Cabinet Refacing vs. Replacement: Making the Right Choice

When it comes to updating your kitchen, one of the most significant decisions you’ll face is whether to reface or replace your cabinets. Both options have their unique advantages and can dramatically transform the look and functionality of your space. This article will guide you through the key considerations, costs, and benefits of each option to help you make an informed decision.

Key Takeaways

  • Cabinet refacing is a cost-effective way to update the look of your kitchen without the need for a complete overhaul.
  • Cabinet replacement offers more design flexibility and is ideal for addressing structural issues or extensive renovations.
  • The condition of your existing cabinets is a crucial factor in deciding between refacing and replacement.
  • Both options have varying costs, timelines, and environmental impacts that should be considered.
  • Consulting with professionals can provide valuable insights and help you choose the best option for your kitchen remodel.

Understanding Cabinet Refacing

kitchen cabinets refacing vs replacement

What is Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing involves updating the exterior surfaces of your existing cabinets while keeping the original cabinet boxes intact. This typically includes replacing cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and applying a veneer or laminate to the cabinet frames. Refacing is generally more budget-friendly than a full cabinet replacement. It allows you to achieve a refreshed look without the higher costs associated with installing entirely new cabinets.

Refacing cabinets is a quick and easy way to change the look of your kitchen without the mess and expense of a complete remodeling.

Materials Used in Refacing

The materials used in cabinet refacing can vary, but they generally include:

  • Veneers: Thin layers of wood or laminate applied to the cabinet frames.
  • New Doors and Drawer Fronts: These can be made from various materials, including solid wood, MDF, or laminate.
  • Hardware: New handles, knobs, and hinges to complete the updated look.

Pros and Cons of Refacing


  1. Cost-effective: Refacing is usually less expensive than a full replacement.
  2. Less Disruptive: The process is quicker and less invasive, often completed in a few days.
  3. Eco-friendly: Keeps existing cabinet boxes, reducing waste.


  1. Limited Structural Changes: Does not address issues like damaged cabinet boxes or poor kitchen layout.
  2. Surface-level Update: Only the exterior is updated, so interior wear and tear remain.
  3. Potential for Hidden Issues: Problems like warping of wood due to moisture exposure may not be resolved.

Exploring Cabinet Replacement

kitchen renovation with new cabinets

What is Cabinet Replacement?

Cabinet replacement involves removing the existing cabinets entirely and installing brand-new ones. This allows for a complete redesign, including changes to the layout, configuration, and style of your kitchen cabinets. Replacement offers unlimited design possibilities. You can choose from a wide range of materials, styles, finishes, and hardware to create a kitchen that aligns perfectly with your vision. This option is ideal if you’re looking for a complete transformation.

Materials Used in Replacement

When replacing cabinets, you have the flexibility to choose from various materials, each offering unique benefits:

  • Solid Wood: Known for its durability and classic look.
  • Plywood: Offers a good balance between strength and cost.
  • MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard): A budget-friendly option that can be easily painted.
  • Particleboard: The most economical choice, though less durable.

Pros and Cons of Replacement

Pros Cons
Complete design flexibility Higher upfront cost
Improved durability Longer installation time
Opportunity to fix structural issues More disruptive to daily life

While refacing is a popular option, it does not make sense for every homeowner. If your cabinets are old or in poor condition, it may be best to order new ones rather than attempt to restore these older models. Full replacement also allows you to design custom cabinets and revamp your kitchen storage.

Assessing the Condition of Your Cabinets

kitchen cabinets assessment and renovation

Signs Your Cabinets Need Refacing

Cabinets that are structurally sound and in good condition are suitable for refacing. This means if your cabinets have no significant damage, maintain their structural integrity, and the cabinet boxes are solid, refacing is an option. Refacing allows you to update the appearance of your cabinets without the need for extensive construction or demolition.

Signs Your Cabinets Need Replacement

If your cabinets have major damage, poor design, or structural issues, it might be better to opt for replacement. Refacing is most effective when the existing cabinet boxes are in good condition. If your cabinets are structurally compromised, replacement might be the more suitable option.

Evaluating Structural Integrity

The condition of your cabinet boxes is crucial in deciding between refacing and replacement. If your cabinet boxes are in good shape and structurally sound, cabinet refacing is a viable option. However, if your cabinet boxes are damaged or not in good condition, cabinet replacing may be necessary.

Refacing is most effective when the existing cabinet boxes are in good condition. If your cabinets are structurally compromised, replacement might be the more suitable option.

