Photo by Ben Snider

Update: If you’re looking into remodeling your kitchen, you’ll know from your research that there’s no upper limit to the amount of money you can spend on a kitchen. But if you want to give your kitchen a quick facelift that’s affordable and provides an instant improvement, you can try refacing your cabinets. This means you don’t have to rip out and buy new fittings – you can just replace the countertops or add new cupboards doors, resulting in a fresh new look that doesn’t cost the Earth.-

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Refacing is a process in which the exterior of existing cabinets are refinished or replaced to change or improve their appearance. It is an inexpensive option to replacing the kitchen cabinets. During refacing, the old cabinet doors, moldings, hinges, and drawer fronts are replaced and repainted. Refaced cabinets are available in a wide variety of styles and colors.. All types of cabinets can be refaced, so long as they have not been damaged or are deteriorated to a point that the cabinet box is not useable.

What types of refacing that can be done?

There are two approaches to refacing kitchen cabinets. One is to refinish the existing cabinet frames in colors of your choice and install matching drawer fronts and doors. The other approach is to install a veneer over the existing cabinet frames instead of refinishing them. The veneers can be of oak, cherry, maple and are available in various thicknesses and stains.

In both cases, knobs and pulls can also be added. The result is that you get a great looking kitchen where the cabinet exteriors are new with an updated style. The inside of the cabinets and the shelves can be sanded and stained, covered with contact paper or painted to complete your kitchen remodel.

Popular refacing materials

Common refacing materials include plywood, wood over wood laminates and wood veneer. Wood over wood veneers are dimensionally stable and there is no ridging or bubbling with them. They are also easy to roll and transport. Wood is a good choice as a material for doors. A layer of thermal foil makes the surface scratch resistant and easy to clean; however, it often has a plastic like appearance.

Refacing Vs Replacing

Refacing is often the less inexpensive option. However, the cost depends on the extent of refacing that you wish to do; is it a simple paint job or will all the doors, drawer faces, and doorknobs also need to be changed. The best way to decide is to do a cost comparison between refacing and replacing, for the extent of work that you have in mind.

In general, refacing the kitchen cabinets can lead to a 30-50% saving over replacing them. Both take approximately the same amount of time, it can vary from 2-5 days. Also, compare costs between companies that provide refacing services, costs vary with the materials used and the location of your home. The process of refacing does not involve tearing out the existing structures, such as the sink, the countertops, emptying the cabinets, nor does it affect the plumbing. You can still use your kitchen. This is not the case with replacing the cabinets; the kitchen becomes off-limits during construction.

Replacing is often the only alternative if you want to change the layout or the size of your kitchen.. Whether you replace or reface your cabinets, it is on of the best ways to add to the resale value of your house.

How long does it take to reface?

Most refacing projects can be carried out in less than a week. The time varies with the number of cabinets and doors to be refaced, the intricacy of the refacing process and the skill level of the workers. If you plan to install additional features such as low voltage lighting, that adds to the time as well.

Can refacing of kitchen cabinets be undertaken as a Do It Yourself project?

Yes, cabinet refacing can be done by enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers. Since the process does not require any major electrical work, tiling, or removal of existing appliances, a cabinet refacing project is ideal even for those who have little experience. Applying veneer to the cabinet frames is not difficult. The veneer is peel and apply or has to be ironed on to the surface. Care needs to be taken that the surface of the cabinet frames is clean. You have to decide the extent of refacing that you wish to do, it can involve painting the cabinet doors, all the cabinets in the kitchen, installing new drawer hardware, hidden hinges, etc.

To do cabinet refacing yourself, all you need is some elementary wood working skills and the necessary tools.