Kitchen cabinet refacing is used when your old cabinets are in great condition but simply need a facelift. It’s ideal when trying to personalize a home you just bought and an excellent investment when trying to sell your home. So, what is cabinet refacing, and how does it work?

Cabinet refacing involves replacing cabinet doors, drawers, drawer tracks, slides, hinges, and knobs. This process keeps the old cabinet boxes after sanding, priming, and staining them to match the new doors and drawers. Cabinet refacing is a cost-effective way of revamping your kitchen without replacing cabinets. 

This post will explain in detail how cabinet refacing works and its benefits. It will also cover the cost implications of cabinet refacing vs. refinishing vs. painting. 

How Cabinet Refacing Works

Cabinet refacing is a complex process, involving several steps to transform your outdated kitchen into a more modern and personalized space. It only applies to cabinets with intact structural integrity, meaning there’s no need for a complete tear-out and replacement. 

It involves replacing cabinet skins and applying materials such as wood veneer, rigid thermofoil (RTF), or plastic laminates to the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. 

Wood veneers are versatile but require more maintenance than other options. They’re also susceptible to water damage and scratches, although they can last longer with proper care. 

RTFs are waterproof and more durable than wood veneers. They also come in various colors and styles, including realistic wood grain patterns. 

Plastic laminates are the most affordable option, as they’re easy to install and maintain, but they’re less durable than RTFs or wood veneers.

The most common targets of kitchen cabinet refacing are:

  • Outdated cabinet doors.
  • Old and worn-out drawer fronts.
  • Scratched and damaged cabinet surfaces.
  • Dull and outdated hardware.

Kitchen cabinet refacing also involves sanding, refilling, repainting, and refinishing the existing cabinets, especially if you have contact paper on cabinets

It’s crucial to get the right fits as you may have to buy new doors, drawer slides and tracks, and knobs. 

The Materials and Options Available for Refacing

  • Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts: The doors and drawer fronts are the most visible parts of your cabinets. Therefore, select quality materials that suit your taste and budget.
  • Drawer Slides and Tracks: You need this hardware to be in the best condition. Given how much these moving parts are used, they’re prone to wear and tear.
  • Cabinet Hinges: These hardware pieces allow cabinet doors to open and close. Pick what suits you as hinges vary in design, style, working mechanism, materials, and finishes. 
  • Knobs and Handles: These are small accessories that enhance the functionality of cabinets while adding aesthetic value.
  • Vanish, Stain, or Paint: These three options give your cabinet surfaces different finishes to match your kitchen style.
  • Hardware Finishes: The hardware finishes are essential elements that pull the whole look of your refaced cabinets together. They can be brushed, polished, satin, or antique.
  • Glass Panels: These are a great way to add some visual interest and showcase your dishes or décor inside the cabinets. They come in different types, such as clear, frosted, or textured.
  • Cabinet Refacing Kits: If you’re a DIY enthusiast, ready-to-assemble kits with all the necessary materials like sanding pads, screwdrivers, wood filler, a veneer edge trimmer, and instructions are available.

The Process of Cabinet Refacing

Every kitchen has a different design, layout, and dimensions. Before doing anything, start by taking and recording accurate measurements of your cabinet doors, drawers, and frames. 

This data should help you estimate the amount of material you’ll need for your project. It will also help you tweak your new design, such as choosing hardware pieces that will fit perfectly on your choice cabinet colors.

Most cabinets are custom-built, so the refacing process depends on your specific cabinet structure. However, here’s a general overview of how cabinet refacing is done. 

1. Remove Cabinet Doors and Drawers

This process starts with you removing all the cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware like hinges, knobs, and pulls. This ensures that you have a blank canvas to work with.

2. Clean the Surfaces

Next, thoroughly clean the surfaces of your cabinet frames and drawers to help the new material adhere better. Cleaning eliminates any grease or dirt that could interfere with the adhesion process. 

3. Sanding or De-glossing

Cleaning may not be enough if your cabinets are stained or painted glossy. In this case, you’ll need to either sand or de-gloss the surfaces to create a rough texture that will promote better adhesion. 

Of course, it only applies to wood cabinets. If you have laminate cabinets, there’s no need to sand or de-gloss.

4. Repair Dents with Wood Filler

If your cabinets have any dents, scratches, or holes in them, use wood filler to fill them up. Once it dries, sand the area and ensure it’s smooth before proceeding to the next step.

5. Install the New Drawer Tracks and Glides

If your drawers use tracks and glides, replace the old ones with new hardware. This step is essential for the smooth opening and closing of drawers.

6. Reface the Box Frames and Drawers

Step five is when you finally start to see the transformation take place. You can either apply a new veneer layer or replace the existing one. You’ll need to cut the veneer or RTF to fit perfectly on your cabinets.

Depending on your choice of material, you may use an adhesive or nails to secure the new layer. Smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles as you go.

7. Install Hinges and Door Knobs on New Faces

Once your cabinets are covered in the new material, it’s time to install the hardware. Attach hinges and door knobs as necessary. 

If glass panels are part of your design, install them now. Then, your new doors will be ready to hang onto the cabinet frames.

8. Reattach Doors and Drawers

After installing new faces and hardware, reattach your doors and drawers to the cabinet frames. Level and align them properly before securing them in place.

9. Add Finishing Touches

Finally, add any finishing touches, such as molding or trim, to complete the look of your newly refaced cabinets. It will give them a polished and professional appearance.

What’s the Cost of Refacing Kitchen Cabinets vs. Replacing vs. Repainting?

Is it expensive to replace kitchen cabinets? Well, it is compared to refacing them.

Refacing kitchen cabinets can be a cost-effective alternative to replacing them entirely. On average, refacing costs 30-50% less than replacing cabinets, depending on the material quality you choose and the size of your kitchen.

According to research compiled by Forbes, replacing cabinets with new ones can range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more. It depends on factors such as the quality and your kitchen’s size. 

It may also involve additional costs for demolition, installation, and hardware.

Repainting cabinets is the most budget-friendly option, but it may not yield the same results as refacing or replacing them. Depending on factors such as paint quality and labor costs, it may cost you from $1,000 to $4,000.

However, repainting may not address any underlying structural issues, nor does it repair faulty hardware or hinges. Repainting is like slapping a band-aid on a broken bone if such issues exist. It’s one of the signs of poor-quality kitchen renovation.

Final Thoughts on Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

Embrace the fact that refacing is a viable option. It can save you time and money without compromising on quality. That said, the decision to reface or replace kitchen cabinets ultimately depends on your budget, needs, and aesthetic preferences. 

Refacing may be unsuitable for severely damaged or old cabinets requiring structural changes. It’s best to consult a professional to assess the condition of your cabinets and determine if refacing is a viable option. 

Additionally, consider the impact on your home’s value when making this decision. It can significantly increase your home’s overall value.

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