Should You Reface or Replace Kitchen Cabinets?

Remodeling a kitchen can be the most expensive upgrade homeowners will tackle, but the largest expense – the cabinets – doesn’t have to take such a large chunk out of the project budget because not all cabinets need to be replaced.

Instead of ripping out old cabinets and replacing them with new, refacing cabinets might be the way to go; the overall look can still be custom, but the cost is about half that of new cabinetry and can still include new toe-kicks, countertops, and hardware. As long as the layout of the kitchen works, refacing could be a viable option.

Refacing cabinets also means complete use of the kitchen while the project is underway. Additional pluses include the length of time refacing takes over replacing – five days compared to a couple of weeks – and just as many finish options as brand new cabinets.

Pete Goode from This Old House magazine says that homeowners should think about when their cabinets were installed because anything before 1980 is almost always going to be more structurally sound than modular, pre-built cabinets so popular today. Kitchen boxes that are more than 30 years old are most likely constructed of ¾-inch plywood so they’re solid.

“Some of the cabinets built 20 and 30 years ago are more solidly constructed than most modular, prebuilt cabinets today. So when it’s time to redo the kitchen, it often doesn’t make sense to start from scratch,” he wrote.

Replacing countertops, the sink and faucet are still part of the plan for most kitchen upgrades, so pricing those items should not be overlooked.

But, if a complete kitchen remodel is in the cards – taking walls to the studs, moving plumbing, changing the layout – then replacement cabinets configured for the new space are the better choice.

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