Refacing vs. Replacing Kitchen Cabinets: What to Know

Kitchen remodels are one of the most popular home improvement projects. The kitchen is the heart of the home, so it makes sense to invest time and money into making this space as functional and beautiful as possible. When it comes to renovating your kitchen, two major options for updating your cabinets are refacing them or fully replacing them. But how do you know which is the better choice for your needs and budget? Here’s a detailed look at the pros, cons, costs and other considerations when deciding between refacing vs. replacing kitchen cabinets.

What is Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing is a process that involves applying new veneer or finish to your existing cabinet boxes and doors. During a kitchen cabinet refacing project, only the exterior surfaces are replaced. The cabinet boxes themselves, along with the interior shelves, hinges and drawer slides all remain in place.

Here’s exactly what a cabinet refacing entails:

  • Removing doors, drawers and hardware
  • Stripping off the old laminate or veneer
  • Repairing any damage or defects in the cabinet box
  • Applying new wood veneers, laminates or thermofoil to exposed surfaces
  • Installing new doors, drawer fronts and hardware

Refacing transforms the look of your cabinets with new finishes and door styles. Popular options include stain grades like oak or maple, painted finishes in any color, and woodgrain laminates or thermofoil in shades like cherry, espresso and more. Glass inset doors can also be added to create an open, airy look.

The result is a kitchen with what looks like brand new custom cabinets, but at a fraction of the cost of a full replacement. Refacing allows you to dramatically update the style and look of your kitchen in just a few days.

What is Cabinet Replacement?

In contrast to refacing, a full kitchen cabinet replacement means removing your existing cabinets entirely and installing brand new ones. This involves:

  • Complete demolition and removal of old cabinets
  • Potential modifications to the cabinet footprint
  • Installation of new cabinet boxes, doors, shelves and drawers
  • New countertops to fit the new cabinet configuration

With a cabinet replacement, you can fully customize your new kitchen. From the cabinet layout to materials, finishes, storage solutions and more – you can tailor the design to suit your needs, style and budget.

The benefits of new cabinets also include improved functionality and storage with features like roll-out trays, drawer dividers, lazy susans and more. Replacing outdated cabinets allows you to correct any problems with the previous layout or ergonomics.

Cabinet replacement does require more time, skill and labor than refacing. But the end result is a completely brand new, customized kitchen.

Refacing vs. Replacing: Key Differences

There are several key differences between refacing and replacing kitchen cabinets:

Cabinet Boxes

  • Refacing keeps existing cabinet boxes intact
  • Replacement means all new boxes throughout the kitchen

Installation Time

  • Refacing takes 1-3 days
  • Replacement can take weeks, depending on scope


  • Refacing is 50-70% cheaper than replacement
  • Replacement has a higher upfront cost


  • Refacing limits you to existing cabinet footprint
  • Replacement allows a fully customized layout

Storage Solutions

  • Refacing keeps existing shelving configurations
  • Replacement allows you to add functional storage upgrades


  • Refacing typically has a shorter warranty period
  • New cabinets often come with a lifetime warranty

While refacing and replacing kitchen cabinets ultimately achieve a similar end goal of a fresh new look, they differ significantly in the scope of work, cost, and results.

Pros and Cons of Cabinet Refacing


  • Much cheaper – Saves thousands compared to replacement
  • Faster project – Completed in 1-3 days with no demolition
  • Less messy – No need to remove existing cabinets
  • Retain layout – Keep existing cabinet footprint intact
  • Eco-friendly – Recycle old boxes and reduce landfill waste


  • Limited customization – Stuck with current cabinet sizes/layout
  • No storage upgrades – Keep existing interior configurations
  • Shorter lifespan – Estimated 5-10 years vs. decades for new cabinets
  • Limited warranties – Typically just 1-2 years on materials/labor

Pros and Cons of Cabinet Replacement


  • Fully customized look – New sizes, finishes, configurations
  • Optimize storage – Rollouts, lazy susans, adjustable shelves
  • Higher quality materials – Durability and stability of all-new boxes
  • Long lifespan – New cabinets should last 20-30 years
  • Resale value – Kitchen remodels recover over 60% cost


  • Higher upfront cost – Thousands more than refacing
  • Lengthy renovation – Demolition, cabinet install is complex
  • Disruption – Expect kitchen to be out of commission for weeks
  • Possible layout issues – Modifying footprint can get complicated
  • Environmental impact – Tearing out and disposing old cabinets

As you can see, both options have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages to weigh when deciding the best kitchen cabinet solution.

Cost Comparison: Refacing vs. Replacing

One of the biggest factors when choosing between refacing and replacing cabinets is the cost difference. Here is an overview of average costs:

  • Cabinet refacing – $2,000 to $7,000
  • Cabinet replacement – $8,000 to $20,000

Refacing costs approximately 50-70% less than a full replacement.

Exact costs vary based on factors like:

  • Scope of project (number of cabinets)
  • Door styles and materials
  • Quality of hardware
  • Additional repairs needed
  • Geographic location
  • Contractor rates

Refacing is the clear budget-friendly option, allowing you to give your kitchen a facelift at a fraction of the price of custom new cabinets. Replacement offers more value for the higher cost, with superior quality, customization and longevity.

Which is Better: Refacing or Replacing Kitchen Cabinets?

