Many kitchen cabinets show their age after years of regular use. Over time, worn finishes and outdated styles may no longer suit your family’s needs or taste. Updating cabinetry is a worthwhile investment that can greatly improve both the function and appearance of the kitchen.
Doing a full cabinet refacing project involves removing and then replacing cabinets, the entire frame, and all surfaces. This provides maximum design freedom but also has significant costs. According to remodeling industry reports, a mid-range full kitchen remodel averages around $60,000 nationally. Such an expensive project requires careful financial planning.
Is it cheaper to reface or replace cabinets?
Fortunately, there is a more affordable option—cabinet refacing. This process focuses on just the cabinet surfaces. New wood veneer, plastic laminate, or thermofoil “faces” are installed over and under the cabinet lighting and existing doors and frames.
In this guide, we will examine both kitchen cabinet refacing costs and full replacement solid wood cabinet refacing costs and processes in an easy to understand way. You will learn about typical costs, installation steps, design options, and more. Comparing kitchen and cabinet refacing costs with and against replacement will help you decide the best approach based on your budget and goals for your kitchen project. A well-informed choice is important.
Consider Your Cabinet Needs and Functionality
When considering cabinet costs to either reface cabinets, new cabinets, replace doors, or upgrades, it is important to evaluate how well your current setup meets your storage and organization needs. Refacing cabinets will preserve the existing layout, but full replacement allows reconfiguring the space as desired. Refacing cabinets keeps the same layout, so it may not address functional issues. Replacement provides flexibility to modify cabinet locations, add insert accessories, and customize shelf and drawer arrangements. Overall kitchen layout and functionality should factor into your decision. Refacing kitchen cabinets maintains the status quo layout, while replacement enables customizing a more efficient, organized workflow optimized for your lifestyle. Weighing storage priorities will show which upgrade approach is most practical.
Assessing Your Existing Cabinets
When inspecting for dents and scratches, look at all visible cabinet surfaces and take note of the number and severity of any issues found. This week, determine the extent to which you reface cabinets. Pay close attention to high-traffic areas. Water stains should be examined to determine if the damage is only cosmetic or indicates deeper water penetration issues. Inspect the cabinet door and drawer hardware for signs of wear like loose hinges or drawer pulls that are difficult to open. Check for cracks, peeling, or seam separation on finished surfaces that could signal the need for replacement.
Take detailed measurements of each wall and floor cabinet to develop an accurate picture of the existing layout. Note total numbers and specific dimensions for uppers, lowers, islands, or other components. Draw a to-scale floor plan depicting the current configuration. Identify materials used for construction as some, like solid wood, may require the specialized cost of cabinet refacing, cost, and materials. Assess existing cabinet doors and hardware styles and whether replacements are desirable.
Inspect cabinet boxes and frames for straightness and integrity, looking for warping, bowing, or cracks in framing members. Check shelving materials for water stains, sagging, or other compromising issues. Ensure wall attachment methods are securely fastening to cabinet boxes and able to support additional weight from new faces.
Take very precise inside and outside linear dimensions to within 1/16 inch for all the new doors, new countertops, and cabinets only. Note electronic or plumbing fixtures replacing cabinets, appliances, and windows that may interfere with new surfaces.
Consider simple, inexpensive changes that can quickly improve the look, like painting cabinet interiors a bright color or applying self-adhesive contact paper to the cabinet doors and drawers. These small updates help determine if a basic refresh is sufficient.
Research local codes to understand any permits or inspections required for the intended scope of work. Modifications involving structural changes typically necessitate approvals.
Schedule on-site consultations with 2-3 licensed cabinet contractors. Provide thorough details on assessment findings and design goals. Request estimates outlining options and associated costs.
Take multiple high-quality photos documenting all existing conditions found. Snap detailed shots of any problem areas, full cabinet runs, as well as close-ups of measurements. Photos provide a valuable reference point later in the project.
Considering these evaluation points helps determine your ideal renovation approach, from refacing cabinets alone to a combination of partial replacement and refacing cabinets with others to achieve cohesive designs. Comparing work required against pricing helps choose the most practical solution.
Cabinet Refacing Project
Now that lower cost materials for the existing cabinets have been assessed, let’s examine the cost of kitchen cabinet refacing cost again, the cabinet refacing cost used to reface kitchen cabinets, and cabinet refacing cost and process as a potential upgrade path for more cabinets. Refacing involves installing new surfaces like wood veneer or laminate over the original frames.
The first step is the cabinet refacing preparation. Sand any existing cabinet doors and drawer fronts finishes smooth and clean thoroughly. Apply a bonding agent to promote surface adhesion on cabinet doors and other parts. Next, install new cabinet refacing doors and drawer fronts, beginning by cutting the cabinet refacing material to fit with a router or jigsaw. Miter all corners at 45 degree angles.
