What Is Cabinet Refacing And The Average Cabinet Refacing Cost?
When it comes to renovating or remodeling a home, instead of saying ‘out with the old and in with new,’ sometimes it’s best to take a good hard look at the old to ensure it’s worth getting ridding of. Too many times homeowners will look at, say, a kitchen and decide to scrap the entire thing when components are structurally sound, materials are in good shape, and there’s a ‘fixing up’ opportunity present.
What we’re speaking towards here is cabinetry. The kitchen overhaul is one of the most symbolic and popular types of renovation. Who doesn’t love a wonderful kitchen? One that blossoms with light, welcomes the home together, and provides a room suitable for cooking all things? Often, this starts with cabinetry, as replacing this part of the structure is typically less costly than rearranging the room.
But why tear down an entire home when all it needs is some TLC and some new veneer? The same concept applies here; sometimes refacing your cabinets, rather than replacing them, is the perfect way to spruce up your kitchen without burning a hole in your wallet. So if you’re looking for the average cabinet refacing cost, then look no further, we’re going to break it down for you.
For starters, let’s identify exactly what goes into refacing cabinet doors and drawers, as this will further inform what’s behind the cost to change kitchen cabinets.
How It Works
Think of refacing as a full cycle of shedding until a thick, healthy coat of skin grows in. First you need to exfoliate, then you build. It’s essentially stripping away the old layers (without damaging the quality of the wood) until the skin is ready to be restored. This covers everything from replacing the handles, to adding new veneer.
Essentially, the existing skeleton remains intact but everything it supports is subject to change. The base wood and structure don’t move but the hardware, veneer, coloring, and the cabinet doors are switched out. There is no one way to reface a kitchen—albeit some are less extensive than others—but typically the process looks like this:
- Goodbye, cabinet doors! The cabinet doors are removed along with the drawers. However, the drawer is then separated from its front, where the rest of it is preserved (there’s no reason to replace the entire drawer if it’s still healthy).
- The front of the cabinetry is covered with veneer (sometimes Rigid Thermofoil). This assists with the cabinetry’s coloring, providing that natural glow it had when it wasn’t as weathered.
- Then, the sides of the cabinet are skinned with either laminate or wood veneer.
- Hardware is then replaced, starting with the door hinges (sometimes, if the hinges are in good enough condition, they’ll simply be reused).
- The faces come back! The doors and cabinet fronts are replaced with brand-new ones.
- After the face takes shape, we move onto the rest of the hardware; handles, kobs and pulls, smaller hinges, etc. Also, these smaller pieces are subject to being reusable dependent on their condition.
- Lastly, we have the accessories. As with most accessories, these are, of course, optional. This could be anything from crown molding, custom lighting, to glass panels for your kitchen remodel.
How Long Does It Take?
Cabinet refacing won’t take nearly as long as a full replacement. This is one of the reasons they’re sought after, as their budget-friendliness and timely delivery are appealing to homeowners that don’t want to render their kitchen obsolete while paying an arm and a leg to do so. Again, every cabinet refacing project is going to be specific to a given homeowner’s circumstance, but to generalize this is a generic timeline:
Usually, professional cabinet refacing can take anywhere from 2-4 days. A three-day structure will then go as follows:
This is when the major prep work begins. The faces are stripped (doors and drawer fronts), veneer is added, hardware is removed, and the entire area is cleaned and readied for tomorrow’s continuation. This is when most of the ‘heavy lifting’ is done, as removing the pieces is more arduous of a task than installing them.
Once again, the veneer continues. The entire kitchen needs to be finished before they can continue to day 3. They ready the area for the following day.
As you could imagine, veneering eats up the most amount of time, and the renovators continue to veneer on the third day. However, this is also when the new doors and drawer faces are installed—and the hardware either returned or replaced.
Now, if you plan on refacing your cabinets on your lonesome, you should expect double or at least triple the time. As there are kits meant specifically to help homeowners DIY the kitchen refacing project, they often adopt a 1-2 week long structure. With that being said, this might not be a bother for you at all. Tons of people do these projects themselves because they love the challenge, work, and idea of it all.
DIY cabinet refacing is just as much about the experience as it is about saving costs. Thing is, it just might take you longer!
Perhaps there’s a reality in which you’re looking at cabinetry refacing costs but you’re unaware whether or not your cabinets are a prime candidate for such a project. First and foremost, the honest opinion of a contractor will guide you in the right direction. A professional will know, within a matter of moments, if it’s a good idea to reface instead of fully renovate your cabinetry.
Regardless, there are still a few guidelines that you can follow if you’re trying to evaluate them on your own. See below:
Sturdiness, durability, and smoothness. The box construction needs to be strong and durable, with a surface that is smooth and in good condition. A new veneer should be placed over a perfectly smooth surface in order for it to solidify properly.