So when trying to decide between refacing vs replacing cabinets, how do you know which option is right for your kitchen? Here are some tips:

Consider the existing cabinet boxes

If your cabinets are high-quality wood boxes in good structural condition, refacing makes sense. But if the boxes are damaged, low-grade materials or flawed layouts, replacement may be better.


If cost is a major factor, refacing provides the most dramatic transformation for the lowest price tag. With a higher budget, replacement may be worth the investment.

Customization needs

Replacing allows you to customize sizes, layouts, storage solutions. Refacing limits you to working within the existing footprint.

Scope of remodel

If doing a larger kitchen overhaul with layout changes, structural work or new appliances, replacement may blend better than just refacing.

Environmental impact

Refacing recycles boxes, generating less landfill waste. Replacement is more wasteful unless old cabinets are donated or recycled.

DIY abilities

Refacing can be a good DIY project. Replacement often requires hiring a contractor unless you have advanced skills.

Consider all of these factors along with your goals, time frame, and style preferences. This will help determine if you should commit to refacing as a cost-effective update or take on a more extensive cabinet replacement remodel.

Questions to Ask Your Contractor About Refacing vs. Replacing

If you decide to hire a professional contractor for your kitchen cabinet project, here are some key questions to ask:

Regarding refacing:

  • Do you remove doors/drawers or reface cabinets in place?
  • What are your most popular door styles and finishes for refacing?
  • Can you match the finish of my existing wood stove hood?
  • Do you wrap interior shelves and panels for a full refreshed look?
  • How long is your warranty on refacing work?

Regarding cabinet replacement:

  • Can you work within my budget to design a new layout?
  • Do you have relationships with quality cabinet brands to get discounted pricing?
  • How do you handle the full demolition and removal process?
  • What are some cabinet upgrade options within my budget, like rollouts?
  • How long will it take from demolition to a fully functional kitchen?

Regarding both options:

  • Which do you recommend for my kitchen – refacing or replacing? Why?
  • How much disruption will each option cause? Dust? No kitchen access?
  • What are the total estimated costs for both options?
  • Do you have a design specialist who can help me determine the best option?

Asking the right questions upfront ensures you get accurate information to make the best possible decision on whether refacing or replacing kitchen cabinets is right for your project.

Refacing vs. Replacing Kitchen Cabinets: What to Know

When trying to decide whether to reface or replace kitchen cabinets, there are several important factors to keep in mind:

  • Cost – Refacing costs 50-70% less than new cabinets
  • Appearance – Refacing updates style; replacement allows full custom look
  • Functionality – Replacements can modify layout and add storage solutions
  • Timeline – Refacing takes 1-3 days; replacement can take weeks
  • Convenience – Refacing is simpler; replacement involves demo
  • Customization – Refacing limits you to existing footprint; replacement allows new configurations
  • Quality – Replacements offer higher-end materials and lifetime warranties
  • Environmental impact – Refacing generates less landfill waste from demoltion

Carefully balancing your budget, goals, kitchen needs and project timeline can help determine if going with a simple refacing or taking on a full-fledged cabinet replacement is the right remodeling decision for your home.

Refacing vs. Replacing Kitchen Cabinets: FAQs

Still deciding between refacing or replacing your kitchen cabinets? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Does refacing kitchen cabinets update their appearance?

Yes, refacing can transform the entire look of your kitchen by installing new doors, drawer fronts, and veneers over the existing boxes. You can choose modern door styles and on-trend paint or stain colors.

Can I change the layout or configuration of my kitchen by refacing cabinets?

No. One downside of refacing is that it doesn’t allow you to modify the existing cabinet footprint. The boxes all remain in the same place. Replacing cabinets gives you flexibility to change sizes and layout.

Is refacing cabinets high quality and durable?

Refacing uses thinner veneers rather than solid wood. Lifespans are shorter, around 5-10 years. Replacement cabinets made of plywood or solid wood will last 20-30 years.

Does replacing cabinets let me add more storage and organization?

Yes. Replacing cabinets allows you to add roll-outs, lazy susans, pull-out shelves, spice racks and more storage solutions.

Is DIY kitchen cabinet refacing possible for a novice?

Refacing can potentially be a DIY project, as long as you have skills with tools for removing doors/drawers and installing new veneers and fixtures. Replacing cabinets is best left to professionals.

Which is more environmentally friendly – refacing or replacing kitchen cabinets?

Refacing is the greener choice. You reuse existing cabinet boxes and avoid landfill waste from demolition and disposal. New cabinets require more raw materials and energy to manufacture.

How long does it take to reface kitchen cabinets?

The refacing process only takes 1-3 days from start to finish. New cabinet installation is more complex, with timelines ranging from 2 weeks to 8 weeks depending on scope.

Will refacing or replacing my kitchen cabinets add value to my home?

Both refacing and replacement can increase resale value. Because replacement is more expensive, it typically recoups a higher percentage of project costs.


The choice between refacing and replacing kitchen cabinets comes down to budget, needs and goals. Refacing offers dramatic results for 50-70% less cost. But replacement allows for full customization, higher quality materials and added storage solutions. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of both approaches for your unique kitchen and home. A professional contractor can provide guidance on the best option for your project. With some smart planning, you can makeover your kitchen with beautiful new cabinets within any timeframe and budget.