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Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace?

Homeowners looking to update their kitchen often consider whether it is better to reface their kitchen cabinets, or replace them.

Refacing cabinets involves replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Replacing cabinets involves the removal of the entire cabinet and installation of new kitchen cabinets and countertops.

Reasons to Reface:

1. Improves the look of the kitchen.

2. Less costly.  Typically it is less costly, the cost can be half of what new cabinetry would cost. The cost depends on the size of doors, and also on other items that may or may not be required such as end gables and edge banding.  Depending on sizing and complexity of the kitchen, refacing could cost as much, or more than replacing cabinets.

3. Less disruptive. The work can be competed in as little as a day, and there is no need to remove all the items in the cabinets.

4. Smaller job. Refacing is typically a smaller job, and does not necessarily need to involve other items such as countertop and flooring.

5. No damage to countertop.  If you have a beautiful granite or some other type of solid surface countertop that you wish to save, refacing can be a good option.

Reasons to replace kitchen cabinets:

1. Functionality.  Refacing cabinets improves the look of the kitchen, but does not improve the functionality of the kitchen.  If the kitchen is missing space for appliances such as a microwave and dishwasher, or lacks cabinet space and countertop space, refacing will not deal with these issues.

Often, the functionality of the kitchen is improved by moving appliances to different locations. This leads to a revised cabinet layout, and electrical and plumbing work.

Most kitchens that we see that are more than 20 years old would be more functional with a revised layout.   For example, many Toronto area subdivision builders were still installing kitchens into new homes in the 1990s and 2000s that didn’t have space for a dishwasher.

2. Condition of Insides of Cabinets.  If the inside of the boxes are painted, or show signs of damage or deterioration, replacing is the better option.

3. Mechanical systems. If you need additional lighting and plugs, a range hood that exhausts outside, a full scale renovation may be in order.  Mechanical items are easier to add when cabinets are removed.

4. Flooring. If you’re adding ceramic tile flooring on a vinyl floor, the additional height may create an issue for the installation of the stove and dishwasher.

So which option is better?

If you’re planning to move soon, or if you love everything about the kitchen except for the look of the cabinets, then refacing is a good option to consider.

On the other hand, if you plan on living in your home for many more years, and you dislike more than just the visual appearance, or ever said: “I wish my kitchen had …”, then look at replacing.