The most common cabinet refacing materials are laminate materials and thermofoil. Laminate is a paper-backed plastic providing an extremely durable, sealed surface ideal for high-traffic areas. Quality laminates start around $35 per sheet and an average cabinet refacing cost per project uses 15-25 sheets. Thermofoil wraps the material around the door or box front for a seamless look, but seams remain visible up close. Foils cost $25-50 per sheet, with 10-15 sheets used on an average cabinet refacing costs per project costs per project costs.
Wood veneer creates a more natural appearance, solid wood veneer, but wood veneer requires extra securing and sealing to protect wood veneers from moisture. Edge-banding tapes disguise unfinished wood veneer edges. Hardware choices for real wood veneer include brushed nickels, oil-rubbed bronzes, and more. Refacing hardware wood veneers usually run $150-500 in total.
Installation cost of cabinet refacing involves fitting new surfaces under cabinet lighting flush and securing with small brads or finishing nails. Follow with caulk and cleanup. Refinishing interior finishes may be included. Average cabinet refacing cost costs $5,000-$15,000 nationally, depending on the cabinetry’s condition and the designer and cost to reface cabinets and its selections.
Pros are lower expenses versus full replacement of custom cabinets while maintaining existing frames and structure. Cons include visibility of minor substrate imperfections up close and more limited design options versus full replacing cabinets with custom components. Overall, cabinet refacing cost provides an affordable way to update cabinetry when budgets are tight.
Full Cabinet Replacement
For a completely new look with cabinet refacing with maximum design flexibility, full cabinet replacement removes natural wood and replaces the entire carcass structure and all adjacent surfaces with solid wood.
The process of refinishing cabinets begins by thoroughly emptying all cabinets and packing away knickknacks. Then, dismantle the existing cabinet boxes and the old cabinet boxes completely, disposing all materials properly according to local codes. Following demolition, a professional cabinet contractor, prepares the surrounding wall surfaces by applying bonding agent if necessary.
New cabinet boxes often are constructed off-site by a professional cabinet shop with built in wine racks by contractors. Construction of new cabinet boxes often relies on sturdy plywood or particleboard paneling, or real wood, solid wood, or solid wood joined tightly at corners. Choose from many solid wood, species like maple, cherry, or hickory, or even non-wood materials like plastic laminate-wrapped cabinets. Custom internal design with insert accessories is also an option at this stage.
Solid, solid wood doors and slab, frameless, or Euro-style doors allow hidden hinges for a clean aesthetic. Thermally fused melamine or decorative laminates provide durable, sealed surfaces in the popular shaker or flat panel styles. Glass inserts add visual appeal to display dishes. Quality hardware like soft-close metal hinges and gleaming drawer pulls can complete any new design.
Installation is more complex than the average kitchen, cabinet, and refacing project and costs both project in cost and project in job costs, but results are seamless. Walls are prepped, cabinets set in place, and secured firmly by attaching cleats. Trim and crown molding are installed afterward to conceal gaps. Once complete, scribe new laminate doors or tile backsplashes as desired.
Replacement costs vary widely by the scope of the project cost, but national averages are $10,000-$30,000 depending on materials selected and customization complexity. Additional expenses include cabinet design, appliance upgrades, flooring replacement, or other remodeling elements frequently bundled into average costs for such an extensive renovation project. While demanding more labor and resources than just refacing cabinets or refinishing cabinets, replacement creates cohesive, long-lasting results through fully integrated architecture matching any design vision.
Other Upgrade Options
While cost to reface kitchen cabinets, cost of a kitchen cabinet refacing, the cost to reface cabinets that are less, and full replacement present two main paths to save money, other tactical upgrades provide alternatives. Combining approaches tailors solutions specifically to budget and goals. Targeted front door removal and drawer upgrades preserve existing boxes while saving money by using new doors and refreshing drawer fronts in problem areas like the sink base.
Sleek modern pulls paired with hidden European-style hinges make a simple yet stylish impact. Cover outdated hardware for $50-150 versus complete hardware replacements, costing $150-500. These low-cost experiments determine if modest solutions suit the needs of larger projects. Comparing kitchen cabinet refacing and costs to partial or targeted upgrades helps tailor a practical solution fitting your budget and schedule.
Consideration Factors for Cabinet Projects
With an understanding of options, careful consideration of certain factors helps you to determine the best approach for you
Budget: Carefully research estimated project costs and contractors for various upgrade approaches to understand what your budget will feasibility support. Factor in labor costs of the project itself as well as related expenses like new appliances or flooring that may be bundled. With replacement averaging $10,000-$30,000+, verify funds or ability to finance the full project cost.
Functionality Needs: Assess how well existing configurations meet storage and organizational needs. Refacing preserves the current kitchen layout, but replacement allows revising sq footage allocation and adding specialized inserts. For small kitchens especially, optimized layout may require full replacement.
