Keeping your kitchen cabinets looking fresh and up-to-date is an important part of maintaining the style and functionality of your kitchen. As trends and styles change over time, updating your kitchen cabinets can give your space a whole new look and help modernize your home. Whether you want to refinish, repaint, or replace your cabinets, there are many options to consider when updating kitchen cabinets.

Reasons to Update Your Kitchen Cabinets

There are several reasons why you may want to update your kitchen cabinets:

Change the Look

Replacing or refinishing cabinets is one of the quickest ways to give your kitchen a new look. Outdated cabinets can make your kitchen seem old and worn. New cabinets can give your space a fresh, contemporary style.

Improve Functionality

New drawer glides, pull-out shelves, and other functional upgrades can make your existing cabinets more user-friendly. Easy access to items stored in lower and upper cabinets is important.

Correct Damages

Fixing water damage, chipping, peeling finishes, and other wear and tear will keep your cabinets looking their best. Spot repairs can sometimes address damages, avoiding the need for complete cabinet replacement.

Lighten or Darken

You may want to change the look of your cabinets by refinishing them in a lighter or darker stain or paint color. The shade of your cabinets can impact the whole aura of the kitchen.

Match Appliances

Updating cabinet color to coordinate with new stainless steel, matte black or other colored appliances can pull your whole kitchen together.

Increase Property Value

Upgraded kitchens can greatly boost resale value. Buyers may view older cabinets as a dated look that needs changing.

Options for Updating Cabinets

Several options exist for updating kitchen cabinets:

Refinishing Cabinets

Refinishing involves stripping cabinets down to remove the old finish, preparing the wood surface, and applying new stain, paint or glaze. Refinishing is cost-effective compared to replacing, with results that can dramatically impact the look of your kitchen.

Painting Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets is the simplest and most affordable option to change their look. Proper preparation and priming are vital before applying new paint for best results. Painted cabinets get a crisp, new finish in any color.

Cabinet Resurfacing

Resurfacing cabinets involves applying new veneer or thermofoil surfaces over existing cabinet boxes and doors. This provides a facelift without removing cabinets. Resurfacing offers an affordable way to update cabinets without lengthy renovations.

Adjust Shelves & Hardware

Adjusting cabinet interiors and hardware creates new storage possibilities. Adding pull-out shelves, Lazy Susans, adjustable drawers dividers and updating knobs gives cabinets a functional facelift.

Add/Change Trim

Updating crown molding, base trim and decorative details offers an easy update. Trim hides unwanted gaps for a built-in, custom look. Adding beadboard panels also enhances cabinet style.

Replace Cabinet Doors

Replacing old cabinet doors with new shaker-style, glass-front or other updated door designs easily transforms the look of cabinets. Custom doors offer many options at a fraction of full cabinet replacement.

Full Cabinet Replacement

For a complete kitchen transformation, replacing old cabinets allows you to modify layout and storage. New cabinets come in a wide range of styles, materials and organizational accessories.

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets

Refinishing involves stripping off the old finish, preparing the cabinet surfaces properly, and applying new stain, paint or glaze. Refinishing cabinets allows you to change their color and finish without replacing them.

Benefits of Refinishing

  • Less expensive than new cabinets
  • eco-friendly by avoiding tear-out waste
  • Wide range of color and finish options
  • Maintains existing cabinet quality and functionality
  • Less disruptive than full replacement

Refinishing Process Overview

  • Remove doors, drawers, shelves and hardware
  • Clean surfaces and sand to remove existing finish
  • Fill any holes or imperfections; allow filler to dry
  • Further sand surfaces in preparation for new finish
  • Carefully apply primer, stain or paint
  • Replace hardware, shelves, drawers and doors

Prep Work is Crucial

The success of a refinishing project depends on thorough prep work. Completely removing grease, dirt and the existing finish allows for proper adhesion of new stain or paint. Filling holes and sanding ensures a smooth finish.

Staining Options

Stains allow the wood grain to show through, coming in various opaque shades from light honey to dark espresso. Consider a gel stain for staining over existing stain colors. Use a conditioner for more even staining on certain woods.

Painting Options

Painting cabinets gives you endless color options from light and bright to bold hues. For a smooth finish, use a high quality primer suited for kitchen surfaces. Choose a durable cabinet-grade latex or enamel paint. Consider a distressed paint technique for an antique look.

Glazing Options

Glazing involves applying a translucent colored glaze over stained or painted cabinets to create an aged, timeworn appearance. The base color remains visible through the sheer glaze layer. Multiple coats create a buildable aged effect.

Hiring a Professional

Refinishing cabinets requires expertise to properly prep, stain, paint and glaze cabinets for a quality result. Professional refinishers have the skills and tools to complete the process efficiently.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting is an affordable option for updating kitchen cabinets. With proper preparation and application, painted cabinets get a durable, quality finish.

Prep Steps for Painting Cabinets

Preparing cabinets for painting involves thorough cleaning and sanding for the best results.

