Cabinet Refacing vs. Painting: Which Is Better?

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Your kitchen cabinets will not stay the same forever; they will start to lose their appeal after some time. When they do become less appealing, they could drag down the aesthetics of the whole kitchen.

Understandably, when that happens, you will start considering revamping options. Apart from replacement, the two most common options are refacing and painting.

So, cabinet refacing vs. painting: which is better?

The better option between cabinet refacing and cabinet repainting depends on the overall condition of your kitchen.

Generally, painting is the preferred option when trying to retain the look of the kitchen and fittings of the cabinets. But refacing is better when a significant kitchen improvement is necessary and when the front-facing cabinet fittings must be replaced.

repainting kitchen cabinet doors with white chalk paint

In deciding whether to opt for cabinet refacing or painting, understanding the processes of both options is vital. To this end, we discuss cabinet refacing and painting extensively in this article. We talk about their differences, when to opt for them, and much more.

What Is Cabinet Refacing?

Cabinet refacing is basically the process of giving your cabinet a new face. It involves replacing all the front-facing parts of the cabinets while retaining the framework.

When doing cabinet refacing, you replace cabinet parts like the doors, handles, hinges, and fixtures.

So, you could say cabinet refacing is the replacement of the cabinet parts people can see.

When refacing your cabinets, the frameworks must be in good condition. If they are not in top shape, you will eventually have to replace them. So, instead of refacing then replacing the cabinets, why not just spend all you have to on replacing them from the start?

When refacing cabinets, you can use fittings with a different color scheme from the framework. But you will have to change the color of the framework to match the new fittings. You can do this using a wood veneer or paint.

Cabinet refacing is ideal when you want to keep the cabinet framework but give your kitchen a facelift. If done well, the process can give the impression that your cabinetry is brand new.

One of the primary upsides of cabinet refacing is it is markedly less expensive than a total replacement. It also takes less time.

kitchen cabinet refacing

Cabinet Refacing Options

When checking out cabinet refacing options in the market, the following are some options you will come across:

Wood Veneers

Wood veneers are one of the costliest options for cabinet refacing. They offer a subtle, refined look to your kitchen.

Wood veneers are available in various species, including cherry, teak, maple, and oak. Besides that, you can get them in different stain colors.

When you choose wood veneers, ensure they are correctly sealed, so they can be water-resistant.

Thermofoil Laminate

Thermfoil doors are made with fiberboards and durable plastics. The plastics serve as coatings for the fiberboards, and they offer protection against water.

Thermofoil doors are one of the more affordable options. So, if you are on a budget, you may consider this option.

Plastic Laminates

Plastic laminates are pretty inexpensive but not as much as thermofoil doors. They come in various colors and patterns, and they are pretty durable and water-resistant.

woman choosing kitchen cabinet materials from laminate samples

What Is the Cost of Cabinet Refacing?

If you are refacing your cabinets with wood veneers, you can expect to pay an average of $195 per linear foot. But with plastic laminates and thermofoil laminates, the cost is typically $95 per linear foot.

If you decide to opt for real wood veneers (solid and plywood veneers), you may pay as much as $455 per linear foot.

The handles, hinges, and pulls cost anywhere between $2 and $50 a piece, depending on quality, design, and much more.

What Is Cabinet Painting?

Cabinet painting is basically the process of applying new paint to your cabinetry. Like cabinet refacing, painting gives your cabinetry a facelift.

However, painting does not change the cabinetry’s look; it only raises the appeal of the existing look.

Like cabinet refacing, painting is pretty inexpensive, and you can get it done within a relatively short period.

Cabinet Refacing vs. Painting: The Differences

Below are some differences between cabinet refacing and painting:

Cabinet Refacing Gives a New Look While Painting Revives the Existing Look

Since cabinet refacing involves replacing the front-facing hardware of the cabinetry, it gives a new look to the cabinetry.

On the other hand, painting involves applying new paint on existing cabinetry parts (including the front-facing ones). So, it only revives the old look of the cabinetry.

Painted Cabinets Need More Maintenance Than Refaced Cabinets

Compared to painting, cabinet refacing needs less maintenance. Over time, paint will collect grease and dust or peel, fade, or chip. When any of these happens, you will have to maintain the painting.

