellent results. Choosing one over the other is mostly just semantics.
Should I Resurface or Replace Cabinets?
How do you decide whether to resurface your kitchen cabinets or do a complete replacement? Here are the key factors to weigh:
- Budget – Resurfacing costs 50-70% less than new custom cabinetry. If budget is a concern, resurfacing saves substantially.
- Condition – Heavily damaged or poorly constructed cabinets won’t withstand resurfacing. Replacement is better for cabinets in unsound shape.
- Layout – Resurfacing maintains the existing footprint. For a layout change, new cabinets may be the better option.
- Disruption – Resurfacing involves less demolition and can be completed much faster. If minimal disruption is important, resurfacing is ideal.
- Eco-Impact – Resurfacing recycles existing cabinet boxes, avoiding landfill waste. Replacing is less eco-friendly.
- DIY Skill – Handy homeowners can tackle resurfacing themselves. Cabinet replacement usually requires hiring professional installers.
For quick upgrades on a budget with minimal impact, resurfacing is the clear winner. If you desire significant layout changes or have severely deteriorated cabinets, replacement may be the better investment.
Signs It’s Time to Resurface Kitchen Cabinets
Notice these telltale signs your kitchen is ready for a cabinet resurfacing project:
- Peeling laminate or visiblewear on cabinet surfaces
- Faded cabinet color or dated style
- Splits, cracks or leaks in cabinet boxes
- Sagging hinges, doors or drawers not closing properly
- Outdated or broken hardware making cabinets look shabby
When the appearance and function of your cabinets are compromised, resurfacing provides an easy fix. Cosmetic issues like worn finishes or unattractive styles are readily solved with new doors, surfaces and hardware. Structural problems like cracks and leaks can be repaired before applying new covers. Resurfacing restores both beauty and utility when cabinets show any of these signs of wear.
How Long Does Cabinet Resurfacing Last?
With proper care and maintenance, cabinet resurfacing should last 5-10 years or more before needing redone. Factors that impact durability include:
- Quality of materials – Higher density surfaces last longer than cheap thin laminates.
- Installation process – Proper prep and adhesion prevent delamination or peeling.
- Usage level – High traffic kitchens require resurfacing more often than lightly used areas.
- Care and upkeep – Frequent cleaning and avoiding moisture damage prolong results.
- Environmental factors – Temperature swings and humidity impact durability over time.
Following manufacturer instructions for installation, inspecting for damage regularly and resealing surfaces annually gives resurfaced cabinets maximum longevity. Most homeowners find they only need to resurface every 7-15 years depending on wear factors. Quality resurfacing stands up well over time for a wise investment improving your entire kitchen.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular cabinet door styles for resurfacing kitchens?
Shaker, slab, Mission and square flat panel doors offer versatile on-trend looks post-resurfacing. Simpler designs highlight your finish material rather than ornate door details.
Can I resurface bathroom vanities too?
Absolutely! Bathroom vanity resurfacing offers an easy makeover using the same materials and techniques as kitchen cabinets. Just follow manufacturer guidelines for proper use around sinks and plumbing.
Do I need to empty cabinets before resurfacing?
Yes, completely clear countertops and empty upper and lower cabinets to allow access for removing and reinstalling doors