  • Remove doors and hardware
  • Clean cabinet surfaces with a degreaser and sandpaper
  • Fill any holes, dents or gouges; allow filler to dry
  • Sand cabinets, wiping away dust
  • Apply suitable primer before painting

Choosing Cabinet Paint

The right type of paint ensures a smooth, lasting finish. Consider these factors when selecting cabinet paint:

  • Latex or enamel: Both provide a durable finish. Enamel is harder and more stain-resistant.
  • Satin or semi-gloss finish: These offer an attractive shine that stands up to cleaning.
  • Color: White and light grays are popular, but any color can give cabinets a fresh look.
  • High quality: Invest in premium cabinet-grade paint for the best coverage and durability.

Painting Techniques

Apply paint in thin, even coats using an angled trim brush for framing and mini foam roller for center cabinet panels. Allow proper drying time between coats. Distressing, glazing or other specialty finishes can add character.

Hiring a Professional

A professional painter has the experience to properly prep, prime and paint cabinets for a seamless finish. They have the right tools, like spray equipment for the cleanest results.

Cabinet Resurfacing Options

Resurfacing cabinets provides a cost-effective way to update cabinets without removing them. New veneer or thermofoil is applied over existing cabinet boxes and doors.

Veneer Cabinet Resurfacing

Thin sheets of wood veneer, typically 1/16″ thick, are precisely applied over cabinets to create a new wood surface and completely change the look. Almost any wood type, stain color and finish can be achieved. Durability depends on veneer thickness and quality.

Thermofoil Resurfacing

Thermofoil surfacing involves heat-fusing a plastic laminate over cabinets. Available in hundreds of colors and patterns to match any decor. More durable than veneer. Provides moisture and impact resistance. Can look and feel similar to real wood.

Resurfacing Process

Applying new veneer or thermofoil requires expertise but is less intrusive than replacing cabinets. Existing cabinet boxes remain in place to save time and money.

  • Doors, drawers and hardware removed
  • Surfaces sanded and cleaned
  • New surfacing precisely applied and trimmed
  • Finish details added
  • Hardware, drawers and doors reinstalled

Benefits of Resurfacing

  • Much less expensive than new cabinets
  • Wide range of finishes and looks
  • Little demolition needed; less disruptive
  • Preserves existing cabinet quality and layout
  • Eco-friendly; recycles existing cabinets

Hiring a professional ensures proper material selection and application for a seamless finish.

Adjusting and Updating Cabinet Interiors

It’s easy to give cabinets a functional face-lift by adjusting and adding storage accessories inside. Revamping interiors improves organization and efficiency.

Adjustable Options

  • Add pull-out shelves for easy access to back of cabinets
  • Install swing-out shelves for corner cabinet optimization
  • Replace fixed shelves with adjustable versions
  • Use stacking racks for pots, pans and lids
  • Add slide-out bins for specialized storage

Organizational Options

  • Lazy Susans create effortless corner storage
  • Drawer dividers organize utensils, gadgets and more
  • Use shelf risers to increase vertical storage
  • Install knife blocks for safe blade storage
  • Add tip-out trays under sinks to quickly access items

Choosing New Hardware

Replacing dated knobs or pulls provides an easy upgrade. New hardware comes in a wide range of shapes, finishes, styles and pricing. Consider your cabinet style, metal finishes and kitchen decor when selecting hardware. Opt for soft-closing slides and hinges for ultra-smooth operation.

Updating Cabinet Trimwork

Adding or replacing trimwork frames cabinets for a custom, built-in look. Trim cleverly conceals undesirable spaces between walls and cabinets.

Crown Molding

Crown molding installed across the top of kitchen cabinets adds an elegant detail. It creates the look of cabinets being set into the architecture of the room. The overhang of crown also helps hide uneven gaps between walls and cabinet tops.

Base Trim

Base trim or baseboards installed at the bottom of lower cabinets give them a finished, built-in look. Trim conceals the narrow spaces that often exist between cabinet bases and the floor. Coordinating with existing trim maintains a cohesive style.

Beadboard Panels

Beadboard panels add charming cottage style to kitchens. The distinctive plank look dresses up cabinet door fronts. Beadboard backs splash a hint of this timeless trend behind open shelves or glass cabinet doors.

Hiring a Carpenter

Skilled carpenters properly cut and install custom trim pieces for a flawless fit. DIY installation is possible but often results in imperfect corners and angles. Professional tools and experience ensure quality results.

Replacing Cabinet Doors

Replacing dated or damaged cabinet doors provides big visual impact with less work and expense than a full cabinet overhaul. New doors can transform the entire look.

Door Styles

  • Shaker: Classic and versatile with a clean, crisp design full of straight lines.
  • Slab: Minimalist and modern. Lacking ornamental details.
  • Glass-front: Allow displaying glassware or decor items.
  • Arched or curved: For a soft, unique look.
  • Farmhouse: Often have an antique distressed finish.
  • Louvered: Allow air to flow while concealing contents.

Custom vs. Stock Doors

Custom doors are made-to-order for your specific cabinet sizes. Provides an exact fit but is more expensive. Stock doors come in standard sizes and are more budget-friendly. Fillers may be needed to fill gaps.

