One dilemma often faced when planning a kitchen remodel is the cabinet refacing vs. painting debate. It gets easier as you understand the pros and cons of each option. Both techniques can refresh your kitchen cabinets, giving your kitchen a totally new look. But which option suits your budget, style, and needs better? 

Cabinet refacing costs more than painting, so painting may seem like the better fix to revamping your kitchen aesthetics if you’re on a tighter budget. But your choice between painting vs. refacing cabinets should also hinge on your cabinets’ state. Refacing is more enduring and goes the extra mile, while painting is also the last part of refacing.

Let’s puzzle through this dilemma by digging deeper. We’ll start by analyzing each option closely. 

What Is Cabinet Refacing?

We gave an elaborate definition and explanation of what cabinet refacing is previously, but let’s do a recap. Cabinet refacing is a long-term solution and an extensive process where you replace cabinet doors, knobs, drawers, and other visible surfaces with new ones.

The key is that refacing changes the aesthetics and appliances without enhancing structural design or functionality. It’s like the mother of all renovations since it gives your kitchen an entirely new look without altering its layout. 

You can change the wood stain, style, or color of your cabinet doors to match your desired look. Refacing restores your kitchen cabinets to their original condition, making them look brand new. 

You can achieve what a costly kitchen cabinet replacement would at a fraction of the cost. You can renew waning functionalities hindered by rusty hinges and misaligned doors and add a personal touch to your cooking space. 

But let’s not get it twisted; there will be times when refacing can’t beat replacement. That’s especially true when your cabinets’ structural integrity is compromised. Consider bringing in a professional installer to help you evaluate if your cabinets are suitable for refacing.

What Are the Benefits of Kitchen Cabinet Refacing?

By now, you know that refacing gives your kitchen a new lease of life and saves you from breaking the bank. But let’s take a detailed look at its benefits:

  • Cost-effective: Refacing costs significantly less than installing new cabinets, making it an affordable option for budget-conscious homeowners.
  • Quick and convenient: Unlike cabinet replacement, refacing is relatively quick and does not require a full kitchen renovation, meaning you can use your kitchen during the process.
  • Eco-friendly: Refacing involves reusing the existing cabinet frames, reducing waste and environmental impact compared to completely replacing them.
  • Customization options: With refacing, you can choose any material or color that suits your style to achieve your desired look. It allows for more customization compared to pre-made cabinets.
  • Upgraded functionality: Refacing also includes replacing old hardware, such as hinges and drawer slides, improving the functionality of your cabinets.

Cost of Cabinet Refacing vs. Painting

The only disadvantage of refacing is that it costs more than painting. Therefore, there’s no need to reface your cabinets if they work perfectly fine and you’re not looking to change their appearance. 

Sometimes, it’s just better to paint cabinets when you feel like they need a little touch-up. Trends come and go, and colors can easily be changed with paint. 

Understanding Cabinet Painting

Painting is not as black and white as we just made it seem. It’s not just about choosing a color and slapping it on the cabinets. There’s more nuance that goes into the cabinet game. There’s also some basic physics involved in painting cabinets, especially if you’re doing it yourself. 

Types of Paint

There are two main types of paints used for cabinet painting: oil-based and water-based.

  • Oil-based: These paints have a strong odor and take longer to dry, but they offer a more durable finish that can withstand high-traffic areas.
  • Water-based: These paints have less odor and a quicker drying time, but they may not be as durable as oil-based paints. 


Here’s where the physics comes in, particularly regarding adhesive and cohesive forces. But don’t worry, we’re not going to get too technical.

The key to a successful cabinet painting job is preparation, which involves thoroughly cleaning and sanding the cabinets to create a surface with good adhesion.

Cleaning helps to remove any dirt or greasy grime that interrupts the adhesive process. Sanding, on the other hand, creates tiny scratches on the surface of the cabinets, allowing the paint to adhere better.

If the varnish or old paint on the cabinets is in good condition, you can skip sanding and opt for a deglosser instead. A deglosser is a liquid solution that dulls the surface and promotes better adhesion.


Priming helps to create an even base for the paint and ensures better adhesion. The primer also acts as a barrier between the old surface and the new paint, preventing any stains or tannins from bleeding through. 

Painting Techniques

So, should you spray paint or hand-paint kitchen cabinets? Are there any differences in the outcome?

The answer is yes, there are some differences. Spray painting can give a smoother and more even finish, but it requires more preparation and equipment. Hand-painting may take longer and require multiple coats for an even finish, but it’s easier for beginners to control.

You can also go for rolling if the total surface area of your cabinets is large. It allows for a more even and thicker coat of paint, but it may leave some textures behind.

Choosing the Right Paint

Your choice of paint will make or break this process. Water-soluble paints are much easier to handle as they dry faster and release only mild odors. Oil-based paints have a toxic smell and dry much slower, but they are more enduring and adhere really well. 

When choosing a painting technique, consider the size and complexity of your cabinets. Practicing in a small, inconspicuous area may also be helpful before tackling the entire project.

Disadvantages of painting over refacing cabinets

While painting cabinets may be a more cost-effective option than refacing, it does have some disadvantages:

  • Limited options: Refacing allows for a wider range of color and design choices than painting.
  • Less durable: Painted cabinets are more prone to chipping and wear than refaced cabinets, which use higher-quality materials.
  • More time-consuming: Painting cabinets requires multiple coats and may take longer than refacing.
  • Potentially hazardous fumes: Paints and primers often release strong toxic smell, so you’ll need ample ventilation. 
  • It’s not viable for renovations involving contact paper on cabinets or chips in kitchen cabinets.

The cost of painting kitchen cabinets vs. refacing may seem lower, but it may not be the best long-term solution. Be situationally aware and weigh the pros and cons before deciding on a method.

Tips for Maintaining Painted Cabinets

To ensure that your newly painted cabinets stay in good condition, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Regular cleaning to prevent stains and grime buildups.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Keep some touch-up paint.
  • Ensure sufficient ventilation, which is crucial when painting cabinets to avoid inhaling toxic fumes.
  • Open and close cabinet doors carefully and avoid banging to prevent any chipping or damage to the paint.

Our Verdict on Cabinet Refacing vs. Painting

Your kitchen cabinet’s state and budget will ultimately determine the best method for you. If your cabinets are in good condition and you want to catch up with the current trend, painting may be the more practical and cost-effective option. 

However, refacing may be the better choice if your cabinets have extensive damage or you want a completely new look. Refacing also increases your home’s value, making it a worthwhile investment in the long run.

But the best advice we can give you regarding this matter is to consult the experts. Talk to our team or your preferred interior designer to advise you on the best way forward. 

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