Often, the course of action for improving existing cabinetry is unclear. Other than to tear it all out and start over, homeowners are presented with a common question: “Should we refinish these outdated cabinets or reface them?” Well, the answer can depend on many factors which should be contemplated. Among them are budget, desired appearance, and existing condition. These are key for many people to consider in determining whether to reface or refinish.
Usually your budget is a big factor in deciding what to do in any project. The cost for cabinet refinishing is mostly labor, plus a little bit in materials such as coatings, masking materials, etc. Refacing, however, involves all new parts such as cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and trim. These materials are custom made and prefinished so there are complementary costs for associated for these items. There is also the installation labor. Strictly in terms of cost, refinishing your cabinets is about 1/2 of what it takes to reface them. If you’re planning to move out of the home in the near future or sprucing it up to help it sell, it might make more sense to refinish the cabinets for a new look rather than spend the additional money on a reface. If you are planning to stay awhile, it might be wise to reface and get exactly the door style and finish you want while having time to enjoy it.
The look you desire is also a big factor in deciding which way to go. Some existing cabinetry is so outdated and undoubtedly needs a new door style. Some have just turned yellow or faded and the style is acceptable but a new color is all that is needed. Most builder-installed cabinets are basic and common. We see common types of finishes, door styles, and wood types based on when the home was built as well as the individual neighborhood. Some are more timeless than others but some were obviously put in because the builder got a good deal. In these cases a reface may be in order to get the biggest bang for your buck.
The existing condition of the cabinets can sometimes make your decision for you. For example, if your cabinets have been previously painted, especially by a non-professional, you will be happier with the results of having them refaced. Many times there are brush marks, bumpy areas in the finish, or it may be peeling in too many areas. If the existing condition is poor, the cabinets probably cannot be refinished at all. The existing finish may have to be chemically stripped resulting in a lot more labor costs. A reface is the likely solution in these cases.
Everyone’s situation is different, but with some consideration, the choice whether to reface or refinish will become clear. We often review the pros and cons with potential clients when there are questions about which direction to take. The bottom line is there’s usually something that can be done, and either way, the results will be stunning.