Hiring a Carpenter

Skilled carpenters can remove existing doors and install new ones, ensuring proper fit and smooth operation. Doing this work yourself risks hinge misalignment or damage to cabinets or new doors.

Full Cabinet Replacement

While the biggest investment, replacing worn-out cabinets allows you to modify cabinet layout and storage functionality. The wide range of today’s cabinet options lets you create your dream kitchen.

Cabinet Materials

  • Wood: Oak, maple, cherry and hickory have beautiful grains. Can be painted or stained.
  • Thermofoil: Durable laminate with moisture resistance and wipe-clean finish.
  • Metal: Often stainless steel or aluminum. Sleek, contemporary look. Sturdy but prone to denting.
  • MDF: Affordable wood composite supports painted finishes well. Less durable than solid wood.

Cabinet Quality

Higher quality cabinets have solid wood frames, durable finishes and soft-closing hardware. Built-in organization and easy-access storage create a user-friendly space.

Modifying Layout

Replacing cabinets allows reconfiguring them to suit how you cook and use your kitchen. Consider traffic flow, work triangles, storage needs and style preferences. An expert designer can help optimize layout.

Hiring Contractors

Kitchen professionals have the expertise to demo old cabinets, modify utilities, ensure proper installation of new cabinets, and handle project management details. Doing this work as a DIY project has many risks.

Budgeting for Cabinet Updates

The cost to update kitchen cabinets varies widely based on project scope and materials. Setting a realistic budget upfront helps plan a project you can afford.

Refinishing Cabinets

Hiring a pro to refinish costs $2,000-$5,000 depending on details like elaborate glazing or staining expensive wood types. DIY refinishing can cost $500-$1,500.

Painting Cabinets

A professional paint job averages $2,000-$5,000. Doing it yourself costs $200-$500 for high-quality paint and supplies. Replace hinges and hardware for $40-$60 per cabinet.

Resurfacing Cabinets

Veneer resurfacing averages $3,000-$8,000. Thermofoil resurfacing runs $4,000-$10,000. Prices vary based on details like decorative trim.

New Doors

Custom cabinet doors cost $50-$200+ each. Stock doors run $20-$100 apiece. Pro installation adds $200-$800.

New Cabinets

Mid-priced, semi-custom cabinets cost $6,000-$18,000. Custom cabinets are $15,000-$40,000+. Installation and countertop modifications add more.

Get multiple estimates to compare pricing for your specific project.

Updating Cabinets on a Budget

If money is tight, you can still give your kitchen a mini makeover:

Clean Cabinets

Just thoroughly cleaning cabinet surfaces and hardware can breathed new life into kitchens. Remove grease buildup and grime to brighten everything.

Adjust Existing Hardware

Simple adjustments like tightening screws or installing missing hardware improves functionality. Oil hinges / slides for smoother operation.

Touch Up Damages

Use wood filler, touch up markers and surface sealer to repair minor chips, scratches and water damage for a quick fix.

Update Hardware

Replacing dated or broken knobs and pulls provides big visual impact. Buy new hardware that fits your existing hardware cutouts.

Add New Lighting

Better lighting makes any kitchen look brighter and feel more open. Under-cabinet and accent lighting adds showcase lighting.

Hiring Professional Help

cabinet installation, modification and refinishing require skills and tools to ensure quality results. Consider hiring professionals for:


Contractors have the hands-on experience to expertly refinish, paint, install or modify cabinets. DIY often ends up with imperfect results.


Professionals work quickly with the right techniques and tools. DIY projects typically take much longer with frustrations over learning curves.

Materials Procurement

Pros have wholesale accounts to get cabinets, lumber, veneers, etc. They have the connections to get materials at better prices.

Proper Process

Each step of prepping, installing, refinishing or modifying cabinets must be done just right to avoid problems down the road. Hiring a pro ensures proper process.


Professional cabinetry work often includes warranties on materials and labor. Do-it-yourself projects provide no recourse if things go wrong.

While costlier than DIY, professionals often get superior results in less time. Get several quotes to find competitive pricing.

Maintaining Updated Cabinets

Properly caring for refinished, repainted or new cabinets helps them maintain their updated look. Follow these maintenance tips:

  • Use cabinet cleaners and polish designed for kitchen surfaces. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Immediately clean up spills, grease splatters and water spots.
  • Install knob silencers to limit banging and impacts.
  • Open and close doors gently to limit stresses over time.
  • Tighten any loosening hinges, pulls or knobs as needed.
  • Consider having cabinets professionally cleaned every 2-3 years.
  • Use cutting boards instead of cutting directly on cabinet surfaces.
  • Avoid excessive humidity and moisture which can damage finishes.
  • Apply touch up finish as needed to repair minor surface damage.


Updating your kitchen cabinets provides one of the most dramatic ways to instantly change the look and feel of your kitchen. Whether refacing, refinishing, repainting or replacing cabinets, many options exist to upgrade cabinets within various budgets. Hiring a professional ensures the project gets completed properly for results that will last. Investing in updating your cabinets pays dividends by boosting your enjoyment of your kitchen for years to come.