Should You Reface or Replace Your Kitchen Cabinets? An In-Depth Guide

Are your kitchen cabinets looking worn and dated? Refacing or replacing kitchen cabinets can make a huge difference in updating the look of your kitchen. But how do you decide whether to reface or replace your cabinets? This in-depth guide examines the pros, cons, costs and steps for refacing vs replacing kitchen cabinets to help you make the best choice.

What is Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing involves replacing the exterior surfaces of your existing cabinets with new veneer, doors, and hardware. Your cabinet boxes stay in place, while the front and interior surfaces get upgraded.

Refacing typically includes these steps:

  • Removing old cabinet doors and hardware
  • Stripping off the old veneer and surfaces
  • Repairing any damage or flaws in the cabinet boxes
  • Installing new veneer, like wood, laminate or thermofoil on exterior surfaces
  • Adding new doors, typically in a modern style and material
  • Installing new drawer fronts to match cabinet doors
  • Adding new hardware like knobs, pulls or handles
  • Installing new hinges if needed
  • Painting or staining the new surfaces

Essentially, you end up with what looks like an entirely new set of cabinets. The existing cabinet boxes are reused while you transform the exterior appearance.

Pros of Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

There are several benefits that make cabinet refacing an appealing option for some homeowners:

Less Expensive Than New Cabinets

The biggest pro of refacing is the cost savings compared to full cabinet replacement. Refacing costs about 50% less than installing all-new cabinets.

Cabinet replacement typically costs $150 to $300 per linear foot. Refacing runs $80 to $150 per linear foot.

For the average 10×10 kitchen with 25 linear feet of cabinets, refacing would cost around $2,500 to $5,000. Full cabinet replacement would be $5,000 to $10,000 for mid-range new cabinets.

Faster Installation Time

It also takes less time to reface cabinets. The whole process usually takes 2 to 5 days from start to finish.

In contrast, replacing cabinets takes 5 to 10 days on average since it’s more labor intensive to remove and install new cabinet boxes.

Minimal Disruption to Kitchen

Because you keep your existing cabinet boxes, refacing avoids demolishing your entire kitchen. That means:

  • You can keep using the same kitchen layout.
  • No need to remove countertops or sinks.
  • Less dust and debris since cabinet boxes stay in place.
  • Faster installation time as mentioned above.

Environmentally Friendly

Reusing your cabinet boxes prevents adding more waste materials to landfills. Refacing cabinets is a greener, eco-friendly option compared to factory-new cabinetry.

Cons of Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

While refacing has its advantages, there are also some potential downsides:

Limited Cabinet Customization

Your existing cabinet configuration stays the same when refacing. That means you can’t easily change the:

  • Cabinet height
  • Depth
  • Layout
  • Add or remove cabinets

If you want to fully customize your kitchen, then new cabinets are better for flexibility in adjusting cabinet sizes and layout.

Existing Cabinet Damage

For refacing to work, your cabinets must have intact, sturdy boxes without water damage or structural issues. Refacing won’t fix problems like:

  • Rotting wood
  • Warping
  • Crumbling frames
  • Loose joints

Extensive repairs needed would make replacement more practical.

Limited Door Styles

You’re limited to door styles designed for refacing; thicker solid wood doors may not fit over your existing frames. So refacing reduces your options for ultra high-end doors.

Shorter Lifespan Than New Cabinets

Refacing won’t last quite as long as all-new cabinets. You can expect maybe 10 to 15 years vs 20+ years for new quality cabinets.

Refacing vs Replacing Kitchen Cabinets Cost Comparison

Let’s break down a detailed cost comparison using real estimates for a typical 10×10 kitchen:

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets Cost

  • Cabinet refacing – $3,000
  • New cabinet hardware – $300
  • Countertop resurfacing – $500
  • Subtotal: $3,800
  • Sales tax: $300
  • Total refacing cost: $4,100

Replacement Kitchen Cabinets Cost

  • Mid-range cabinets $6,500 ($130/linear ft installed)
  • Countertops $1,800
  • Hardware $300
  • Removal and disposal $600
  • Subtotal: $9,200
  • Sales tax: $700
  • Total replacement cost: $9,900

As you can see, refacing provides cost savings of nearly 60% for this scenario. And that’s a fairly typical ratio for many homeowners comparing kitchen cabinet refacing vs replacement costs.

What Are the Steps to Reface Kitchen Cabinets?

Replacing kitchen cabinets involves bringing in an entirely new set. But what does refacing actually entail? Here are the typical steps:

1. Remove Doors and Hardware

The old doors, hinges and hardware need to be taken off to access the cabinet frames. This prep work is done first.

2. Clean Cabinet Boxes

Next, the cabinet box surfaces are thoroughly cleaned to remove grease and grime before applying new veneer.

3. Repair Frames

Any damage, rotted wood or defects get repaired at this point, along with general smoothing/sanding.

4. Apply New Veneer

Veneer, typically wood, Thermofoil or laminate, gets applied over the cabinet box exteriors and interior surfaces.

5. Install New Doors

The new doors designed for refacing get installed, along with any new hinges needed.

6. Add Drawer Fronts

New drawer fronts are added to match the refreshed cabinet doors.

7. Install Hardware

New knobs, pulls or handles finish the refaced cabinets.

8. Seal and Finish

Finally, sealers and finishes like paint or stain get applied for protection and the desired look.

And that’s it – your once worn-out cabinets now look completely updated with a full facelift!

How Long Does It Take to Reface Kitchen Cabinets?

