Cabinet Refacing and Painting: Which is More Cost-Effective?

Kitchen room interior with wooden cabinets

Reface vs Paint Cabinets: Which is better? It depends on your budget, desired timeframe, aesthetic preference, and environmental impact considerations. Refacing offers more customization options and is eco-friendly, but can be more expensive. Painting is cheaper and quicker, but has limitations in structural changes and requires existing cabinets in good condition. Consider your personal needs and preferences before making a decision.

Are you tired of looking at your dull and outdated kitchen cabinets? It’s time for a change! But what’s the best way to update them? Should you reface or paint your cabinets?

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to give your cabinets a fresh new look, you may be wondering which option is best for you. Both cabinet refacing and painting have their pros and cons, and it can be difficult to know which route to take.

In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between cabinet refacing and painting to help you make an informed decision. We’ll also provide tips for a successful cabinet update, so you can achieve the kitchen of your dreams. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of cabinet updates together.

Kitchen Cabinet Renovation: Reface or Paint Cabinets?

When planning a kitchen cabinet renovation, you have three main options to consider: painting, refacing, and replacement. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to take into account factors like budget, maintenance, and aesthetics when making your decision.

Budget considerations

  • Painting: A cost-effective solution that provides an affordable way to give your cabinets a fresh look. This option is ideal if you want a quick update without spending a fortune.
  • Refacing: A moderate investment that involves updating the cabinet doors and drawer fronts while keeping the existing cabinet boxes intact. This option offers a more significant visual change than painting but is less expensive than a complete replacement.
  • Replacement: The most expensive option, which involves removing the old cabinets and installing entirely new ones. This approach is best for those who want a complete kitchen transformation and are willing to invest more in their renovation project.

Maintenance requirements

  • Painting: Cabinets that are painted will require regular touch-ups to maintain their appearance, especially in high-traffic areas. Keep in mind that painted surfaces can chip and peel over time.
  • Refacing: Refaced cabinets generally require low maintenance, as the new doors and drawer fronts are often more durable than painted surfaces. This option allows you to enjoy a fresh look without having to worry too much about upkeep.
  • Replacement: New cabinets usually require minimal maintenance, as they are built to withstand daily wear and tear. With proper care, your new cabinets will last for years to come.

Aesthetic improvements

  • Painting: By painting your cabinets, you can change their color and finish to create a new look. This option allows you to experiment with different hues and styles without making structural changes to your kitchen.
  • Refacing: With refacing, you can choose new doors and drawer fronts in various styles, materials, and colors. This option gives your kitchen a more significant visual upgrade than painting and can dramatically change the overall appearance.
  • Replacement: Choosing to replace your cabinets gives you the most significant aesthetic improvement, as you can select entirely new cabinetry that complements your kitchen’s design and layout. This option provides the most significant transformation, but it also comes with a higher price tag.

Environmental impact

  • Painting: By choosing to paint your cabinets, you can reduce waste by extending the life of your existing cabinetry. However, it’s essential to use eco-friendly, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints to minimize any negative impact on indoor air quality and the environment.
  • Refacing: Refacing cabinets also has a lower environmental impact compared to replacement, as you’re only changing the doors and drawer fronts rather than disposing of the entire cabinet structure. Look for sustainably sourced materials and eco-friendly adhesives when selecting your new doors and drawer fronts.
  • Replacement: Replacing your cabinets has the highest environmental impact due to the production and transportation of new materials and the disposal of old cabinets. If you choose to replace your cabinets, opt for sustainable materials and consider donating or recycling your old cabinets to minimize waste.

Project timeline

  • Painting: Cabinet painting is a relatively quick process that can be completed within a few days to a week, depending on the size of your kitchen and the number of cabinets involved. This option is ideal if you want to minimize downtime in your kitchen.
  • Refacing: Refacing cabinets typically takes longer than painting but is still quicker than a complete replacement. Expect the process to take anywhere from one to two weeks, depending on the complexity of the project and the availability of materials.
  • Replacement: A full cabinet replacement is the most time-consuming option, as it involves removing the old cabinets, making any necessary modifications to the kitchen layout, and installing the new cabinets. This process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the scope of the project and any additional renovations being performed.


  • Painting: While painting your cabinets can dramatically change their appearance, it does not address any functional issues with your existing cabinets, such as limited storage space or an inefficient layout.
  • Refacing: Refacing can provide a more significant visual change than painting and may offer some functional improvements, such as the addition of soft-close hinges or new drawer organizers. However, it still does not address underlying layout or storage issues.
  • Replacement: Replacing your cabinets provides the most significant opportunity for functional improvements, as you can completely redesign the layout and storage solutions to better suit your needs. This option is ideal for those who want to create a more efficient and functional kitchen space.

Cabinet Refacing

Definition of Cabinet Refacing

Cabinet refacing is a popular kitchen renovation method that provides a significant transformation without the need for extensive demolition or reconstruction. The process involves giving the existing cabinetry a fresh new look by replacing the visible parts, such as doors and drawer fronts, while keeping the underlying cabinet framework intact.

The materials used in refacing can vary depending on your desired outcome and budget. Some common materials include:

  • Veneers: Thin sheets of wood or laminate that are applied to the existing cabinet surfaces. They come in various wood species, colors, and finishes, allowing for a customized appearance.
  • Laminates: Made from layers of paper or fabric, laminates are an affordable option that can mimic the look of wood or other materials. They are durable and easy to clean, making them a popular choice for busy households.
  • Rigid thermofoil (RTF): A type of vinyl film that is heat-molded to medium-density fiberboard (MDF) doors and drawer fronts. RTF is a budget-friendly option that offers a smooth, seamless finish in various colors and patterns.

When executed correctly, cabinet refacing can drastically improve the appearance of your kitchen while saving you time and money compared to a full remodel. However, it’s essential to carefully consider the materials and techniques used to ensure a lasting, high-quality result.

Process of Refacing Cabinets

Refacing cabinets is a great way to update your kitchen’s look without the cost and disruption of full cabinet replacement. Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  • Removal of worn-out cabinet doors and drawer fronts: Carefully remove existing doors and drawer fronts, keeping track of all hardware for potential reuse.
  • Covering with wood stains or veneers: Cover exposed cabinet surfaces with wood stains or veneers that match the new doors and drawer fronts in color, texture, and style. Apply veneers using a high-quality adhesive, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Replacement of hardware: Install new hardware, such as hinges, handles, and pulls, on the new doors and drawer fronts. Align and secure them in place. Double-check their fit and functionality, making any necessary adjustments.

Advantages of Cabinet Refacing

There are several advantages to choosing cabinet refacing for your kitchen renovation:

  • Updated appearance: Refacing gives your kitchen a fresh, modern look without the need for an extensive overhaul. By changing the doors and drawer fronts, you can significantly transform your kitchen’s style and ambiance.
  • Variety of styles and finishes: Cabinet refacing offers a wide array of styles, colors, and finishes to choose from, making it easy to find the perfect match for your taste and existing decor.
  • Customization options: With cabinet refacing, you can customize your cabinets to better suit your needs, such as adding new hardware, glass inserts, or decorative molding.
  • Less waste: By reusing the existing cabinet framework, refacing generates less waste compared to a full remodel, which typically involves tearing out and disposing of the old cabinets.
  • Eco-friendly option: As refacing reduces material consumption and waste generation, it is considered a more environmentally friendly choice than a complete cabinet replacement.
  • Reduced material consumption: Since you’re only replacing the visible parts of your cabinets, refacing requires fewer materials compared to a full remodel, resulting in lower overall costs.
  • Time-saving: Refacing is generally a quicker process than a complete cabinet replacement, allowing you to enjoy your updated kitchen sooner and with less disruption to your daily routine.
  • Quicker process compared to a full remodel: Cabinet refacing can typically be completed in a matter of days, whereas a full kitchen remodel can take weeks or even months, depending on the scope and complexity of the project.

Disadvantages of Cabinet Refacing

Despite the numerous benefits of cabinet refacing, there are a few drawbacks to consider:

  • Limited structural changes: Refacing only involves updating the visible parts of your cabinets, such as doors and drawer fronts. Therefore, you won’t be able to make significant structural changes, like altering the layout or adding new cabinets.
  • Must have existing cabinets in good condition: Cabinet refacing requires your existing cabinets to be structurally sound and in decent shape. If your cabinets are damaged or poorly constructed, refacing may not be a viable option.
  • Cannot alter layout or dimensions: As refacing retains the existing cabinet framework, you won’t be able to modify the overall layout or dimensions of your kitchen. If you’re looking to reconfigure your kitchen space, a full remodel may be necessary.
  • Cost is more expensive than painting cabinets: Although cabinet refacing is typically less expensive than a full remodel, it is still more costly than painting your cabinets. If you’re on a tight budget, painting may be a more suitable option for updating your kitchen’s appearance.

