Is It Worth It to Reface Kitchen Cabinets? Is It Cheaper Than Replacing?

Is It Worth It to Reface Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are looking a little rugged or worn, you might wonder, “Is it worth it to reface my kitchen cabinets?” It’s very common to consider giving your existing cabinets a facelift instead of major kitchen renovations.

It is worth it to reface your kitchen cabinets if your cabinets are worn out and you want a better looking kitchen without spending a lot of money. It is cheaper to reface your kitchen cabinets rather than replace them. If you like your existing kitchen cabinet layout and you want to save money, then refacing your kitchen cabinets is the best decision. If you do not like your existing kitchen cabinet layout and you want a fresh new look, then it is best to replace your kitchen cabinets.

The decision to reface or replace your kitchen cabinets comes down to three things: layout, hardware, and cost. If you’re looking to spruce up your kitchen area, but you don’t want to spend a fortune or take a year to tear out the walls and floorboards, then yes — in these cases, cabinet refacing provides a fantastic option for homeowners just like you.

Can All Kitchen Cabinets Be Refaced?

This is a fantastic question. If you’re in a hurry, the quick answer is… No. Some cabinets are simply not compatible with refacing procedures.

If you’ve got a little more time, I’ll show you how to tell if your cabinets can be refaced. The process of determining whether your kitchen cabinets can be refaced (or if they need to be replaced instead) is, for the most part, pretty straightforward.

All you need to do is inspect your cabinets and ask the following 3 questions:

Q. Are my cabinets sturdy and smooth?
The newer veneer on your cabinetry will need a very smooth area in order to bond and hold appropriately. If your existing cabinets are made out of plywood panels or medium-density fibreboard (called MDF, for short) and they’re still in good shape, then you’re most likely good to go with refacing. If not, they might need to be fully replaced instead.

Q. Do my cabinets have good “face frames”?
In cabinetry, “face frames” are the ones attached to the front of the “carcass”, which hides the cabinet edges and makes for a great attachment point for doors, pulls, hardware, and other pieces. You will need to have face frames that are still in great condition in order to apply a new veneer. Also, to reattach hardware or connect new pieces the face frames need to be in good condition as well.

Q. Is my cabinet hardware still in great condition?
Basically, you want to make sure that your drawers aren’t regularly getting stuck or falling apart on the inside. Chances are you know if this is already happening because you experience it every day. If your drawers don’t function properly as is, then refacing will be a little like sweeping a pile of dirt under the living room rug.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to kitchen cabinets: Only reface it if you don’t need to replace it.

How Does Kitchen Cabinet Refacing Work?

It’s always helpful to get a sense of exactly how a certain home renovation process works. With kitchen cabinetry, as with many other home improvement projects, there are a few things you should know at the start. See also: What is Cabinet Refacing?

Here are the steps for refacing cabinets, in order, from start to finish.

(Note: Some contractors might do things a little bit differently, but this is generally what you can expect from almost every kitchen cabinet refacing job.)

  1. The cabinet doors, drawers, and drawer fronts get removed.
    (Note: The remaining pieces of the drawers boxes do not get removed.)
  2. The cabinet boxes’ front portions get covered with a natural wood veneer. One covering that is often used is called Rigid Thermofoil (RTF). 
  3. Either a wood veneer or a laminate is used to skin the sides of the cabinets.
  4. If needed or desired, brand new door hinges can be installed.
    (Note: If your hinges are still in excellent condition, there’s really no reason to buy new hardware unless you simply want a change of scenery.)
  5. After this, the new door and drawer front pieces go through the installation process.
  6. Now, new fixtures can be added at this point: handles, drawer pulls, and any other kinds of fixtures that you want to install.
    (Note: Again, if your handles, pulls, and other pieces remain in great shape, no reason to purchase more — unless you just want a new look. Otherwise, save the money!)
  7. Finally, any additional components — things like storage attachments, panels of glass, lighting accessories, or crown molding — get installed.

In general, cabinet installation follows those steps, from beginning to end. Whether you hire a professional contractor or do it yourself (DIY), the same steps are usually used.

How Long Does Kitchen Cabinet Refacing Take?

Now you know the steps required to reface kitchen cabinets. At this point, I’ll walk you through exactly how long the whole process usually takes, so that you can have practical, realistic expectations before getting started.

If you decide that you want to hire a pro, a standard kitchen cabinet refacing would last about 3-5 days, on average. Of course, it may vary based on the size of your kitchen area. If you have a ton of cabinet space, then it’s likely going to take a bit longer.

Each contractor will have their own personal method, but here’s how it typically goes:

Days 1-2: First, your contractor will remove all the hardware, each of the cabinet doors, and take off the drawer fronts. After this is completed, they will begin the veneering process.

Day 3: As veneering can take a considerable amount of time, it may continue on into the third day.

Day 4-5: On the last day or two, your contractor will install all the new doors and each of the drawer fronts, and install the hardware (new or original) on top. The last steps will involve any additional fine-tuning that might be required in order to complete the project.

On the flip side, if you decide to tackle this home improvement project yourself (DIY style), then you might need to schedule out a longer period of time.

Unless you have extensive experience with cabinetry, you’re going to be a little slower at it than a professional. Instead of 3-5 days, it might take you 1-2 weeks, or even longer, depending on the availability of certain products or materials.

Refacing Wrap Up + Cabinet Conclusion

So, there you have it. Contractor versus DIY. Don’t worry, though. There’s no “wrong choice” here!

Hiring someone is by far the better choice for most people, especially those that don’t consider themselves handy or simply don’t have a lot of time to spare.

Of course, on the other hand, some homeowners love a solid DIY project to tackle and might even have the tools necessary to make that happen without a lot of learning or legwork upfront.

Ultimately, the choice of refacing your kitchen cabinets is entirely up to you.

Consider whether your cabinets can be refaced, the costs associated with the project, and whether it’s something you can do or if you’d need to hire it out to a pro.

Either way, if you decide to go ahead with kitchen cabinet refacing, you really stand to gain quite a lot, with very little, if any, downside. And if you do, don’t forget to send me pics!