This buying guide will help you decide if kitchen cabinet refacing is right for you. Learn about the pros and cons of refacing cabinets and how to get a professional refacing job done.

When your cabinet doors and fronts are worn beyond repair, or you’re just tired of looking at the same old thing, you have two choices: replace them or reface them.

bright basement kitchen with light toned surfaces
Replacing doors on cabinets is a great way to give them a totally new look. (c) Irina88w |
Remove all hardware.
Doors and drawers are removed and cabinet fronts are refaced.

Because the kitchen is usually the hub of the home, you’ll want to make sure that it is not only functional but also looks its best. Prospective buyers will be willing to pay more for your home if the kitchen is attractive and modern. But a complete kitchen redesign can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months to finish. That’s why more and more homeowners are turning to kitchen cabinet refacing to give their kitchens a fresh look.

Renovating doors and refacing kitchen cabinets comes in at a fraction of the cost of a remodel. Furthermore, there are many small businesses that price the job affordably. If you want to keep prices even lower by doing the work yourself, there is an abundance of resources to draw upon.

When is it time to consider cabinet refacing? Following are some questions you should answer:

• Are my kitchen cabinet drawers and door fronts starting to look faded or overly worn?
• Do I sometimes have difficulty effortlessly opening my kitchen cabinets and/or drawers?
• Are my kitchen cabinets starting to look like their style is from a bygone era? Are they colors such as yellow, burnt orange, or lime green that just scream ’70s?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, chances are that visitors or potential home buyers will too.

Companies that specialize in cabinet refacing have literally hundreds of styles for you to choose from as well as all the add-on features you desire, such as roll-out shelves, high-quality drawer slides, and more. If you decide to go this route, you’ll meet with a professional designer and discuss the look you’re hoping to achieve. The company will measure your kitchen and prepare a detailed design plan.

Once you approve the plan, the company will build all of the custom doors, drawer fronts, cabinet facing, and other elements to your specifications. Staff will install the attractive new replacements, and your kitchen will look brand new. The whole process can often be completed in a week.

If you want to do the work yourself, many kitchen remodeling companies sell the doors, drawer fronts, and materials you’ll need to reface your cabinets. The large home improvement centers are also great resources for materials.

At the least difficult level, you can add new hardware, moldings, or wood appliques to plain cabinet doors and fronts. Depending on how elaborate you make it, this can simply dress up your old cabinets or change their appearance entirely. Adding a new paint color or multicolor scheme makes this refacing even more effective.

Another option is to buy new doors for your existing cabinets. Replacing an all-too-familiar panel door with a sleek new European-style door-or a plain flush door with a raised-panel style-can effect an amazing transformation. This works best with overlay doors, which cover the stiles and rails and limit the amount of reworking necessary in those areas.

If you want to go the distance and completely reface your old cabinets, you can buy high-quality self-sticking veneers in just about any wood species. Some of these veneers have a peel-off paper backing; others are applied with heat. Professional cabinet refacers use special heat tools, but an ordinary clothes iron works sufficiently well. After the veneer is on, you stain and finish it the same as you would any other new wood.

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” served as MSN’s home expert for several years, and is featured as Yelp's home improvement expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort