Whether you’re planning a quick kitchen update or an entire renovation, deciding what to do about kitchen cabinets is one of the most important choices you’ll face. Sturdy cabinets and a good design make all the difference between an organized and efficient space and one that causes frustration and disorganization.  Since cabinet costs can absorb upwards of 50% of the total renovation budget, many homeowners weigh the option of refacing existing cabinets in order to save big.  Considering reinventing your existing cabinets? Read on to find out if your cabinets have what it takes.

When considering refacing existing cabinetry, it’s important to take into consideration these things:

  • Are the boxes in good shape? If they are constructed of particle board, have a foul smell, or are damaged in any way, simply painting the cabinets or refacing the fronts may not create a functional, durable, updated working space.
  • Will you be restructuring or rearranging the majority of the space? If yes, the costs associated with removal and reinstallation of existing cabinetry may negate overall savings, and even then the cabinets may not coordinate with the updated layout of the space. Additionally, removal and reinstallation may weaken the integrity of existing cabinetry and require replacement down the road. This is especially true if you are planning to reface cabinet boxes with new doors. Anticipate new hinges and hardware that might require additional holes in existing boxes.
  • When were your cabinets installed? If they are painted and installation occurred before 1978, the paint may contain lead. Lead paint removal before refacing requires trained professionals and can be costly.

To learn more about what type of cabinets make the best refacing candidates, we connected with New Leaf Interiors owner and designer Gretchen Knoblock of Traverse City. “All-wood cabinets are the best choice for any type of refacing.  They are much sturdier and better able to handle the wear and tear that accompanies alterations to cabinetry fronts.  Because the majority of the cost associated with cabinetry comes from the door fronts and hardware, most of our clients looking to reface their existing cabinetry opt to have door fronts and cabinet boxes painted rather than entirely replacing the fronts.  Here again, the material used for cabinetry is important since wood is so much easier to paint than particle board or plastic veneer.”

If your cabinets are made of sturdily constructed wood, your layout isn’t going to radically change, and all of the boxes are in great shape, it’s time to consider options available for refacing.

 Refinish or paint existing cabinets and door fronts
In most cases, professional paint companies will remove the door fronts and take them back to the shop for priming and painting in a controlled environment.  They will use spray guns to apply primer and paint to the cabinet boxes in place, and will use matching hole filler to disguise the holes from previous cabinet hinges.  Oftentimes, a specialty finish can be applied to give cabinets a stylistic effect.

Install veneer over existing cabinets and door fronts
This refacing technique is time-consuming and requires precise measuring and cutting but can result in a refreshed and updated look if done correctly. To ensure the end result is one that looks great and will last, it’s best to employ an experienced professional.

Completely replace existing drawer and door fronts with new doors
As Knoblock mentioned, this option is more expensive than the others in that the majority of the cost associated with cabinetry comes from door fronts and hardware.  That said, there are many talented kitchen design professionals who will work with you to achieve your design aesthetic and ensure proper measurement and installation.

No matter what you decide to do to reface your cabinets, it is always a good idea to employ the help of a trained professional. If you are planning to have your kitchen cabinets refinished or painted, find a local interior designer that you trust and ask for a referral.

If veneer is the best route for you and your cabinets, there are a number of online companies that offer the supplies you will need. Work with a trusted finish contractor to determine what supplies are needed and leave it to them to do the installation. Finally, if you decide that replacing existing drawer and cabinet fronts is the best avenue, find a kitchen designer in your area with a cabinet showroom to help you navigate the process of deciding upon the new look for your cabinets and taking exact measurements to ensure you get precisely what you need. Leave installation to the pros, as some custom adjustments may be needed to retrofit to your existing cabinet boxes.

In the end, whether you decide to reface or renovate, have fun with it! The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the final result will reflect the needs of you and your family no matter which route you choose.