Another benefit of refacing vs replacement is the faster timeline. For the average kitchen, the refacing process takes:

  • 1-2 days for removal of old hardware and surface prep
  • 1-2 days for installing new veneer, doors and drawer fronts
  • 1 day for finishing with paint/stain, sealers and final hardware

So you can expect to have your kitchen back fully functional within 3 to 5 days from the start of the project.

That compares very favorably to the 5-10 days typically needed for full kitchen cabinet demolition and installation of new boxes.

Should You Refinish or Replace Kitchen Cabinets? Key Factors to Consider

Now that you know the refacing process and costs, how do you decide whether refacing or replacing makes the most sense for your kitchen? Here are the most important factors to weigh:

Condition of Existing Cabinets

Refacing requires cabinets be in good, sturdy condition without structural damage or deterioration. If your cabinets have issues like mold, rot, warped frames or loose joints, replacement will be the better route.

Layout Changes Desired

If you want to change the height, depth, arrangement or number of cabinets, then replacement provides more flexibility vs being limited by existing cabinetry.

Level of Customization

For more personalized options in cabinet sizes, configurations, accessories and high-end door styles, new custom or semi-custom cabinets are preferable over refacing standard sizes.


The cost savings of refacing can be the deciding factor. If finances are a major concern, refacing provides similar visual results for much less.

Disruption Tolerance

Refacing allows keeping your kitchen fully or mostly functional. If you need to limit disruption, dust and downtime, minimal refacing is lower impact.


To avoid landfill waste by reusing cabinets, refacing is the greener choice. Replacing emits more greenhouse gases from manufacturing and transporting all-new cabinets.

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets: Your Most Important Questions Answered

Many homeowners considering cabinet refacing have additional questions about the specifics of the process. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

How do you prepare kitchen cabinets for refacing?

To prep for refacing, remove all doors, drawers, shelves and hardware. Clean cabinet interiors thoroughly. Sand surfaces lightly, fill any holes/defects with wood filler, then clean again to remove dust. Cover floors, countertops and appliances to protect from debris.

Can you reface cabinets yourself?

With some DIY experience, you can reface cabinets on your own. It requires safely removing doors/hardware, thorough cleaning, applying new veneer and doors, then using sealers, stains or paint properly. Doing a large kitchen yourself is time-consuming, but can save on labor costs.

Do you have to replace doors when refacing cabinets?

Yes, installing new doors is an essential part of the refacing process. Old doors are removed so new veneer can be applied over cabinet frames. New doors then get installed over the refreshed boxes to complete the facelift.

Can you reface cabinets without removing doors?

Removing doors is required for proper refacing so new veneer can be added to exposed cabinet boxes. Leaving doors in place means only the door surfaces get redone, not the entire frame exteriors.

How much does it cost to reface cabinets?

On average, refacing kitchen cabinets costs $2,500 to $5,000 for a 10×10 kitchen, or $80 to $150 per linear foot. Refacing is around 50% the cost of full cabinet replacement.

Is it worth it to reface cabinets?

If your cabinet boxes are structurally sound, refacing can make financial sense to get an updated look for much less cost. The process can refresh cabinets for 10-15 more years of use vs replacement costing nearly double.

How long do refaced cabinets last?

On average, refaced kitchen cabinets last 10 to 15 years with proper care before needing another refresh. High-quality replacement cabinets may last 20+ years, but cost significantly more upfront.

Can you change cabinet layout when refacing?

Unfortunately no major layout changes are possible when refacing since you have to work with the existing cabinet footprint. For layout changes, fully replacing cabinets allows greater flexibility.

Should I reface or replace kitchen cabinets?

If your cabinet boxes are sturdy and you want to save money, refacing is a smart choice. For fully customizing cabinets or your layout, replacing may be better. Assess your goals, budget and current cabinet condition to decide.

Is refacing cabinets worth it?

Refacing your cabinets with quality materials and workmanship is an economical way to give your kitchen a fresh updated look at half the cost of new cabinets. If your current cabinets are durable and layout works, refacing can be an excellent investment.

Reface or Replace Cabinets? How to Make the Best Choice for Your Kitchen

Determining whether to reface your cabinets or replace them completely is an important decision that can impact your kitchen and budget for years to come.

Follow this step-by-step process to choose the best option for your situation:

Step 1. Evaluate your existing cabinets:

  • Are the cabinet boxes structurally sound? No rot, mold or infestations?
  • Do doors/drawers operate properly?
  • Is the layout functional?

If major repairs are needed, replacing may be better.

Step 2. Decide if you want to change:

  • Cabinet height or depth
  • Kitchen layout or footprint
  • Add cabinets like islands

Major changes require cabinet replacement.

Step 3. Weigh your budget:

Get estimates for both refacing and replacement. Refacing costs 50% less on average.

Step 4. Compare customization:

Replacement allows more cabinet configurability and high-end door options.

Step 5. Consider eco-impact:

Reusing cabinet boxes is greener than manufacturing all new.

Step 6. Assess timeline:

Replacement takes at least twice as long as refacing your kitchen.

By methodically considering these factors, you can determine whether refacing or full replacement better suits your needs and goals for an updated kitchen.

Transform Your Kitchen with New Refaced or Replaced Cabinets

Upgrading your kitchen cabinets can make a huge difference in modernizing and increasing enjoyment of your home’s heart. Refacing cabinets costs significantly less than replacement, with a shorter timeline – but replacement allows more customization.

Assess the condition of your current cabinets along with your budget, goals and needs. This will guide your decision whether refacing or replacing cabinets is the right choice for your situation.

With high-quality materials and professional installation, you can rely on beautiful, long-lasting results whether you decide to reface or replace your kitchen cabinets. Your refreshed kitchen will provide a lovely, functional space to create memories for years to come!