Style Preferences: Consider if replacing or refacing kitchen cabinets within the same design style achieves a coherent, integrated look or if a new style is desired. Refacing cabinets maintains the same existing hardware and aesthetics whereas replacement accomplishes seamless integration of materials, colors, and hardware selections into a unified whole, better complementing surrounding factors like backsplashes or flooring.
Timeline: Weigh schedule constraints and determine if the 1-2 week timeline of a kitchen cabinet refacing project works better than the 4-6 weeks often required to fully remove, construct, and install replacement kitchen cabinets elsewhere. Avoid planning major work over holidays when contractors have less availability.
Structural Integrity: Closely inspect foundations for signs of past water damage that are only detectable through full removal. Refacing overlays on existing substrates potentially hides deterioration compromising structural safety, warranting complete replacement instead of exposed surface only.
Do-It-Yourself Skills: Weigh personal abilities from simple prep and installation tasks of a refacing job against full carpentry skills, including demolition, construction, and installing hardware and installation required for replacement’s complexity labor cost. Labor costs: Hiring labor factors into labor costs, too.
Design Considerations and Trends
With upgrades come opportunities to embrace the latest design styles. Evaluate selections against these emerging trends
- Minimalism – Streamlined silhouettes with refined hardware and flush panel overlays create unobtrusive backdrops. Whites and light neutrals optimize light and space.
- Open Shelving – Strategic alcove shelving displaying favorites marries function and decor. Prevent dusting by maintaining closed cabinets, too.
- Hidden Elements – Concealed pull-outs, rotating shelves, solid wood doors, and vertical storage maximize organization efficiently out-of-sight. Soft-closing adds refinement.
- Natural Materials – Distressed woods, marble, and concrete surfaces introduce tactility. Earthy tones pair sustainability and wellness. Distressing mimics reclaimed material.
- Lighting Integration – Seamless undercabinet cabinet lighting, that guides tasks while accent fixtures spotlight collections beautifully. LEDs offer efficiency.
- Hardware Suite – Knobs and pulls coordinate cabinetry, furniture, and appliances for cohesion. Brushed metals pair with modernicity and hygienic benefits.
- Bold Color – Saturated hues embolden small spaces while tinted glass fronts liven storage visually. Consider longevity of brights in high-traffic areas.
Evaluate current and future design preferences alongside available cabinet and countertop solutions for an inspired, tailored result aligning beauty, function, and lifestyle. With innovative materials and concepts, upgrade potential remains endless.
Design Development and Planning
With the assessment complete and options reviewed, the heart of the project begins – design development. Sketch several layout concepts, balancing requirements with creativity. First, draft scaled wall elevations placing cabinets, appliances, and fixtures clearly. Note shelf configurations, door/drawer doors and drawer fronts, island design, and electrical/plumbing component locations. Develop a style board collaging materials, colors, hardware, and other aesthetic inspirations. Visit showrooms examining textures and finishes in person. Print patterned papers for sample books.
Gather all relevant measurements, including existing cabinet and wall specs, appliance dimensions, and space allowances for circulation. Factor tiny details like electrical box protrusions. Use 3D modeling software to arrange layouts three-dimensionally for a more realistic perspective. Freely edit configurations before construction begins. Consult with experienced kitchen designers if needed to optimize functionality. They consider design principles for efficiency, including triangle work zones and proper clearances.
Refine concepts through thorough client presentations. Discuss options specifically addressing needs and priorities to decide on a final plan. Add specialty items to the scope as preferred, like soft-close drawers, pull-outs, clip lighting, or built-in recycling centers. Produce detailed drawings precisely dimensioning and calling out all specifications, materials, construction notes, and other requirements for fabrication. Permits may require a professional seal and submission to local code offices for approval, depending on the extent of structural modifications planned.
Schedule pre-construction meetings for installers to review the scope before ordering supplies to minimize errors or delays. Thorough preparation leads to seamless installation of customized, cohesive, and efficient cabinetry cabinet accessories or built-ins tailored perfectly to the client’s needs and tastes.
this guide has outlined a comprehensive process for assessing existing kitchen cabinets and determining the optimal upgrade path. Whether choosing a full cabinet refacing project, full replacement, partial upgrades, or targeted improvements, careful evaluation of the condition, needs, budget, style preference, and other key factors leads to an informed decision.
Developing integrated designs in line with functionality and aesthetic goals ensures maximized long-term satisfaction from the investment. With thorough preparation, including detailed planning, specifications, client presentations, and permitting, installations can proceed smoothly. Following the assessment and design development steps discussed sets any project up for success in transforming outdated cabinetry into an organized and beautiful focal point, enhancing the entire kitchen experience for years to come. Upgrading your kitchen cabinets provides an impactful home renovation, improving both form and function.