Why Cabinet Refacing Makes Cents

Cabinet refacing boosts the value and appearance of your home in less time than, and at roughly half the price of, a full remodel. Learn more about sprucing up your cabinets adding a new look to your home.

According to a 2007 Remodeling Magazine report, the average cost of a full kitchen remodel was more than $55,000. And while most experts agree that a kitchen upgrade offers great return on investment at sales time, that’s a lot of money to spend if what you want to change is superficial. Refacing your cabinets might make more sense.

What’s Involved in Refacing Your Cabinets
In cabinet refacing, your actual cabinet boxes are left intact, and the facing framework is cleaned up or re-covered. Then, the color, veneer, or surface texture is altered, as are the doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. A refacing can be done in a few days–a fraction of the time for a remodel.

You’ll have a few decisions to make about your cabinets in order to reface them:

  • Finish: Your choices include wood veneer, plastic laminate, or RTF (rigid thermofoil), a malleable vinyl foil pressure-molded to fit firmly over any style or cut of cabinetry. It’s inexpensive and easy to clean. Wood veneers, of course, have a richer appearance and therefore cost more, but they tend to be sturdier and longer lasting. Woods may include hickory, oak, maple, cherry, birch, pine, alder, or poplar. Today’s wood finishes require much less maintenance than their older counterparts. Plastic laminates are a little more expensive and in more colors and wood grains than RTF, but they cost less than wood and are more versatile.
  • Design Options: When you choose hardware and hinges, make sure that the existing nail holes match with any new hardware your choose. And you’ll also have the option of choosing new door styles–raised or recessed panels, glass fronts, or slab are the most common. Here, it’s best to choose a style that doesn’t depart too much from the existing architecture in the room.
  • Utility: While you’re refacing your cabinets, you have some other options, too. For example, you can replace center wood drawer glides with side plastic rollers. You might exchange a door for a drawer. And you might reface your countertops to match and to make them more user-friendly. Also, consider how appliances fit in, and whether you want to custom install new appliances while you’re at it.

Other Important Cabinet Refacing Considerations
The most important part of any cabinet refacing job is measuring. One inaccurate measurement can make a cabinet unusable. That’s why many experts recommend having a professional handle the job–plus, a pro can often do it in far less time.

Price is determined on a per unit basis, with most jobs totaling $1000-$5000, depending on materials and number of units. If your cabinets were built 20-30 years ago, experts say they were probably built better than some newer versions, so they’re a good choice for refacing. However, they probably have lead in them. Contractors are required to take special precautions when working with it; this is another reason why you might consider hiring a professional.

Ultimately, if you’re not happy with the layout or functionality of your kitchen or bathroom, refacing won’t really help and isn’t recommended. And you certainly shouldn’t reface any cabinetry that isn’t structurally sound to begin with.