Cabinet Refacing vs Cabinet Refinishing: Which One Should You Choose?

Cabinet Refacing vs Cabinet Refinishing: Which One Should You Choose?

Cabinets and Countertops
By Dikran Seferian August 18, 2022

If your kitchen needs something of a facelift, you may not need to completely remodel everything. And these days, many homeowners can't fit a complete remodel into their budget either. This is where refacing and refinishing your cabinets may come into play; you get a fresh new look to your kitchen without the hassle and expense of a complete kitchen redo. And because you're not removing the cabinets completely from the wall, your project will go much more quickly as well.

However, just because this job is quicker and easier doesn't mean it should be left to just anyone. Unless you’re handling the project yourself, it's still best to be sure that you are choosing the right person for the job whether you're going to do refacing or refinishing. While they're very similar in terms of the end result, cabinet refacing and refinishing are actually different jobs with completely different processes. 

What Is Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing involves removing the doors you have and replacing them with new ones.

Cabinet refacing involves removing the doors you have and replacing them with new ones.

Kitchen cabinet refacing, also referred to as kitchen cabinet resurfacing, is a kitchen renovation project where you essentially switch the existing cabinet doors with new ones. The complexity of the job depends on certain factors. For instance, you may be content with the color of the cabinetry but its doors may have seen better days. In that case, the process would only involve removing the doors and installing new ones in the same color. Should you be changing the color palette of your kitchen, however, the project becomes a little more complicated.

If your cabinet’s exterior is maple and you’re going for a white kitchen, for instance, the additional steps will involve refacing the exterior surfaces of the cabinet boxes. With all the doors removed, there are several ways you can change your cabinet box’s exterior color. You can either paint them in a color that matches the doors or apply a laminate veneer to the cabinet exterior. Another method involves refacing the exterior with a combination of paint, veneer, and custom panels. 

Tips for Cabinet Refacing

Plan Ahead Before Refacing Your Cabinets

There’s a lot of ground to cover in the planning stage. That being said, planning ahead ultimately results in a smoother process. The more carefully you plan, the less chance there is for unnecessary mistakes. You may want to plan out each and every step from beginning to the end before starting with the project.

Account for everything from your budget to the schedule you want to follow, to the overall expenses. Make sure to remember all the minor details such as the prices of hinges and other hardware. It’s always better to overestimate than underestimate when you’re calculating time and cost.

Another detail to account for before you reface kitchen cabinets is how you’ll be preparing meals during the project. Bear in mind that only certain parts of your kitchen will be accessible. Depending on the amount of space, you may want to close off the kitchen for the duration of the project and set up a temporary cooking zone elsewhere.    

Account for the Current Layout

Take the current layout into consideration before going ahead with the refacing project.

Take the current layout into consideration before going ahead with the refacing project.

Before starting with your cabinet refacing project, it’s a good idea to take the existing layout into consideration. This is a key detail because altering the sizes of drawer fronts or cabinet doors could change how your cabinets interact with appliances. Make sure to configure cabinets that are in close proximity to the fridge or the microwave accordingly in order to prevent them from conflicting with one another. Even the tiniest changes in the dimensions of cabinet doors and drawer fronts can result in problems. The same goes for switching to another type of cabinet hinge. 

Take the Existing Look into Consideration

If you’re only changing up the color of your cabinets and keeping the rest of the kitchen as it is, make sure to account for the room’s style and color palette. Choosing a cabinet refacing option you have in mind that doesn’t correspond with the interior design may result in a clash of styles and colors. This means you’ll basically be reducing the aesthetic value of your kitchen rather than boosting it. It’s, therefore, best to work with what you already have, taking into account how the new refacing option will play into the design. 

Take Your Time With the Process

Cabinets are an integral part of your kitchen, which is why you shouldn’t rush the refacing process. Take your time with, and follow through each and every step. While cutting through corners may allow you to finish up sooner and save a few bucks, you’ll be sacrificing value, quality, and longevity. Rushing to reinstall the doors, for instance, may result in cabinet issues that you’ll have to deal with later on. 

Go for a Timeless Design

A great deal of time and money goes into kitchen cabinet refacing. As such, consider opting for a timeless aesthetic that won’t go out of style a few years down the line. While a trending option may seem appealing, keep in mind that trends often come and go. A classic or neutral look, however, will always stay in fashion. You can always make a bold statement with artwork, a new wall color, and other design choices that are easy to switch out. Another way you can add visual flair is with unique cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. 

Sticking with a neutral color for your cabinets ensures that they will always remain in style.

Sticking with a neutral color for your cabinets ensures that they will always remain in style.

What Is Cabinet Refinishing?

Kitchen cabinet refinishing normally involves removing the paint or finish of the cabinet doors you already have. Much like refacing, this method allows you to give your cabinetry a fresh new look. To remove or strip off the existing finish, you’ll either use a chemical remover, do a great deal of sanding, or both. After properly preparing your cabinet doors, you can apply the stain or paint in the color of your choice.

If your cabinets are in good physical condition, for instance, refinishing might be the more preferable option. It is worth mentioning that refinishing is also a more affordable way to give your cabinets a facelift than refacing. For this method to be feasible, however, it is important for your cabinetry not to have any nicks, dents, cuts, cracks, chips, or gouges. 

Tips for Cabinet Refinishing

Consider a Darker Shade for the New Color

It is normally easier to go from a lighter kitchen cabinet color to a darker one than the other way around. Going from dark brown to beige or light gray, for instance, will take a lot more time and effort. Similarly, a cabinet door with a lot of detailing will require considerably more preparation than a simple, flat door. 

It’s always more practical to go from a lighter cabinet color to a darker one.

It’s always more practical to go from a lighter cabinet color to a darker one.

Commit Your Time

As with refacing, you’ll want to take ample time with cabinet finishing. Not only can rushing through the process be frustrating, but you may also end up with unsatisfactory results. Going about the project in a steady manner, on the other hand, ensures that the results are ideal — and may even boost the longevity of your cabinets. Needless to say, patience goes a long way when you’re refinishing kitchen cabinets

Avoid Refinishing Thermofoil Cabinet

Cabinet doors and drawer fronts normally cannot be refinished if they’re laminate or thermofoil — the ones with a vinyl wrap that peels from exposure to heat. To be able to refinish your cabinets, they should either be wood or MDF. These are porous and can accept paint or stain, also allowing you to sand them down to apply a new coat of paint. While you technically can apply paint to thermofoil or laminate surfaces, it will not adhere well and the results will likely be disappointing.

Keep in Mind that Refinishing Doesn’t Mean Restyling

Refacing is a better option if you want to change the style of your cabinet doors.

Refacing is a better option if you want to change the style of your cabinet doors.

If you’re looking to update the style or profile of your cabinet doors, cabinet refinishing isn’t exactly the solution. It only allows you to change the color or finish. If you’re refinishing your cabinets, it probably means that you’re happy with the existing cabinet door style. But if the cabinet doors you have feature raised panels and you want flat ones, for instance, refacing might be a better option. 

Account for Details

Make sure to be careful when you’re using a roller or sprayer to paint, or when you’re sanding, priming, and taping walls and edges. If you don’t feel comfortable with details, you can always reach out to a refinishing contractor.

DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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