Sick of Your Cabinets? How Refacing Compares to Painting for Revitalizing Kitchens

If your kitchen cabinets are looking worn out and dated, you’re not alone. After years of daily use, even the sturdiest cabinets can start to show their age with faded finishes, peeling veneers, and chips and scratches. While a full kitchen remodel may be out of reach, refacing or painting your existing cabinets can give them a fresh new look without breaking the bank.

But how do you choose between refacing vs. painting your cabinets? We’ll compare the processes, costs and results of both options. Read on for an in-depth guide on whether to reface or paint your cabinets to revitalize your kitchen on a budget.

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

What is Cabinet Refacing?

Refacing involves replacing the exterior surfaces of your existing cabinets with new materials to transform their look. Instead of painting the old surfaces, refacing switches out the doors, drawer fronts, and outer side panels (known as the cabinet “skins”) for brand new pieces.

This instantly upgrades the exterior appearance while retaining the underlying cabinet boxes and framework. The makeover is dramatic, giving your kitchen a new cabinet look for a fraction of replacement cost.

refacing kitchen cabinets vs painting

The Refacing Process

Refacing your cabinets follows these general steps, typically completed in 1-3 days:

  • Doors, drawers and hardware are removed to access cabinet frames
  • Boxes are cleaned and any repairs made
  • New door/drawer fronts and side skins are installed
  • New hardware pieces update the look

Rather than sanding, priming and painting the existing surfaces, the old exteriors are replaced with brand new prefabricated components. Refacing technicians measure your cabinets and custom cut the new skins and doors for an exact fit.

Cost to Reface Kitchen Cabinets

For the average sized kitchen of 15-20 cabinets, expect to pay:

  • Total Costs: $3,000 – $8,000
  • Cabinet skins: $2,000 – $4,000
  • Labor fees: $500 – $1,500
  • New hardware: $200 – $800

Factors impacting overall refacing costs include kitchen size, cabinet materials, choice of door styles and hardware upgrades. Expect to pay approximately 50-70% less than full cabinet replacement.

The Pros of Refacing Your Cabinets

Why choose refacing over other cabinet makeover options? Some top benefits include:

  • Less expensive: Half the cost of new cabinets.
  • Faster process: Completed in days with no demolition.
  • Durable: Withstands daily wear and tear.
  • Low maintenance: Easy to clean and care for.
  • Resale value: Buyers love the “new cabinet” look.

Since you keep your existing cabinet boxes, refacing is much more affordable than a full replacement. The update also happens quickly, with minimal disruption to your home.

Potential Downsides to Refacing

While an excellent value renovation, some downsides of refacing include:

  • Limited to existing cabinet layouts
  • Fewer color and style options than new cabinets
  • Interiors remain unchanged

You also need cabinets in good structural condition to qualify for refacing. But for a kitchen needing only cosmetic improvements, not major layout changes, refacing offers an unbeatable value.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

The Cabinet Painting Process

Painting kitchen cabinets follows this general timeline of around 2-3 days:

  • Thorough cleaning and sanding down
  • Filling holes and repairs
  • Applying primer coats
  • Painting with 1-2 finish coats

Proper prep work like sanding ensures paint adheres smoothly and evenly to surfaces. Priming also helps the new color go on properly.

Costs for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting existing cabinets averages:

  • Total Costs: $2,000 – $5,000
  • Paint & supplies: $300 – $800
  • Labor: $600 – $1,500

Cabinet painting is a DIY-friendly project for those who don’t mind the process. Hiring a professional ensures an even finish.

Pros of Painting Cabinets

Why choose painting? Benefits include:

  • Very affordable: Much cheaper than refacing or new cabinets.
  • Any color imaginable: From bold colors to wood stains.
  • DIY friendly: Easier for DIY than refacing.
  • Total transformation: Looks like a new kitchen.

A fresh coat of paint provides dramatic visual change. Almost any color or finish can be achieved with the right preparation and products.

Potential Downsides of Paint

Disadvantages of painting kitchen cabinets include:

  • Chipping or fading over time
  • Visibility of damage easier
  • Regular maintenance needed

Painted finishes require careful use to prevent chipping. Touch ups may be needed if surfaces get damaged. Faded or worn paint is also clearly visible.

Key Differences: Refacing vs. Painting Cabinets

Refacing Offers More Durability

One of the main advantages of refacing kitchen cabinets is their exceptional durability. Refaced cabinets feature high-quality materials engineered to withstand years of regular kitchen use.

In contrast, painted finishes can chip away more easily over time, revealing the substrates underneath. This may require frequent touch-ups and repainting as paint visibly wears.

Replacing cabinet skins also reinforces and strengthens existing frames. Refacing is built to last in busy kitchens.

Refacing Provides More Resale Value

As mentioned earlier, refaced cabinets can significantly boost the value of your home before selling. This sleek, fresh cabinet appearance is highly desirable to potential buyers.

Painted cabinets may not enhance value as much. Paint is sometimes viewed as just a temporary fix rather than a legitimate renovation. Buyers may also be concerned about existing damage under the paint.

Realtors report that refacing gives sellers the most “bang for their buck” by delivering a new, upscale look that appeals to buyers.

Refacing Allows More Customization

When refacing your kitchen cabinets, you can customize with a wide range of replacement materials, from traditional woodgrains to contemporary glass fronts. Refacing also allows adding functional upgrades like soft-close hinges, organizers and smart storage solutions integrated into the new cabinet skins and doors.

With painting, you are limited solely to color changes. The underlying cabinets remain the same structurally. Refacing truly allows your cabinets to be transformed into a fully customized, designer look.

Which Cabinet Refresh is Best For You?

Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of refacing vs. painting cabinets, how do you decide which is the better option for your kitchen and budget? Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Your budget constraints
  • Current cabinet condition
  • Extent of refresh desired
  • DIY skills and time

When Refacing is the Right Choice

Refacing tends to work best if:

  • Your budget is under $8,000
  • Cabinets are structurally sound
  • You prefer a simple update without major changes

Given the lower cost and faster process, refacing is ideal for kitchens needing a light refresh. As long as your existing cabinets are in good shape, refacing can give them a second life at a reasonable price.

When Painting Makes More Sense

Painting existing cabinets is better if:

  • Your cabinets have damage needing repairs
  • You want more dramatic color or finish changes
  • You plan on doing the work yourself

For cabinets with flaws like water damage or rot, repairs will be required before refacing. Painting can cover up issues at a lower cost. Painting also allows more freedom with colors if you want to go bold.

Whichever refresh option you choose, refacing or painting both provide an affordable way to update your kitchen in a few days. If your cabinets are intact structurally but cosmetically dull, consider refacing. For maximum style flexibility and a DIY-friendly option, painting may be the better route.

In just a few days, you can revive your kitchen with shiny new cabinets for a fraction of the replacement cost. Give your cabinets and your cooking space the revitalizing makeover they deserve!

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