To replace, reface or refinish; that is the question.

Last modified

March 11, 2021

When is it best to refinish my cabinets?

The newer your kitchen cabinets are the more likely refinishing is your best option. Cabinets that are 20 years old or younger are often excellent candidates for refinishing. Refinishing is a great option assuming that the general look and feel of the cabinets are appealing, and the layout is functional, but the cabinets look slightly worn, dirty or dinghy. There could be minor water damage on the cabinet doors right below the kitchen sink, and some of the edges of the most commonly used cabinet doors have had their finish worn off.

The best candidates for refinishing are custom cabinets that have concealed-hinges (you can not see any part of the hinge with the doors closed), and the doors have narrow gaps (1/8”) between them (cheap stock cabinets typically have 1-1/2” gaps between the doors).

But even inexpensive stock kitchen cabinets can benefit from refinishing. The stain can, in many instances, be touched up and the doors be resealed. This can often be a great interim fix for selling your home, updating a rental or if the cabinet just feel like they need a little help.

When should I reface my cabinets?

  1. The cabinet layout and overall functioning of the cabinets work fine, but look dirty, faded, grungy or simply look outdated. Often times the cabinets all work fine, the layout is easy to use, and the cabinets actually have very little structural wear and tear, but look— cheap, and /or dated. Almost all old cabinets that get refaced are low to midrange priced mass produced cabinets. Typically cabinets that are older than 20 to 30 years old are excellent candidates  for reface.
  2. Refacing is far less expensive than replacing. And if you’re happy with your countertops, you don’t have to worry about replacing them, or attempting to remove the countertops and then reinstalling them.
  3. Home resale. Refacing is the best bang for your buck: If you’re looking at selling your home now or in the near future, you’ll get the best return on your investment  from refacing. Home sale prices are largely determined by what comparable houses in your are going for per square foot. For example if you own 1990’s home in a modern subdivision or 1952 home in an old neighborhood your home will only go for so much per square foot regardless of improvements and upgrades. If the house is worth $250.00 with its dated cabinetry, and you put $25,000.00 of new cabinetry in that house you will not get $275.000 at resale. But a high quality reface for $8,000.00  reface will have just as much buyer appeal as $25,000 of new cabinetry and your house will sell faster and with less haggling. A well designed reface will make a kitchen “pop” and that pop-factor is what sells houses.
  4. You’ve already replaced your countertops: often times homeowners replace their old plastic laminate countertops with granite, quartz or solid surface countertops  before realizing that they want to change the look of the old existing cabinetry. In most cases it is quite expensive to remove new countertops (especially with backsplashes) and then install new cabinets and reinstall the new countertops. So Refacing is the best solution to upgrading the look and feel of an existing kitchen with new updated kitchen countertops.
  5. You’ve recently replaced your flooring: In most cases if the flooring has been recently done or is in otherwise very good shape and is not dated in its appearance, it is cost prohibitive to replace the cabinets in such a way that they cover the exact same footprint as the old cabinets. All kitchen cabinet companies build slightly differently to one another and whereas almost all kitchen base cabinets (the cabinets that sit on the floor) are all the same height, their footprints are not standard because the cabinet toe-kicks are recessed differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.

When should I go for a full cabinet replacement?

If your cabinet layout and functionality are not currently meeting your needs, you may be best off with a full cabinet replacement.