Replacing vs Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Home Renovation

Thursday, July 15th, 2021 @ 12:57pm

Your kitchen cabinets take up a lot of real estate in your kitchen, so if they’re showing their age, they can start to drag down the look and value of the whole room.

While we all dream of doing the big kitchen renovation, if that’s not in the cards, focusing on your cabinetry may be a good project to tackle to update your kitchen. The big question I hear a lot is: should I be replacing my cabinets entirely, or can I get away with painting or refacing them? Should I reface or replace my kitchen cabinets?

Painting Versus Refacing Your Cabinets

The big difference between painting and refacing your cabinets is pretty simple. Painting your existing cabinets freshens up the existing look of your kitchen cabinetry while refacing them gives it a new look almost entirely.

Either way, both choices give you a less expensive option in lieu of doing a full replacement, which is great for any homeowner on a budget. The cost of replacing kitchen cabinets is much higher than painting or refacing.

While painting tends to be the cheaper of the two, painted cabinets build up grease and dust more easily than refaced cabinets, so they’ll require more maintenance.

Photo courtesy of Holmes Approved Homes builder Gibraltar Fine Homes

When To Reface Your Cabinets

Refacing your cabinets means replacing all the front-facing parts of the existing cabinet boxes (doors, drawers, wood veneering) – but leaving the rest in place. You keep the existing cabinetry, but still give it a new look that can change the look of your existing kitchen dramatically. You’re looking at a drastically reduced cost to reface your cabinets instead of a full replacement.

Refacing is a pretty quick, simple process that can be completed in a matter of days.

Because you’re only replacing front-facing hardware, you’re not disturbing any plumbing or wires that run through the kitchen. And remember, plumbing and wiring are not DIY tasks.

Pro Tip: The framework of the cabinets needs to be in good condition to be refaced – if their integrity is compromised (such as the cabinet walls feeling soft, or the cabinet box is too old to drill new holes), you’re looking at a replacement instead.


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The Pros Of Refacing Kitchen Cabinets 

  • Cost-effective makeover solution
  • No changes to layout required
  • Fairly quick and simple process


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When To Replace Your Cabinets

Good quality cabinets should last you decades. So if you can save money and get a similar effect from replacing, why wouldn’t you keep the old ones?

Cabinets are the most important, and most expensive, part of your kitchen renovation. This is where the quality, or lack of it, is most easily hidden.

If your kitchen will see a lot of wear and tear over the years, your cabinets might take a beating. Most cabinets are made from wood, and so water damage is a concern, especially if you’ve sprung a leak. If the wood is starting to warp, showing signs of mold, or no longer open or close properly, you’ll want to think about replacing them soon.

If you’re happy with your kitchen’s layout, you can get away with refacing the cabinets. What if you’re doing a bigger renovation? Knocking down walls or adding more space in the kitchen might mean having to move around your cabinets. In that case, you may find it more valuable to have the old cabinets ripped out, and replaced with new ones.

Think about the rest of your kitchen – what sections of the kitchen are due to be replaced next? Before you replace the cabinetry, think about what other pieces will need to be swapped out in the next five or ten years. Think long-term and make sure that your new cabinets will match any updated appliances or countertops in the future.


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Now, if you decide to replace your cabinets, but they’re still in decent shape, donate them to the Habitat ReStore. It may seem like we throw out all the kitchen cabinets when we do demos on our shows, but we do donate as many materials as possible.

As I said, cabinets should last a long time, so someone could still get a lot of life out of them.


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