Cabinet Refacing

Does refacing your cabinets make sense?

It doesnít take many years before your kitchen can look a little the worse for wear. Colors change, cabinet styles change, and what suited you ten years ago may no longer please you. If you have a country kitchen, but crave a contemporary look, cabinet refacing can provide the look you want for much less than replacing the cabinets.

Refacing can range from simply repainting existing cabinets and drawer fronts and updating hardware to stripping cabinet doors and applying veneer or other decorative elements. Refacing can also include completely replacing cabinet doors in a new style using new materials.

If youíre so inclined you can reface your cabinets and drawers yourself, or you can hire a company that specializes in cabinet refacing to do the work for you. Different companies have slightly different definitions of cabinet refacing. Some build new drawers and doors for existing cabinets while some clean, install new veneers, and add new hardware. The key, if you choose to go with a professional, is to be clear about the range of services and what exactly they can offer you for a given price.

Reface or replace?

If your home was built more than 30 years ago, itís likely that the cabinets are wood or plywood and the construction is decent quality. Unless you have the budget to replace them with semi- or custom wood cabinets, it´s likely that new cabinets will be a combination of solid wood, plywood, particle board, and MDF. Older drawers were often constructed using dovetails and rabbets, not just glue and staples. Often they were extra deep or wide. Getting similar quality can prove to be relatively expensive. If the floor plan works and current storage is adequate, refacing can be a great option.

If you are hiring a company to do the refacing, theyíll provide an estimate and detail exactly the services they can provide. Because they have a vested interest in selling their service, itís a good idea to get several estimates from a couple vendors. Youíll be able to get a good idea of how much you can accomplish if you hire someone compared with how much you might be able to do yourself.

On the other hand, if your kitchen has low-end cabinets made of particle board with either a vinyl or laminate finish for example, they may not be worth spending money on. Cabinet cases that show signs of deterioration, shelves that bow, or drawers that donít slide easily are indications that the cabinets should be replaced. If you donít have the money to replace cabinets right away, give them a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint in and out, then call it good. Then you can start your savings campaign for your kitchen remodeling project.

The caveat is to take a good look at your cabinets before you call in someone to give you an estimate. Depending on their company´s focus, they may suggest refacing cabinets that arenít worth it or suggest replacing cabinets that are. If you´ve examined your cabinets closely, youíll be less susceptible to being ďsoldĒ on services or improvements that arenít necessary.

Comparative cost for replacement versus refacing

New kitchen cabinetry can be expensive. Refacing is an attractive alternative because it can cost 30-50% less than replacing existing cabinets with cabinets of comparable quality.

The average kitchen has about 15 cabinets and, at an average cost per cabinet of $500, can easily exceed $7,500 for cabinets alone. A common rule of thumb in pricing remodeling costs is to figure the cost of cabinets and installation at 50-60% of the total remodeling budget.

The total refacing cost depends on the number of cabinets, veneer and hardware choices, and options like replacing countertops and moldings.

When can you do it yourself?

Refacing cabinets, replacing moldings, and countertops is achievable if you are motivated and have some experience with home improvement projects. Materials and hardware are readily available. Preparation and planning are vitally important to success, but there is nothing about the work that is particularly difficult. You may make some mistakes and have to rework some of it, but if you build your learning curve into the project, thereís no reason you canít save substantially.

Doing the work yourself is particularly cost-effective if no reconfiguration of cabinetry is required.

The consideration here would be to know what you are capable of. If you enjoy doing the work and are conscientious about craftsmanship, it will take you a little longer than hiring someone with experience, but there can be a lot of satisfaction in doing the work yourself.

On the other hand, hiring someone to do the work for you can result in a better quality job if you tend to get impatient with detail work and dislike do-it-yourself projects.

When to hire a pro

A professional with solid experience and references is likely to give you the best outcome for the money. To qualify a vendor, check their references, compare several estimates, and examine their contract for scope of work, terms and conditions, as well as warranties. In addition to references, ask to see projects that are at least several months old. Get up close and check seams and edges to make sure the adhesive is still secure and meets neatly at seams.

If your home is older, your kitchen may have lead-based painted cabinets. If so, make sure the company you select is trained to deal with containing dust and particulates during the project.

A poorly refaced cabinet can be uglier than just repainting. Spend the time needed to evaluate each company before signing an agreement for the work. There are many small companies as well as larger companies who are eager for your project, but there are also enough yahoos out there that are just as willing to take your money and leave you with a sub par result. By making the phone calls and doing your research, you can get the kitchen you want and not go broke in the process.


Contact Next Step Remodeling for competitive bids from local, qualified specialists in cabinet refacing.

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