You are currently viewing Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace? And Which Costs Less?

When it comes to remodeling a kitchen, you may have heard of an option called cabinet “refacing.”

Simply put, this means replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts, and placing veneers on any other parts of the cabinet that are visible. New hardware (like hinges and handles/pulls) can also be swapped out for the originals (or added altogether) to create a different look.  Usually professionals do this job, since it involves procuring/adding new doors and drawer fronts.

This is not to be confused with cabinet repainting.  In the case of repainting, doors and drawer fronts are removed and repainted.  All other visible parts of the cabinets are repainted as well, and then the doors/drawer fronts are reinstalled.  Hardware can also be changed/added in this scenario.  Many choose to DIY this project; others hire professional painters.

In both cases, most also choose to install new countertops or a backsplash at the same time. Overall, it can feel like a “brand new” kitchen on a budget.

But does it really make your kitchen better?

And does it actually cost less than getting a new kitchen?

Not necessarily.

Let’s talk in a little more detail.

Cabinet Refacing and Repainting Cost Comparison: A Real Life Example

The first thing people notice when the look at a kitchen is generally cabinet color.  So from that perspective, refacing or repainting may seem like a real win.

For example, you can go from brown wood tones to white, without getting all new cabinets.  While it may seem like a cheap and fast option to change the look of the space, it doesn’t actually give you a new kitchen.

  1. The same cabinets and issues will still be present – such as a lack of deep drawers, lack of storage, or bad layout.
  2. In the case of refacing, you’re still paying for new materials (i.e. doors and veneers) and labor to install them, which adds up to more than the cost of new cabinets.
  3. In the case of repainting, it can be extremely hard to achieve a smooth finish you’re happy with, especially if you are making a big color change (i.e. dark brown to white).

The costs for refacing and repainting can vary drastically based on your kitchen.   However, it has been our experience (especially for refacing) that it’s not always the cheaper route.  New cabinets do not always cost more.

True story: we recently had a client come to us with a quote for her kitchen to be refaced by a local kitchen refacing company. For her average-sized kitchen, she had been quoted almost $40,000 (and countertops were not included). Our team knew we could help her with brand new cabinets, countertops, and installation for less than the refacing quote—and we did.

She now has a new kitchen that fits her style and needs, for less than it would’ve cost to only reface her old cabinets.

“You just have to price your options and know that with labor, a lot of these ‘fixes’ aren’t worth it.  They’re more expensive.  People can be taken advantage of if they aren’t careful.” says Eugene Mariotti, who manages the kitchen team at Mariotti Building Products.

What Refacing and Repainting Cannot Do

Here is another thing to remember: new cabinetry solves problems that refacing cannot.

Layout concerns, cabinet/drawer types, and aging cabinet boxes cannot be fixed by simply updating the visible pieces of the kitchen.

New cabinetry allows you to create the type of space you want. Features such as slow-close drawers, deep drawers for pans, and customized options for storage can be included in new designs.  You can also update the layout of your cabinets in some cases for more flexibility—i.e. expanding an Island, taller cabinets that go to the ceiling, etc.

Perhaps if you move into a new house that just had the kitchen redone last year, and you love every single thing about the kitchen except the color, refacing could be a route for you (IF the numbers work out and the quality of the work is good; but please note that we have never seen a scenario where this is actually the case).  If the kitchen already has special features and hardware that you’d have to pay to replace in a new cabinet scenario, refacing could be a less expensive route (again, please note that we have never seen a scenario where this is actually the case).  However, you’d still have to run the numbers.

Would repainting work in the above scenario?  Perhaps it would just to change the color, but there are many other aspects to consider if you’re thinking about repainting your cabinets.  Some of our clients who previously went the repainting route had trouble with chipping paint and scratches.  New cabinets with a “painted” look use specially formulated paint to resist the types of chips and cracks that are inevitable in a kitchen, with application methods that don’t show brushstrokes and imperfections.  That’s nearly impossible to achieve with regular painting of old cabinets.

Choosing the Route that is Right for You

For us, the decision is an easy one – renovating with new cabinetry is the better choice than spending money on the cosmetic changes of refacing or repainting. We believe this for all the reasons we just mentioned above.

As you explore your own choices and decide what’s best for you—we just recommend to remember the following:

  1. Don’t assume refacing or repainting will always cost less than new cabinetry
  2. Do your homework and get quotes to make sure that you understand what you’re buying, all the options available to you, and what cost savings each option actually offers

Feel free to come talk with a designer at our showroom for free – no commitment is needed to learn more about your options. You might be surprised about what you find out!

White inset shaker cabinets with farmhouse stainless steel sink

Close Menu