Cost Comparison: Refacing vs. Replacement

kitchen cabinets refacing vs replacement cost comparison

When deciding between cabinet refacing and replacement, understanding the cost implications is crucial. Refacing is generally more cost-effective than cabinet replacement, making it an ideal choice for homeowners on a budget who still want a kitchen makeover.

Time Investment for Each Option

kitchen renovation process

Duration of Refacing Projects

Cabinet refacing is generally the quicker option when compared to replacement. Refacing can typically be completed in just a few days, making it ideal for those with time constraints or who want to minimize disruption to their daily life. This process involves less demolition and construction, which means there is generally less mess and inconvenience.

Duration of Replacement Projects

On the other hand, cabinet replacement is a more time-consuming endeavor. Full replacement can take several weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the project. This option involves more extensive demolition and construction, which can lead to a longer period of disruption in your home.

Factors Affecting Project Timelines

Several factors can influence the timeline of both refacing and replacement projects:

  • Project Size: Larger kitchens will naturally take more time to complete.
  • Complexity: Custom designs or intricate details can extend the timeline.
  • Material Availability: Delays in sourcing materials can impact the project duration.
  • Labor Availability: The availability of skilled labor can also affect how quickly the project is completed.

If you have time constraints or want to minimize the disruption to your daily life during the remodeling process, cabinet refacing is the quicker option.

Design Flexibility and Customization

kitchen renovation with custom cabinets

Customization Options with Refacing

Cabinet refacing offers a range of customization options, though they are somewhat limited compared to replacement. You can choose new veneers, finishes, and hardware to give your kitchen a fresh look. Limited design changes are possible, but the original cabinet structure remains intact.

Customization Options with Replacement

Replacing cabinets provides a blank canvas and the ability to create a kitchen precisely tailored to your tastes. This option allows for a complete design overhaul, enabling you to select new materials, layouts, and features. Complete design overhaul is possible, offering greater flexibility and personalization.

Matching Your Kitchen’s Aesthetic

Both refacing and replacement can help match your kitchen’s aesthetic, but replacement offers more extensive options. Refacing can update the look while maintaining the existing layout, whereas replacement allows for a total transformation. A consultation with a professional can help determine the best option for your specific situation.

Replacing cabinets provides a blank canvas and the ability to create a kitchen precisely tailored to your tastes.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

kitchen renovation with eco-friendly materials

Eco-friendly Aspects of Refacing

Refacing has a much smaller environmental impact than replacement because it uses less energy, produces less waste, and creates less demand for new materials. By utilizing the current cabinet framework, refacing reduces waste and promotes sustainability. This process preserves existing cabinet boxes and minimizes landfill waste, making it an environmentally friendly option.

Eco-friendly Aspects of Replacement

When you replace your cabinets entirely, they end up in a landfill, contributing to environmental pollution and waste. The discarded cabinets consist of wood, metal, and plastics, which take time to decompose and release harmful chemicals. However, replacing cabinets can still be environmentally friendly if the old cabinets are properly disposed of and the new cabinets are made with sustainable materials, such as FSC-certified wood or recycled materials.

Waste and Recycling Considerations

Refacing minimizes mess and disruption, and promotes environmental sustainability through reduced waste. In contrast, replacing cabinets often requires a full kitchen renovation, which can generate more waste and use more energy. Proper disposal and recycling of old cabinets can mitigate some of the environmental impacts of replacement.

Refacing has a much smaller environmental impact than replacement because it uses less energy, produces less waste, and creates less demand for new materials.

DIY vs. Professional Services

kitchen renovation with cabinets, DIY vs professional services

DIY Cabinet Refacing

DIY refacing aims at cost savings by bypassing professional labor expenses. However, factor in material costs, tool investments, and potential unforeseen challenges. It’s easier to DIY cabinet refacing than it is to replace your cabinets yourself. Refacing requires simpler measurements, and the installation process is also more straightforward.

  • Cost Savings: Avoid professional labor costs.
  • Skill Level: Requires basic carpentry skills.
  • Time Investment: Moderate, depending on the complexity.
  • Tools Needed: Basic carpentry tools, paint, and stain if using unfinished parts.

If you’re buying finished cabinet doors and drawer fronts, you just need to reattach them to your existing boxes using the correct-sized screws and hardware.

DIY Cabinet Replacement

But if you are confident in your skills, cabinet replacement is a rewarding DIY project that can save you a lot of money in labor. It also gives you greater control over customization and the project’s work schedule. However, it is more complex than refacing and requires precise measurements and advanced carpentry skills.

  • Cost Savings: Significant, but consider material and tool costs.
  • Skill Level: Advanced carpentry skills required.
  • Time Investment: High, due to the complexity of the project.
  • Tools Needed: Advanced carpentry tools, measuring tools, and possibly electrical tools.

