Reface Painting Versus New Cabinet Installation – What's Better?

By: NAK Cabinetry and Tile   |   29 Nov 2018
Reface Painting or New Cabinets
To Reface or Not to Reface

If you are kicking around the idea of putting in a new kitchen, ways to save dollars wherever you can is likely something on your mind. With DIY sites like Pinterest being the source of many people’s home project inspiration, it can be tempting to try and repurpose as much of your current kitchen as possible — all in the name of crafty cost effectiveness. But what are the facts when it comes to the actual costs of giving your old cabinets a reface compared with investing in new ones?

Below, we offer some key factors that frequently impact the decision to reface, paint or restain cabinets. We can help you determine if what you currently have is worth salvaging, and, if not, what you can do instead.


Determining the amount you’re willing to spend on your project is a huge deciding point when it comes to whether or not it’s worth installing new cabinetry or salvaging what you have. For those with a flexible budget, custom cabinets will likely allow you to have all of your “dream kitchen” must-haves in your design.

There are so many amazing features available when it comes to innovating storage ideas (some of which involve technology), and the truth is that many of these options just will not work on older cabinets due to shape and size. If your budget is slightly more strict, there is still no reason to limit the design to the confines of old boxes. Pre-fabricated cabinets can be an effective way to meet in the middle, as they generally cost less than a custom build. The value of a highly functional kitchen will generally outweigh the difference in price when compared to a refurbish.

The Condition of Existing Cabinet Boxes

The next major factor you need to look at when choosing what type of renovation will work the best for your household is the actual shape that your current kitchen is in. Sometimes we get so used to how our own home looks that we begin to overlook significant damage that has accumulated over time.

Are your cabinets scratched, dinged, dented or otherwise falling apart? If the answer is yes, salvaging such items will be costly and the finished product may look shabby. In other words, you could be wasting your funds, making the project more expensive than if you had simply opted for new products.

Resizing Cabinet Boxes

When you imagine your refurbish, do you picture expanding or changing the current shape of your cabinetry? While a few minor changes may be possible, each change adds dollars to your project total. Further to that, what may look like a small adjustment can prove to be hours worth of labour, which could cause costs to jump exponentially. If your cabinets need to be a totally different size for you to be happy with them, a new build is definitely the way to go.

Adding Functional Accessories

So many of the latest kitchen must-haves are created with new kitchens in mind. These kitchens often have deeper cabinets than their predecessors, which is a major issue to try and address. While you may convince yourself that you don’t need elaborate storage inserts or compartments, what you might be overlooking is your kitchen sink.

In almost all of the kitchen designs in recent years, a large sink is one of the main staples of the room. No one likes the clutter of dishes everywhere, and larger sinks give you the luxury of better dealing with the mess that every loved kitchen creates. If a big, beautiful sink is on your dream list, it’s likely that only new will do.

Dust and Dirt

Some older kitchens were built in a timeless fashion, where each detail was thought out and installation was done with care. Others have kickboards that allow years worth of dust and grime to build up underneath your cabinetry. While a good scrub can get rid of layers of grime (read up on the best cleaning solutions here), there are times where the original product is not salvageable — especially in homes where smoke has been a factor. If this is the case with your kitchen, opting for a new build makes far more sense than polishing up something that the next owners will likely tear out anyway.

Paint Fumes

While this next point is not a major issue, the fact is that resurfacing often uses A LOT of paint, and this paint or stain does give off fumes. In many cases, the fumes do linger, though it is subtle. If you or someone in your family are highly sensitive to paint fumes, dousing your kitchen with paint may not be the best route to take.

Quality of New Surface Finish

Try as we may, the very best at-home reface will never be quite as good as factory-applied lacquer. The type of paint offered by manufacturers is significantly harder than many products used in a reface, and these products have already fully cured in the safety of a warehouse. Kitchens are often the most-used rooms in our homes — meaning it can be quite difficult to preserve the coat of paint on your cabinets until it has truly dried.

This process can take weeks or more, depending on weather, and the first two weeks regardless of humidity levels are critical in the process. If you have children, pets, or just an overly exuberant spouse, all of the money you’ve spent on your reface may plummet down the drain from damage incurred during this period.

Kitchen Flooring

If you are thinking of switching up your floor plan in any way or if your cabinets need to change in depth, one place you need to look is straight down. Your kitchen floor may make or break these decisions, as many changes that involve the shape of cabinets and how they are situated simply are not possible if your flooring currently only goes to the edge of your cabinets. If you fall into this category, you have two options — keep your kitchen the exact way that it is, or opt for new floors. Those that choose the second option would be better to do a completely new install, as there is little point to mix-and-matching old materials with new ones.

The Takeaway

While refacing your cabinets may seem like an obvious choice in terms of savings, it may mean that you are giving away all kinds of possible improvements for what will amount to a marginally smaller overall cost. This is because refacing, painting or staining existing cabinets is very labor-intensive, primarily with on-site tasks. There are higher labour and travel costs coming into play than what would be involved if we built completely new cabinets in the shop and then shipped them one time to the job site.

So, while there are some financial savings with refacing, you tend to pay higher markups on the materials you are receiving. When that is combined with the overall labour time involved in retrofitting, the costs of refacing frequently strips away 80% or more of any savings gained through reduced materials. The end result is small savings on a product that delivers a lot less function than an investment in new cabinets would.

That being said, there are some kitchen remodels that do, indeed, fit the resurfacing criteria. If you’ve considered all of the factors we’ve listed above and still feel confident that this option will work for your home, we would be happy to help you reach your design goals. Read more about our services here, or give us a call to get started!

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