Solid wood. Your face frames, are they made out of quality material? Are they smooth? Can they accept a veneer and hold a brand-new door? If the answers to these questions are yes across the board, then you could be in business. Poorly constructed and fickle door frames are the death of cabinetry refacing. A door is easy to replace, the surrounding structure which supports it, not so much.
The inside hardware. What we’re talking about here are things like shelves and drawer tracks—more importantly, are the insides of your drawers and cabinets in good shape? If so, then this is another massive selling point for refacing, as a solid internal foundation does not need to be replaced. Now all you need to do is renovate the outside, AKA refacing!
How Much Will It Cost Me?
Now that you understand the basic principles of cabinetry refacing, you’re probably wondering what it costs to replace kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts. As with any home renovations, providing you with a perfectly accurate estimate is impossible. The price will vary project to project. However, there are some generalities that will serve as a point of reference.
First and foremost, let’s not run with the notion that cabinetry refacing is always going to be less expensive than any other alternative. If you adopt that mentality and decide to be bold with your material choices, you can find that you paid the same price of replacing the whole kitchen.
Despite, as a whole, professionals speculate that a refacing project costs around half of what it would cost for a full overhaul. Then around 70-80% of what it would cost to replace the cabinetry with stock options sold at home improvement outfits. Which means, the speculation always places the refacing project behind any alternatives.
It’s important to note that sometimes, because it’s such a ‘cheaper’ alternative, homeowners will neglect to stay on budget by being overzealous with their purchases, which can easily drive the price upward. While you’re not paying for a new structure, the faces, hardware, and labor can easily add up. But just remember, this small home improvement can add major value to your home later when you’re ready to sell.
Again, this is a complete generalization but costs for refacing your average 10×12 foot kitchen generally start at around $1k and can head north up to $7k dependent on the type of material chosen. The price makes a decent jump once you start considering real wood veneers. Then, hardware can range anywhere from $2 to $500 a piece, dependent on what sort of materials you’re using.
Now, refacing your ‘average’ kitchen can also cost upwards of $9k if you’re using top quality materials and the best real-wood veneers. But these are in special occasions. Regardless, in contrast to the generalized $20k projected cost of a kitchen remodel, then refacing is certainly the more cost-efficient option.
Another factor that can dramatically drive the price down is DIY. By doing it yourself you remove the need for any labor and often pay for the entire project in ‘wholesale,’ being that you’re buying the supplies from a manufacturer and completing the project without the help of a contractor.
Lastly, we want to mention that there are some instances where refacing a kitchen will eventually cost more than overhauling. These are rare circumstances—and often occur when the materials needed and labor involved supersedes that of a full renovation. Think about an engine. Sometimes it’s too complex and time-consuming to fix a broken one, in which buying a new unit becomes a more cost-efficient option due to labor. The same phenomenon is at play here.
As stated by HomeAdvisor—with data collected by homeowners across America that completed their own refacing projects, the national average comes out to $6735. Most homeowners spend somewhere between $4175 to $9321 on their refacing projects. If you fall more along the median line, then these numbers apply to you. If you’re renovating an upscale, top-of-the-line kitchen, then they’ll be low. If your kitchen is say—one found in an AUD, your project might cost less.
With all the above being said, when choosing a veneer material, there is a ‘least-to-greatest’ chart to follow. See below:
- Rigid Thermofoil: $1-3k
- Laminate: $2-4k
- Wood Veneer: $2-6k
- Solid Wood: Upwards of $6k
Rigid Thermofoil (RTF)
The most economical choice of the litter, RTF comes on a medium-density fiberboard (MDF) rather than real wood. It takes many different shapes and molds—including arched and cathedral doors. It offers the warm and crisp look of real wood without costing the same price.
Plastic laminates are quite versatile materials. They can come in either high or low pressures and are built with a sturdiness that lasts. Typically, low-pressure laminate (melamine) is a less water-resistant and cheaper material. This is something to consider when purchasing a laminate veneer.
Wood veneers are exactly as they sound, wood. The sheets and strips of thin wood can be anything from oak, cherry, walnut, pine, to maple and birch and any sort of wood tones. This type of material is significantly more expensive than laminate but once installed, is often a lot more durable and easier to sustain.
Solid wood is our most expensive option because, of course, the entire veneer is a solid chunk of rich, beautiful wood. Typically, these are for homeowners that won’t settle without having that lush, authentic, custom look of a solid-wood kitchen. Thing is, despite it being the costliest choice, many would argue it’s also the most optimal, as real wood can be cured and repaired in the future, while other materials need to be replaced entirely.
If you’re trying to renovate your kitchen and refacing your cabinetry is an option, then we encourage you to consider it. A refaced kitchen can be the cost-efficient way to spruce up the space and create a kitchen you love. We hope this guide helped you understand the cost of kitchen cabinet refacing and pointed you in the right direction!