Replacing or Refacing Kitchen Cabinets? Which Is Best?

Can kitchen cabinet refacing ever make you as happy as getting new cabinets? There was a time when homeowners had just one way to remodel a kitchen. You had to pull out your cabinets. However, recent trends have allowed homeowners to get new cabinets without replacing their cabinets. The process is called kitchen cabinet refacing. Cabinet refacing has become popular among Philadelphia homeowners because they see this as a way to “cheat” with home remodeling. Like all Philadelphia home improvements, a refacing project needs to be carefully considered to ensure that the time and money being invested in this big update can provide a good return on investment.

Is Cabinet Refacing Just a Fad?

Cabinet refacing gets pushed pretty heavily by “quick” contractors these days. If you’ve consulted a contractor about updating your kitchen, you’ve probably had refacing suggested. Contractors and home-improvement specialists see cabinet refacing as a bit of a golden goose. While not every client can be persuaded to go through with costly cabinet installation, many can be convinced to resurface their cabinets to get a new look. Contractors have used this momentum to book refacing job after refacing job. Is it a good choice for homeowners? The truth is that refacing may provide exactly what a homeowner needs when the goal is simply to change the look of unattractive, outdated cabinets that are still structurally sound. You might consider cabinet refacing if you have relatively new cabinets that are simply outdated stylistically. However, it’s important to analyze exactly what you’re hoping to get out of cabinet refacing before deciding if investing money into this process is worth it. Refacing doesn’t make your cabinet stronger.

Yes, kitchen refacing costs less than new cabinets. However, it’s certainly far from free. Homeowners need to be aware of the possibility of “sinking” costs into cabinet refacing when money might be better spent on a true cabinet replacement.

What Is Kitchen Cabinet Refacing?

Kitchen cabinet refacing changes the appearance of your cabinets without changing your cabinets. It is considered less invasive compared to a cabinet replacement because the base of each cabinet can stay in place during the renovation. Only drawers and doors are removed during the process.

Kitchen cabinet refacing can be thought of as a “hack” that fools the world into thinking that you have new cabinets by changing the color and texture of all front-facing parts of a cabinet. Meanwhile, the cabinet frames and interior remain fully intact. A contractor will simply use some combination of paint, stain, and laminates over your cabinets for a new surface appearance. The big advantage for most homeowners here is that refacing can cost 30% to 50% less than new cabinets. However, it’s important to look at it a different way when making a decision.

You’re actually investing up to 50% of the cost for new cabinets without getting new cabinets. Yes, your existing cabinets will look “almost new.” However, you won’t be able to change the configuration of your cabinets, the layout of your cabinets, or your available cabinet storage space. You’ll also be stuck with all of the aging, wear and tear, or interior staining that is making your current cabinets seem outdated.

A case can be made for cabinet refinishing when a kitchen has high-quality, wood cabinets that are worthy of restoration. However, this is rarely the case. Many people who have their kitchen cabinets resurfaced are actually refacing cheaper cabinets made of particle board. As a result, they are essentially spending half the cost to get new cabinets on trying to prop up cabinets that add very little value to a kitchen.

One of the big downsides to cabinet refacing is that you may always feel slightly uneasy about caring for the updated version of your cabinet. A kitchen is a “working room.” It endures heat, moisture, messes, and more. The heat and humidity in a kitchen can pose risks to laminates that are glued over the exterior of your existing cabinets. Washing refaced cabinets is also tricky. It’s very common for homeowners to notice that cabinet exteriors begin peeling off after a short time.

This is where you might get into the territory of being stuck with a “lemon” of a kitchen. In many cases, homeowners will pair cabinet refacing with new countertop installation. Imagine a scenario where you’ve tried to save money by using cabinet refacing instead of installing new cabinets before adding granite countertops. Next, imagine that you’re starting to notice that the finish on your newly refinished cabinets is peeling, warping, or bubbling. It’s a heavy realization. You’ve spent a great deal of money installing your dream countertops over compromised, aged cabinets that simply don’t have the same lifespan as your new natural-stone countertops.

Something that contractors generally fail to mention to clients is that many older cabinets simply don’t have the stamina to hold up stone countertops. Older cabinets were generally intended to be used with old Formica countertops. When updating a kitchen with granite, it’s very possible that the heavier load will put too much pressure on cabinets. This can lead to weak, damaged cabinets that begin to age even faster once your new countertops are in place. There’s no way to easily replace your existing cabinets once you’ve placed your new granite countertops over them. It’s clear to see why many homeowners who settle for cabinet refacing would choose to go back to get a fresh start by doing things the right way with new cabinets.

Cabinet Replacement

Is replacing your cabinets a better option than refacing? The answer really depends on your vision for your kitchen. For many people, there’s simply nothing better than freshly installed cabinets that are completely new. New cabinets create a true fresh start because you are able to envision your kitchen’s layout nearly any way you choose once your existing cabinets have been pulled out. You are truly getting a “new” kitchen without moving to a new house.

One of the biggest perks of installing new cabinets is that this gives you a chance to change your mind about the position of your sink. Cabinet installation creates an opportunity to rethink sink size, sink placement, and the number of sinks needed. For instance, you may decide that you’d like to install a center island with a sink. Placing a pot filler near the stove is another common trend that adds value to a kitchen. Pulling out cabinets instead of simply touching them up also opens up possibilities for changing flooring. Once cabinets are lifted out of place, it’s a true blank-slate scenario that enables you to choose flooring and cabinets at the same time. This may be something that you never had a say in before if you’ve always lived in homes that were built by someone else.

It’s very easy to make a kitchen look like a “new construction” once cabinets are wiggled out of place. In the end, getting new cabinets installed allows you to undo the style choices made by the person who lived in your house before you. It also allows you to invest money in what is considered to be the most important room in your home. While many people opt for cabinet refacing out of a desire to save money, it’s important to remember that the kitchen is the one spot in the house where homeowners actually recoup much of what they spend on improvements in resale value.

Deciding Between Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing and Replacement

Kitchen cabinet refinishing can certainly seem like a quick fix. However, it still requires what can be considered a relatively substantial investment of your time and money. Refacing isn’t as disruptive as having new cabinets installed. However, your kitchen will still be out of commission during the process. You can also expect to be about “half in” with the cost of new cabinets by the time a refacing project is over.

Where does this leave homeowners? The truth is that it never hurts to get a quote for new kitchen cabinets. While you might be leaning toward refacing, getting an actual quote for what’s possible on your budget from a kitchen cabinet company can help you to figure out the amount you’ll be spending on refacing in the proper context. Many people are surprised to learn that spending just a little more for new cabinets can leave them with the dream kitchen they truly want instead of the compromise they think they have to accept.

American Home Concepts is a leading Philadelphia home remodeling company offering custom cabinets to fit every vision. In addition to designing, building, and installing new cabinets, our talented team can also help you make any necessary updates to optimize the existing space in your kitchen. We offer full-scale kitchen remodeling services for installing cabinets, drawers, kitchen islands, sinks, faucets, lighting fixtures, and more. Contact us today to learn more about how affordable Philadelphia home improvements can be when you work with the right team!

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