When to Hire a Professional

If you have a complex replacement project, a large kitchen, or simply want to ensure you get the best results possible, hire a professional. Expert installers provide peace of mind that your cabinets will fit perfectly and last for decades. While you get less flexibility, the work is faster and obstacles are easily managed, saving you a lot of headaches.

  • Quality Assurance: Professional finish and durability.
  • Time Efficiency: Faster project completion.
  • Complex Projects: Ideal for large or intricate kitchens.
  • Cost: Higher due to labor charges.

Deciding whether to DIY your cabinet replacement or hire a professional depends on your level of expertise, the complexity of the project, and your budget.

Long-term Durability and Maintenance

kitchen cabinets refacing vs replacement long-term durability maintenance

Durability of Refaced Cabinets

Refaced cabinets can offer a long lifespan if maintained properly. The durability largely depends on the quality of materials used and the existing structure of the cabinets. While refacing costs more upfront than refinishing, it remains significantly more affordable than a full cabinet replacement.

Durability of Replaced Cabinets

New cabinets often come with warranties that protect your investment for years to come. They are built to current standards and quality, ensuring long-term durability and value. Homeowners can establish a fresh layout in their kitchen or bathroom, a feature often unattainable with methods like cabinet refacing.

Maintenance Tips for Both Options

  • Regularly clean surfaces with a mild detergent.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners that can damage finishes.
  • Inspect hinges and handles periodically and tighten or replace as needed.
  • For refaced cabinets, check the veneer or laminate for any signs of peeling or damage.

Proper maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of both refaced and replaced cabinets, ensuring they remain functional and aesthetically pleasing for years to come.

Making the Final Decision

kitchen renovation decision making

Assessing Your Budget

When deciding between cabinet refacing and replacement, assessing your budget is crucial. Refacing typically costs around a third of the price of replacing cabinets, making it a more cost-effective option for many homeowners. However, if your cabinets are in poor condition, replacement might be the better long-term investment.

Considering Your Timeline

The timeline for your project is another important factor. Refacing can be completed in a shorter timeframe compared to replacement, which involves more extensive work. If you need a quicker turnaround, refacing might be the way to go.

Aligning with Your Design Goals

Your design goals will also play a significant role in your decision. Cabinet replacement offers unmatched design flexibility and longevity, allowing for a complete makeover. On the other hand, refacing is a more affordable and efficient option that can still provide a fresh look for your kitchen.

Ultimately, the decision between cabinet refacing and cabinet replacement depends on your budget, timeline, aesthetic preferences, and long-term goals for your kitchen.


Ultimately, the decision between cabinet refacing and cabinet replacement depends on your budget, timeline, aesthetic preferences, and long-term goals for your kitchen. Both options offer distinct advantages: cabinet refacing is a cost-effective and efficient way to update your kitchen’s look, while cabinet replacement provides complete customization and addresses any structural issues. Assess your priorities, explore design possibilities, and consult with professionals to make an informed decision that transforms your kitchen into a beautiful and functional space. Whether you choose to reface or replace, the key is to align your choice with your vision for the perfect kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is cabinet refacing?

Cabinet refacing involves updating the exterior of your existing cabinet boxes by replacing doors, drawer fronts, and hardware, and applying a new veneer or finish.

What materials are used in cabinet refacing?

Common materials used in cabinet refacing include wood veneer, laminate, and rigid thermofoil (RTF). These materials are applied to the existing cabinet structure to give it a fresh look.

What are the pros and cons of cabinet refacing?

Pros of cabinet refacing include cost-effectiveness, quicker completion time, and less waste. Cons include limited customization options and potential issues with the existing cabinet structure.

What is cabinet replacement?

Cabinet replacement involves removing the existing cabinets entirely and installing new ones. This allows for complete customization and addressing any structural issues.

What materials are used in cabinet replacement?

Materials for cabinet replacement can vary widely, including solid wood, plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and particleboard. The choice of material affects the cabinet’s durability and appearance.

What are the pros and cons of cabinet replacement?

Pros of cabinet replacement include complete customization, improved functionality, and the ability to address structural issues. Cons include higher costs, longer project timelines, and more waste.

How do I know if my cabinets need refacing or replacement?

Assess the condition of your cabinets. If the cabinet boxes are in good shape but look outdated, refacing may be suitable. If there are structural issues or you want a complete redesign, replacement is the better option.

What is the cost difference between refacing and replacing cabinets?

Cabinet refacing is generally less expensive than cabinet replacement. Refacing costs can range from $4,000 to $9,000, while replacement costs can range from $12,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on materials and customization.

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