Cabinet Refacing Options

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When its time to give the kitchen a new look, or a complete remodel, cabinetry is one of the biggest decisions. Functional cabinets can mean the difference between a kitchen that is a dream to cook in and one that creates clutter. Unfortunately, new cabinets can quickly eat up almost half of a kitchen renovation budget. Thankfully there is a money saving alternative. Reface the cabinets you already own and create an entirely new look for far less money. Refacing is installed over the existing cabinet frames and leaves the cabinets, electrical, and plumbing in place.

Should You Reface Or Replace Your Cabinets?

Refacing cabinets makes perfect sense when there is no need to change the existing cabinet layout in the kitchen. It does require cabinets that are structurally sound. For cabinets that have worn finishes or are simply outdated, refacing may be the way to go.

If the kitchen cabinets are not sound, they are falling apart, or cheaply constructed; refacing may not deliver a satisfactory end result. It may be necessary to replace them with new cabinets.

Refacing can offer several advantages to the homeowner:

  • Less construction mess
  • Less expense than replacement cabinets
  • Wide selection of cabinet styles and finishes
  • Decorative doors, storage racks, and hardware are available
  • Time-savings, most installations are finished in about a week.

Cabinet Veneers

Cabinet refacing can be done several ways. Most installations will “re-skin” the complete exterior of the cabinet face frames and sides with a thin wood veneer. Veneers will vary from suppliers and installers. Some veneers are as thin as .010-inches (about the thickness of 3 sheets of copy paper). The thicker versions can be up to ¼-inch thick. Both types of veneers will work for the kitchen cabinets. It is important to select a craftsman with the skill and experience to apply each of them correctly.


Refacing the cabinets with a laminate material is another option. Laminates, as the name suggests, are made from many layers of special materials simulating everything from chrome, wood, and stone to painted surfaces. Laminates also offer the advantage of being easy to clean and most installers offer a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer against peeling, blistering and cracking. Simulated wood laminates are offered in: cherry, chestnut, birch, oak and a variety of fruitwood finishes.

Cabinet Refinishing

Cabinet refinishing, as the name suggests, involves updating just the cabinet finish, without door replacement or veneering. Cabinet doors should be removed prior to the refinishing process. Refinishing projects usually include; cleaning, stripping, painting, and/or re-staining. Cabinet refinishing can also include faux finishing or decorative painting. Special paint textures and effects can be applied to kitchen cabinets to give them a new look and feel.

New Cabinet Doors vs. Refinishing

Updating the cabinet doors is just as important as cabinet refacing. Most refacing companies will offer matching doors in either wood or laminates. This is a good time to replace old hinges and latches. Don’t forget about the drawer fronts. They will be available in the same finishes as the doors and cabinet veneers. Drawer fronts usually will be installed with updated tracks and sliders for years of trouble-free service.

Cabinet Colors & Glazes

If the selection of wood and laminate veneers are still not providing the kitchen look needed, consider adding a faux finish or glaze to the cabinets, doors, and drawers. Some installers offer sources for painters and finishers to add unique treatments to cabinets. Faux finishes can add wood graining to simulate hard to find wood, or color wash glazes to simulate a century-old Italian villa look. There are easy to apply paint finishes available to transform kitchen cabinets into a truly stunning visual experience.

Cabinet Knobs & Hardware

Knobs, cabinet handles, and drawer pulls are the accent points of the kitchen remodel. Installers will offer a dizzying array of period styles and finish choices; chrome or pewter, stainless steel, brass, Roman ovals, Victorian cup pulls, antique scroll or rope pulls, everything imaginable to complete the style of the new kitchen cabinets.

Cabinet refacing and finishing is something that can be accomplished by the homeowner. However, if considering this, make sure you have the skills and time needed. Cabinet refacing requires specialized tools and techniques to cut and apply veneers correctly. Careful and accurate application is needed for kitchen cabinets where every joint, hinge, and door shows.

Last Updated: July 22, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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