The Difference Between Refacing and Refinishing Cabinets

Refacing Vs. Refinishing Cabinets

Well it’s time. You have been thinking about making some style changes to your kitchen or even doing a much larger home remodel. So a big question any homeowner is faced with is the consideration to replace your cabinets. Before ripping out your current kitchen cabinets and getting into a complicated remodel project you may want to think about refacing, resurfacing, or refinishing your current cabinets.

Refacing, resurfacing or refinishing are more cost-effective alternatives to replacing them entirely, especially if you’re already happy with the layout of your kitchen. Replacement costs can be very high in today’s market and if your home is older, you like already have higher quality cabinets and wood than what those dollars can buy today.

Let’s look at the differences. Here’s a short video out there that also gives a quick run down of these choices.

Refacing / Resurfacing cabinets

Refacing kitchen cabinets and resurfacing them pretty well mean the same thing. In a nutshell, this means replacing all the parts or surfaces of the cabinets that are visible while they are closed or a non-used state. Doors, hardware, and drawer fronts—often drawer boxes as well—will be replaced. Face frames, end panels, and toe kicks will typically be resurfaced with a combination of laminates or thin wood veneers.

Most of the time, if you want to keep a traditional wood look, refacing is the only way to go. It is extremely difficult to go from a dark wood stain, to a lighter wood stain, and to get stain to match if it isn’t applied to the same species and color of wood to begin with. However, if your desired look or end result is to be painted, then you may be able to refinish the cabinets.

Refinishing cabinets. What is the difference?

As mentioned above, when you are refacing your cabinets, you are putting new material on top of the existing cabinet frames and replacing doors and drawer fronts. When refinishing cabinets, all you are doing is changing the finish, or color, of the existing materials.

If your cabinets are physically in good shape then refinishing may be a much more affordable option, and still give you a really nice change to your kitchen. Your cabinets should be free of nicks, chips, cracks, dents, cuts, gouges, etc in order to go this route.

Materials make a difference

The material under the solid color cabinets usually is not stainable. Cabinetmakers don't buy expensive stain grade wood only to cover it up with an opaque color. Typically, white cabinets have doors that are milled out of medium density fiberboard (MDF), which cannot be stained to look like wood. Why? Because it is not real wood. Even if the doors on solid color cabinets are real wood, they are likely paint grade, which means they still wouldn't look good with stain, even if it were feasible to strip them to bare wood.

If you have oak cabinets, they are unfortunately a poor candidate for refinishing. If you refinish them in a solid color, the grain will show right through the paint (lacquer or any other type). It doesn’t mean it can’t be done and everyone’s tastes are different. If a refinisher tells you a different story, give them one of your doors or make them get a sample oak door and finish half of it to show you that the grain can really be hidden.

Refinished cabinets by Elite Finisher.

Refinished cabinets by Elite Finisher.

Change your hardware

As mentioned above, if your cabinets’ doors and drawer fronts are in good condition, but you want a more intense makeover than just a new color, or your hardware and accessories are out of date, there’s no reason not to make upgrades or changes to your hardware while you’re at it.

In fact, this will be the best time to make these changes, as you’ll already have your cabinets disassembled in order to do the refinishing work. New drawer pulls and door handles can do at least as much to update a kitchen’s style as a new color or stain for the surface. There are also modern accessories that make life fun in the kitchen, like slide-out spice racks, soft-close drawers, in-cabinet pot hangers, and concealed hinges. These options can help transform an entire kitchen from outdated to fresh and brand new! If you’re looking for a whole home remodel, you may also want to consult home remodeling company for advice.


Looking to Hire a Pro?

If you have a kitchen or bathroom cabinet refinishing project or if you would like to paint your home this winter season, talk to our team at Elite Finisher. Our painting pros can help you find the best colors to refresh your exterior and aspects of your home. Contact us today for a free quote.