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Is a Cabinet Refinishing Project for You?

Home Builder


Kitchen cabinets are sometimes custom-built. When they start to show wear-and-tear, replacing them can be costly. Stock cabinets cost less, but the idea of cabinet replacement can be daunting. Refacing kitchen cabinets costs about half of what replacement costs. 

Do-it-yourselfers who desire to save money, have necessary carpentry skills, and some workshop space can do the cabinet refacing independently. The refacing of Euro-style cabinets involves covering the drawer and door faces and sides of the cabinets with wood or plastic veneer. Drawer and door fronts can also be repaired with rigid thermofoil (RTF).

The refacing process of traditional frame-and-panel doors typically involves covering the cabinets' sides and frames with a veneer and replacing the drawer and door fronts with materials purchased from a cabinet shop or sold by a refacing company.

Contractors who do professional refacing take from three to five days to complete the job. DIYers can take as long as they like. Nothing stops them from finishing quickly, but they have the option of refacing one door or drawer per weekend if that is all the time available. Before you begin planning the project, evaluate the cabinets' structural condition. Not all cabinets are good refacing candidates.

Kitchen Refacing

When Does It Make Sense to Reface?

Cabinets that are poorly designed or structurally unsound will likely not look a lot better after being refinished. Some kitchen cabinets made from a cheap grade of particle board with facing that is badly worn get wet and swell.

Wet particle board deteriorates with age. There is no guarantee adhesive will adhere to it. Do not waste time on cabinets with warped or broken frames unless you can repair the damage. Old solidly built wood cabinets that have seen better days are great refacing projects. 

Cabinets draw the most attention in the kitchen. Refacing them is the best way to renovate a kitchen. New-looking cabinets more than compensate for other design problems like countertops in poor condition or worn flooring. 

The easiest cabinets to reface are those with minimum trim. They are referred to as 'Euro-style' that are flat slabs that are relatively easy to cover with a new veneer. The majority of cabinet drawers and doors have frame-and-panel construction. 

They can be challenging to reface. If the finish is too far gone, the best alternative is to reface the sides and frames and replace the drawer and door fronts. Replacements can be custom-built or found at cabinet shops. Some companies offer matching drawer and door fronts for laminate or hardwood veneers they sell. Those who choose that option usually want to complete the makeover with new cabinet hardware.

Choosing the Do-It-Yourself Method

Cabinets stay in place when being refaced, but some disassembly is involved. The doors have to be taken off and the hinges and hardware removed. You may wish to upgrade hardware and discard the old. Drawer faces have to be detached from the drawers, if possible.

They can be refaced without taking them apart but are more cumbersome to handle. It may take a week to complete the process. The primary advantage of having professionals reface cabinets is the convenience. 

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