Refinishing a stain or painting kitchen or bath cabinetry may make sense if you are looking for a superficial update prior to selling your home. However, when comparing refacing (replacing doors and drawer fronts and painting or staining the doors, drawers, and face frames to match) or refinishing (paint or stain) vs purchasing new cabinets when renovating the home you intend to live in for many years to come, it is important to look at the big picture.
Major marketing themes in favor of refacing or refinishing cabinetry include cost savings and time savings. They tout the quality of cabinets built decades in the past as superior. Let’s examine the reality of these claims.
Claim: Cost Savings
The majority of the cost of cabinetry is incorporated in the face frame, doors, and drawers. It is not in the box or shelves of the cabinet. The average customer who is replacing their drawers and doors is doing so to update the aesthetics of their cabinetry. Paint will not update the shape of the doors and drawers, which is the main influence on the style of the design. This leaves replacing the doors and drawers with an updated door style and then painting those doors and drawers (or attempting to match a wood species or stain) in order to truly obtain the updated look the customer desires. The customer has now paid for new doors, drawers, and the labor involved in finishing those components as well as the finishing the face frame of the cabinet.
Claim: Time savings
A professional quality paint refinishing, regardless of whether the doors and drawers are replaced, involve temporarily turning your home into a paint booth. One local company advertises that your kitchen will be in this state between one and two weeks. While it depends upon the design of the kitchen with new cabinetry, and if plumbing, electrical, etc. are changed or remain the same, installing new cabinetry does not normally take one to two weeks. Comparing apples to apples – simply replacing the exact same design with new cabinets vs refacing and painting existing cabinets, refacing is actually more time consuming.
Claim: Superior Quality of Cabinets Built Decades Earlier
In the majority of instances, this statement is simply not true. Today’s soft close hinges and undermount drawer glides are far superior in performance and durability than anything manufactured in the past. Devices can be purchased to convert existing doors into soft close doors. In order to install soft close drawer guides, existing drawer boxes would have to be completely rebuilt for the superior guides to fit.
In an age when consumer products are being manufactured with continual cost cutting measures, the cabinet industry quality has improved. Dovetail drawers, plywood boxes, and soft close doors and drawers have become the standard in industry. These improvements cannot be achieved with refacing or refinishing.
The greatest advantage of replacing cabinetry vs refacing or refinishing is found in the design of the kitchen. Have you always hated that the dishwasher interferes with the oven door when opened? Do you have inadequate prep space between your sink and cooktop? Is it inconvenient that a cabinet door opens into a main walkway? Do you have a blind corner that is difficult to access? Is your bathroom cabinet too short? Refacing or refinishing the cabinetry will certainly not correct any of these issues nor any other layout aspects of your kitchen or bath that interfere with the function of these spaces.
In summary, it is important to look at the overall picture of what you wish to accomplish with a kitchen remodel. Refacing or resurfacing is a fix for the aesthetics of the cabinetry with a small cost savings compared to purchasing new cabinetry. The advantages of purchasing new cabinetry far outweigh refacing or refinishing existing cabinetry in the areas of aesthetics, the quality of construction and movable hardware, and the function of the design.