Refacing instead of replacing cabinets can save approximately 50 percent of renovation cost.

Resurfacing Cabinets vs. New Cabinets

by Arlene Miles

Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms are the two home improvement projects that will bring homeowners the most return for their investment. They are also among the most expensive. Selecting cabinets is one of the biggest expenses in renovating these areas. Determining whether you should resurface or completely replace cabinets can make a big difference in the project’s total cost.

New Cabinet Considerations

Nothing can undo a bad kitchen design except a complete kitchen remodel. In these cases, the best scenario is to tear out everything and replace with new cabinets. The same goes with bathrooms. If cabinets are cracked, rotten or otherwise compromised, it may be best to replace them even if overall design will remain the same. The same premise works when structural changes or traffic flow requires a different layout in the room. Keep in mind that replacing cabinets will cost 40 to 60 percent more.

When to Resurface

Existing cabinets that are structurally sound and do not have problems such as warping or water damage are good candidates. In most cases, cabinets installed 20 or more years ago are of higher quality than most cabinets found in big box stores today. But consider replacing cabinets that were painted prior to 1978 as the paint may contain lead.

Resurfacing Benefits

In addition to lower cost, resurfacing cabinets takes less time and causes less disruption in your home. Normal work time is a week or less and you can still use your kitchen or bathroom while the job is in progress. Resurfacing is also ideal for homeowners concerned about their carbon footprint as less waste will end up in a landfill.

Resurfacing Process

Obtain quotes from at least three professionals before choosing one. Make sure that the firm you choose is experienced as quality in this industry varies widely. Installers will measure your cabinets to determine correct size and the amount of veneer required. Delivery of new door and drawer fronts can take one to two weeks. Once these are in hand, your chosen contractor will remove the old fronts and prepare cabinet surfaces by washing them with a degreaser and lightly sanding to remove significant flaws. The veneer is then placed over cabinet surfaces and new doors and drawer fronts with new hardware are installed.


Choices for exterior looks are virtually limitless. Three different options are available for coverings and doors: rigid thermofoil (RTF), plastic laminates and real wood veneers. RTF provides a durable plastic coating over fiberboard. Plastic laminates are the most reasonably priced, come in hundreds of colors and patterns and are moisture-resistant. Wood veneers are paired with solid wood doors, are longer lasting than the other two options and provide a rich look. Other options can include roll-out cabinet interiors and matching crown molding.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images