Reface or Replace - Deciding How to Remodel Your Kitchen Cabinets

Ellegant Home Design
August 17th, 2021

Cabinets are one of the biggest elements of a kitchen’s appearance. During remodeling projects, one of the most straightforward choices you have is how you want to address your cabinets.

Do you just want a new look, or would you prefer to completely replace your cabinets?

In many instances, refacing is the better of the two options, but not always. This article will walk you through the benefits of both, and when you should reface your cabinets, and when it is best to simply replace them.

Defining Refacing and Replacing

While both refacing and replacing end up with a completely new looking face to your cabinets, they are not the same thing.

  • Refacing cabinets means that the doors and outer appearance are changed. Historically, this was done by simply painting the doors, but today there are a lot more options to making older cabinets look new. Refacing often includes adding new nobs, molding, hinges, and pulls.
  • Replacing cabinets means completely changing them. All of the shelves and internal components are changed, as well as the exterior of the cabinets.

To help you remember the difference, refacing gives your cabinets a new look, but replacing changes both the outside and the inside of your cabinets.

When Refacing Breathes New Life into Your Kitchen

In the majority of remodeling projects, simply refacing your cabinets will give your kitchen the new look you want. There are only two major components to refacing:

  • Adding new doors and drawer fronts
  • Adding cabinet veneers

During cabinet refacing, you will still be able to use your kitchen, though it will probably be a little chaotic. Between the two types of kitchen cabinet remodeling projects, refacing takes far less time to complete and has minimal disruption to your regular cooking habits.

There are three primary options for kitchen cabinet refacing:

  1. Plastic laminates, which resist moisture and are very durable
  2. Rigid thermofoil is made of fiberboard with a plastic coat
  3. Wood veneers are the most expensive option and require staining and sealing to protect them.

You don’t need too many options in terms of the material; the focus is on getting the right look. That means you can choose the right option for your kitchen and budget. All three of these options have a wide range of stunning looks that you can mix-and-match to get just the right look for your kitchen.

When Resurfacing Doesn’t Work

Resurfacing may be less costly than completely replacing cabinets, but there are times when it is not the right option for your kitchen. For more substantial changes than just changing the appearance, you should look into replacing the cabinets. Sometimes you need more than just a makeover to fix more substantial issues.

  1. If you don’t like the layout of the kitchen, simply refacing the cabinets isn’t going to make your kitchen more functional. It will just make your kitchen look better without fixing whatever you dislike about the layout.
  2. Any structural damage or problems with your existing cabinets will need to be addressed, and the best way to do that is to replace the cabinets. This does include problems like rust on metal cabinets and warped cabinet components.
  3. If the floors have settled and are currently making it difficult to use the cabinets, these issues will need to be addressed. Often it is best to replace cabinets in these instances as there will be other, larger changes required to properly address the problems.

The person you hire to assess your cabinets should tell you if any of these issues make replacement the better of the two options. If your cabinets exhibit damage, including water damage, you will want to replace your kitchen cabinets.

Comparing the Benefits and Costs

Neither refacing nor replacing kitchen cabinets is easy to do without training and knowledge. Replacing is marginally easier, but will also be disruptive for a lot longer as you will not be as fast as an expert.

Cabinet refacing costs are often considerably lower than cabinet replacement costs, usually between 40 and 50% less expensive. However, there are a lot more companies that know how to replace cabinets, and may not be experts at refacing them.

Unless there is structural damage, you want to completely rearrange your kitchen space, or you want a new layout for shelves, kitchen cabinet refacing is going to be your best option.

Cabinet refacing in Chicago may be a challenge because there are fewer professionals who know how to do it well, but that’s where we can definitely help you.