Refacing vs. Replacing Your Cabinets

February 27, 2020

If your kitchen is beginning to look a little worse for wear, updating your cabinets can be a good way to freshen things up without a costly and time-consuming remodel.

There are multiple ways this can be done, which is lucky, because certain methods are better for certain situations. Below, we’ll go over the pros and cons of two of the most popular methods, refacing and replacing, to help you decide which might be right for you.


Refacing Your Cabinets

Refacing (or refinishing) is a process in which the front-facing portions of the cabinets (doors, drawer fronts, and cabinet and drawer knobs or pulls) are removed and refurbished. You can use fresh paint or stain, a new decorative covering known as a veneer, or new fronts made of wood or other materials. Homeowners have the option of hiring someone to do the project, or they can do it themselves if they are savvy and motivated.


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Pros of Refacing

Many homeowners choose refacing over replacing because it has many benefits. 


1. Takes Less Time and Costs Less 

Estimates of just how much time and money you’ll save by refacing vary. Doing the project yourself may save you money, but it will take more of your time than hiring a professional and the results may not be as perfect and polished. How long it takes will vary depending on the materials you use — installing whole new doors can be easier than stripping veneers and stains. In general, refacing costs about half that of replacement and takes 1 - 3 days when done professionally.


2. You Keep the Layout and Use of Your Cabinets During the Process  

Because only the front-facing portions of the cabinets are updated, your cabinets don’t lose any functionality. It may seem obvious, but this can be a huge boon. You won’t have to remove everything from your cabinets, nor will you have to dig around wondering where you left things. 

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3. It’s Eco-Friendly 

Since you’re using the same cabinet boxes, there’s less waste, which means less material ends up in one of our already overflowing landfills. It may also mean fewer trees get cut down to make new boxes. 


Cons of Refacing

Refacing can be a great budget-friendly solution, but it may not be the right for all renovations.


1. You’re Stuck with your Existing Cabinets 

You’ll be using the same cabinet boxes when all is said and done, so it’s vital that they be in good repair. If the sides of the box or shelves are damaged; if the wood is warped or rotting; or your cabinets are in some other way unsound, refacing is not the best choice for you.


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2. You May Face Unexpected Costs  

While refacing can be quite a bit cheaper than replacing, if you’re not careful, you may not save nearly as much as you expect. It could be tempting, perhaps, to splurge on new hinges or drawer pulls that end up eating into your planned savings. Or maybe once the fronts are updated, you’ll decide you want to re-stain the interiors of your cabinets to match. Be sure to be realistic about the updates you’ll want to do, and then include them in your budget from the start.

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3. It’s a Challenging DIY that Requires Skill and Knowledge 

Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you decide to hire some for the job, but if you do it yourself, it’s important that you know what you’re in for. Depending on the specific process you choose, cabinet materials and the products you use to strip and refurbish them may contain noxious or dangerous chemicals. They may require careful handling, more time to dry, and a properly ventilated space. Not everyone is up to the task, so consider carefully what you’re capable of before committing. 


Replacing Your Cabinets

While much of your cabinets’ structure remains during refacing, replacing involves completely removing them and installing new pre-made kits or custom-built units in their place.


Pros of Replacing

There are many instances in which replacing your cabinets is a better option than refacing them. 


1. Presents an Opportunity to Use Better Materials  

Perhaps you live in an older home and have concerns about lead contamination. Maybe the particleboard or wooden veneers of your current cabinets aren’t as durable as you’d like them to be. Replacing your cabinets gives you a chance to start fresh and make sure that your storage will hold up for years to come.

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2. Get the Design and Layout You’ve Always Wanted  

The decorative upgrades of refacing can only go so far. In the end, your space will function the same as it always has. Have an idea for how it could work better for you? Removing and replacing your cabinets gives you an opportunity to implement it.


Cons of Replacing

You may be dreaming of replacing your cabinets, but keep the following things in mind before diving into the project.


1. Takes More Time and Money

Installing your own pre-made cabinet kits may be more affordable than having professionals install custom-made cabinets. However, not only can the removal of the old cabinets be dangerous, but the measuring and leveling that you have to do during installation allow for very little margin for error. Replacing cabinets is not a suitable DIY project for the majority of homeowners. 

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Purchasing an entire cabinet system usually costs more than refacing, and it takes a bit longer to install, even when you hire a professional. And of course, the more people involved in the completion of the project, the more you can expect to spend.


2. It’s a Greater Inconvenience 

It bears repeating that you won’t be able to use your cabinets while they’re being torn out and replaced. Sure, the end result of all-new units will be great, but sometimes the compromises that you’ll have to make to get there are just as important a factor in making a decision. Be sure that you’ve fully considered the inconveniences your choice will entail for you and those around you.


Are You Ready to Get Started?

Now that you know more about refacing and replacing, are you ready to make some changes to your cabinets? If you still have questions, get in touch with us at S & S Woodcraft. We’d love to help you!

For some examples of what our refacing and replacing jobs look like, see our gallery, or come to our showroom here in Cold Lake, just a short drive from Edmonton.