Since you cannot clean the painted surface of a cabinet with cleaning solutions, maintenance typically involves repainting.

Contrarily, refaced cabinets can be cleaned with mild cleaning solutions. So, maintenance is easy and pretty straightforward.

painting cabinets with spray gun

Refaced Cabinets Last Longer Than Painted Cabinets

Except if some disaster happens, the parts of the cabinet you replace when refacing will last much longer than paint. This is particularly true if you paint the cabinet by yourself.

So, overall, refacing lasts longer than painting.

It Is Faster to Paint Than Reface

There are fewer processes involved in painting. You could say it basically encompasses buying the paint, possibly getting a professional painter, and painting the cabinet.

Refacing involves more steps. First, you have to check the cabinet frameworks to verify their condition. Then you have to check the front-facing hardware and remove them. After that, you have to buy the replacements then get a professional to install them. After installation, the framework may need some retouching.

Of course, going by the steps involved in both processes, painting is faster than refacing.

When Should I Reface My Kitchen Cabinets?

Reface your kitchen cabinets when:

  • The doors and other front-facing parts are in poor condition, while the framework is still sturdy.
  • You want to change the handles and other fittings into newer designs.
  • You want to raise the value of your house.
  • You want to make significant changes to the kitchen without spending a fortune.
  • If you are allergic to the smell of paint, you may opt for refacing instead of painting.

When Should I Paint My Kitchen Cabinets?

Paint your kitchen cabinets when:

  • The doors, fittings, and frames of the cabinets are in good condition. But you want a new color or fresh look.
  • You want to retain the current atmosphere of your kitchen.
  • The handles and other fittings are still good enough for you.
  • You are on a budget.
woman painting cabinet at home

Which Is Cheaper Cabinet Refacing or Painting?

Generally, painting is cheaper than cabinet refacing.

With painting, your expenses would be on paint and labor (if you are getting a professional painter). But when refacing, you will buy various new cabinet fittings; these can cost thousands of dollars, depending on quality.

Does Refacing Increase Home Value?

Cabinet refacing can increase the value of your house. In fact, the ROI from refacing your cabinet can be higher than the ROI from a total replacement.

While there are no official or standard values for the ROI on cabinet refacing, some estimates pose an ROI of up to 50%. For total replacement, the typical ROI is estimated to be around 30%.

ROI on total replacement is typically lower than ROI on cabinet refacing because of the massive gap in cost. Total replacements cost a whole lot more than refacing, so when you resell the house, you earn less. So, if your cabinetry framework is in top condition, refacing is the better option financially.

How Long Do Painted Cabinets Last?

On average, if a professional painter paints your kitchen cabinet, the painting can last around 8 to 15 years. Of course, during the said period, there may be a need for maintenance.

If you choose to paint your cabinet by yourself, it may not last as long as it would as long as a professional’s finishing. DIY painting may also need more maintenance than professional painting. So, if you are not a pro painter, let a pro handle the job for you.

Besides skills, if you use your kitchen regularly, the painting may wear off faster. The heat from cooking will definitely have some effect on the paint.

woman painting cabinet trim

Should I Paint My Cabinets Myself?

You can paint your kitchen cabinets by yourself. However, you shouldn’t do it if you are unsure of doing a perfect job.

Going DIY while painting your kitchen cabinets might look easy, but you can readily end up with uneven finishes. Painting around the handles and hinges is pretty tricky, and if you get it wrong, you end up with an untidy finish. That aside, the paint might peel off earlier than expected if you do not prepare the surfaces correctly.

Then again, if you are not watchful, you may end up staining your floor with paint. Of course, this means you will have to spend extra on cleaning the floor.

So, when you consider all the factors above, hiring a professional to do your painting might just be the best option.

Final Take

The better option between cabinet refacing and painting depends primarily on the condition of your kitchen. But beyond that, it also depends on your preferences.

If your cabinets are still in top condition, you can paint them (especially if you are on a budget). But if the door, handles, hinges or any other front-facing part of your cabinet is not okay, refacing is the better option.

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