• What Is the Difference between Refinishing, Refacing and Resurfacing Kitchen Cabinets?

  • So you’ve added a splash of color to the walls in your kitchen and upgraded the appliances, but it’s not quite enough. Those cabinets still seem drab, bringing down that fresh look you were going for. Or perhaps you’re looking to sell your house, but the kitchen is not a selling point because of worn-out cabinetry. Your cabinets need a pick-me-up, and professionals usually opt for one of three ways to give your kitchen a facelift: replacing, refacing or refinishing.

    Replacing is self-explanatory; you are replacing everything and going for something totally new. A company comes in, guts your kitchen and gives you brand new cabinet doors, drawers and boxes. This can make the most dramatic changes. You can go from a very traditional look to a modern, European style, change the wood, add doors with glass panes, or even restructure the kitchen layout. This is great for old, rundown cabinetry that’s been chipped, cracked and worn. Keep in mind you won’t have access to your kitchen at all, so you’ll be checking out new restaurants in the area or enjoying picnics in the back yard for a while.

    For a little less drastic and more economical kitchen renovation, refacing is the next option on the list. It also doesn’t take as long to finish. You pick out new doors and drawer fronts to replace the ones you have, and the existing cabinet boxes are covered with a veneer to match your new doors/drawers. There is a wide variety of colors and finishes to choose from, even wood finishes. For those who want to update their kitchen look without changing the layout, this is a great option. And since the doors and drawer faces are being replaced, they don’t have to be in mint condition.

    But what if your cabinets are in great shape and you like the style, but the color is all wrong, that’s where refinishing comes in. Refinishing is the most affordable and usually the quickest way to bring life back into dreary cabinets. It’s vital that the cabinets are in good condition since refinishing includes paint stripping, sanding, and staining or painting. Staining your wooden cabinets can give the illusion of any type of wood you want. You can go from white washed to a deep cherry wood color. It is, however, hard to go from a very dark to very light. Painting is another option, with colors limited to any under the sun. You can easily match your cabinet color to that perfect shade of blue on the dishes.

    Of course you can do some mixing and matching. Stain the cabinets to that beautiful oak color, but have a door or two replaced with glass panes to show off the fine china and crystal. Revamp the kitchen and reface the cabinets in the bathroom. Giving your cabinets a total-body makeover or just a facelift can make the whole house seem to come back to life.


    What Is the Difference between Refinishing, Refacing and Resurfacing Kitchen Cabinets?

    If you’re thinking about making some style changes to your kitchen you may be considering replacing your cabinets. Before ripping out your current kitchen cabinets and getting into a complicated remodel project you may want to consider refacing, resurfacing, or refinishing your current cabinets. Refacing, resurfacing or refinishing are more economical alternatives to replacing them entirely, especially if you’re already happy with the layout of your kitchen the way it is.

    So what’s the difference between refacing cabinets, resurfacing, and refinishing?


    Resurfacing kitchen cabinets is a process in which the existing cabinet framework is resurfaced with laminate or wood veneer replacement material.  You keep your existing cabinet boxes but replace all cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones. You can also replace cabinet side panels, face frames and moldings so that everything matches. This covers up all blemishes and finish problems on your cabinets and allows you to change the wood, color, or door style for a clean and updated look. When resurfacing your kitchen cabinets you can even choose to install new highly decorated hardware or crown molding.


    Refacing is a word that is interchangeable with the term resurfacing, especially when it comes to cabinet makers and professional remodelers. It simply means that the face, meaning the front or visible surfaces are getting a facelift. So in essence, they mean the same thing.


    The difference to note is the difference between refacing cabinets and refinishing cabinets. Kitchen cabinet refinishing means that you keep all components of your existing cabinetry and simply change the color or the finish which is often completed via hand sanding or chemically stripping the existing finish from the wood, then applying new paint or stain.


    When deciding between kitchen cabinet refinishing or refacing cabinets there are a few things to keep in mind. If you’re considering refinishing, if your cabinets are made of laminate or thermofoil, refinishing is not an option due to the fact that these materials can’t be sanded or stripped and it’s nearly impossible for paint to stick.

    If you have wood cabinets you can refinish or reface. If you dislike your kitchen’s layout or your cabinets’ current style you may want to consider resurfacing kitchen cabinets. If budget is your main consideration, refinishing is often the cheaper option. Estimates have shown that refinishing cabinets costs about 2/3 the cost of refacing, and refacing costs about 70 to 80 percent the cost of installing replacement cabinets.

    Featured image credit: Southern Living