Refinishing Cabinets vs. Replacing: Get Your Dream Kitchen

Kitchen Remodel - Refinishing Your Cabinets

It's time. You want to remodel your kitchen, as it's still in its move-in state (which could be rather dated). The kitchen is the center of your home and is a focal point that should not be considered lightly. This space is where hours of family time and guest entertaining happen - the kitchen is where it all happens. Everyone loves to hang out in this space. Holiday parties, family gatherings, cooking nights - it is where the magic happens!

You're probably well-versed in tile backsplash options at this point and know exactly what you want the walls to look like, but what do you do with those old kitchen cabinets? This question alone stumps many home remodelers and can be the biggest mistake made when doing a high-end kitchen renovation. This one area can cost you, the homeowner, thousands of dollars along with future disappointment in the quality of products. 

Refinish vs. Replace

Your home may be like millions of homes today which are filled with high-quality, wonderfully built solid wood cabinets. In a lot of remodels that happen, the homeowner will opt for new cabinets, which today are made with cheap particle board that deteriorates quickly. The problem with this is that they are also not "cheap" to buy. Some will opt to reface the current face-frames with veneer materials that can literally peel in just weeks or months. These also often do not give the impression of a true-wood cabinet. It could actually devalue your home. 

Our advice? Don't get over anxious about buying "new" when it comes to your cabinets. You can keep most of your current cabinetry and transform them into something new and exciting. You'll actually save a big chunk of money in your budget by refinishing cabinets vs. replacing them, and you'll still get the dream kitchen end-result you were looking for. 

Photo HGTV - inspired shiplap walls for a rustic home look.

Cost of refinishing cabinets

With most home renovation projects, the cost is a driving factor as to whether certain items get checked off the dream list. This is truer than ever in the kitchen, as the cost of supplies can drive through the roof quickly. The cost to reface or refinish cabinets can be much lower than replacing them, and again, you'll retain that older craftsmanship and quality of products. 

You may actually save up to half of the cost of replacement with refinishing. When replacing kitchen cabinets, you'll have to cover the cost of removing the existing ones. Your new cabinets will also have to be brought in and installed - this process takes longer and can be more intrusive on the home and increase the cost of labor. Now the total cost of the project will always depend on your options, but refinishing wood, selecting new hardware and materials will always be more cost-effective and efficient. 

Refinishing costs can vary depending on how many cabinets, materials for repair, the complexity of the job, etc but the average refinishing project can run $2,500 - $5,000 vs. replacement which can average $6,000 - $9,500. If you want to replicate the quality and durability of the old oak cabinets that may have been present since the 1960's or - 1980's and your cabinet footprint is large - earmark $15,000 - $20,000 for full replacement.



Trends. So what are people doing?

Despite having been through some recessionary periods over the past 10 years, kitchen and bath remodel projects still top the list of most popular home improvements. The baby boomer generation is leading the way in home renovations. The 55 and up group makes up about 52% of the home improvement spending in 2015. That's because many of them want to stay in their homes as long as possible. They are willing to spend large amounts of money in order to do that. But the millennial population has driven rentals much higher, forcing real estate owners to do modern renovations to meet current demands. All-in-all, home renovations are on the rise, and the kitchen is at the heart of every remodelers checklist.  

Some Kitchen Trends from 2015 - 2016

  1. Clean with an overall contemporary feeling – A fusion of styles and multiple colors in one kitchen
  2. European-styled cabinets
  3. Multiples of appliances in one kitchen.
  4. The rise of steam ovens
  5. Furniture-look pieces
  6. Outdoor Kitchens
  7. Fewer standard kitchen tables, replaced by counters or tall gathering tables
  8. TVs and docking stations
  9. Wine refrigerators
  10. Focus on the user experience from easy maintenance to accessible design – Considering the needs of all users in the space, including pets

~ Data source:

Budget vs. Actual Cost

To some points above about refinishing cabinets vs. replacing them, the cost of your projects will always outpace the proposed budget. It's just the way it is, so be prepared for that with a buffer account to cover the additional expense. The graph below will show you some averages. 

Refinishing Cabinets vs. Replacing: Get Your Dream Kitchen

Some more kitchen remodel statistics

According to, the current cost of kitchen remodeling projects based on a loose estimate of low to a mid-range cost of supplies and installation are:

  • Average cost of granite counter tops - $72 – $130 / sq ft
  • Average cost of counter backsplash - $19 – $33 / sq ft

  • Average cost of kitchen cabinets - $3,900 – $12,000

  • Average cost of a kitchen sink and facet - $275 – $500

  • Average cost of ceramic tile floor - $10 – $40 / sq ft

  • Average cost of wood flooring - $9 – $12 / sq ft

  • Average cost of new appliances (Refrigerator, Dishwasher, Oven) - $5000 – $17,000

Total average cost of a new kitchen remodel (12×12) - $17,000 – $37,000

The bottom line

There are so many things to consider when remodeling your kitchen and thinking about cabinet replacement or cabinet refinishing. If you're a DIYer at heart, then you'll need to consider the cost of obtaining all materials needed and hundreds of man-hours to complete the job correctly. And will you have costly learning curves or unforeseen obstacles along the way? When it comes to remodeling your home, you will 100% get what you pay for, both in material and craftsmanship. This holds true for many things today, but none more apparent in the building and construction sector. 

And when it comes to refinishing your cabinets... Be sure to ask anyone offering their services to work on your cabinetry, what specific steps they are going to take and what type of products will they use. Obviously ask for references, reviews or client projects. Refinishing cabinets as part of your home remodel to enhance a new look in your kitchen is a daunting checklist of steps and is a very detail oriented project. It is the detailed process itself that gives you a finished product that can emulate a look and feel of factory finished cabinetry OR the look of what some industry folks may call a job done by a "bucket painter".

So when hiring a pro, make sure to communicate your preferences, time frames, and budget. Over-communicate these things and to ensure you work as a team.  If you are clear with your budget and expecations and you've chosen the righ contractor for the job, you can step away and let them do their job with full confidence that the end result will be the kitchen of your dreams.

Looking to Hire a Pro?

If you'd like a quote to see what it may cost to refinish your kitchen cabinets, repair and install drywall or estimate your painting projects, then just fill out our form to get a free quote.