Impact on Kitchen Mood

  • Enhanced visual appeal without altering the layout: Refacing cabinets can significantly improve your kitchen’s aesthetics without changing the existing layout. This approach can create a fresh, updated look that elevates the overall mood and atmosphere of the space.

Cabinet Painting

Definition of Cabinet Painting

Cabinet painting is a process where the existing cabinets in your kitchen are sanded, primed, and painted with a new color or finish. This technique is used to update the appearance of your cabinets without replacing them entirely.

  • Types of paint used for cabinets:

There are various types of paint suitable for cabinets, including oil-based, water-based, and acrylic paints. Each paint type has its pros and cons, but it’s essential to choose a high-quality, durable paint specifically designed for cabinetry.

Some popular options include alkyd enamel, acrylic enamel, and 100% acrylic latex paints, which offer excellent adhesion, durability, and a smooth finish.

Process of painting cabinets

Explanation of the cabinet painting process:

Cabinet painting starts with removing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, followed by thorough cleaning to remove dirt, grease, and grime. The surfaces are then sanded to create a smooth and even base for the paint to adhere.

A high-quality primer is applied to ensure a long-lasting finish. After the primer dries, the chosen paint is applied in multiple coats, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next. Finally, the cabinet doors and drawer fronts are reattached, and hardware is installed.

Here’s a brief overview of the cabinet painting process:

  1. Removal of hardware and doors: Start by removing all hardware, such as handles and knobs, from your cabinets. You’ll also need to take off the cabinet doors to ensure a smooth painting process.
  2. Surface cleaning: Thoroughly clean the cabinet surfaces to remove any dirt, grease, or grime. This step is crucial for ensuring the paint adheres properly to the cabinets.
  3. Sanding surfaces: Lightly sand the cabinet surfaces to create a smooth, even base for the paint. This step helps the paint adhere better and prevents it from peeling or chipping in the future.
  4. Applying primer-sealer: Apply a high-quality primer-sealer to the cabinets. This product prepares the surface for painting and helps to create a durable, long-lasting finish.
  5. Paint application: Finally, apply your chosen paint color to the cabinets using a brush or roller. Be sure to apply multiple thin coats, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next one.

Advantages of Cabinet Painting

Cabinet painting offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Cost-effective: Painting your cabinets is typically cheaper than refacing, making it an attractive option if you’re on a budget.
  • DIY options: If you’re a hands-on person, painting your cabinets can be a fulfilling DIY project.
  • Quick update: Painting cabinets can give your kitchen a fresh new look in just a short amount of time.
  • Fast transformation: A new coat of paint can dramatically change the appearance of your kitchen without the need for major construction work.
  • Shorter downtime: Compared to refacing, painting cabinets generally requires less time, meaning you can have your kitchen back in working order sooner.
  • Creative freedom: With countless colors and finishes available, painting your cabinets allows you to express your unique style.
  • Wide range of colors and finishes: From matte to glossy, there’s a paint finish to suit every taste.
  • Ability to change the look easily: If you grow tired of your current cabinet color, you can simply repaint them for a fresh new look.

Disadvantages of Cabinet Painting

While painting your cabinets has its advantages, there are also some downsides to consider:

  • Limited lifespan: Painted cabinets tend to have a shorter lifespan than refaced cabinets, which can mean more frequent updates.
  • Paint can chip, peel, or fade over time: Even with proper care, painted cabinets are susceptible to wear and tear, which may require touch-ups or repainting.
  • Requires more frequent touch-ups and maintenance: To keep your cabinets looking their best, you’ll need to invest time in maintaining the painted surfaces.
  • Surface preparation: To achieve a professional finish, you’ll need to spend time properly preparing the cabinet surfaces, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
  • Proper cleaning, sanding, and priming is crucial for a quality finish: If you cut corners during the preparation stage, you may end up with a less-than-stellar result.
  • Time-consuming process: While painting your cabinets can be quicker than refacing, it can still be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re tackling the project yourself.
  • Increased Maintenance Requirements: Due to their smooth surface, painted cabinets tend to attract more dust and grease, which can be difficult to clean. As a result, painted cabinets may require more maintenance compared to other cabinet options.

Impact on the existing kitchen look

Cabinet painting can create a dramatic transformation in your kitchen with minimal structural changes. By simply altering the color and finish of your cabinets, you can breathe new life into the space and significantly change its overall appearance. This option is ideal for those who want a fresh look without the expense or effort of a complete renovation.

Tips for a Successful Cabinet Update

Hiring a Professional vs. DIY

When updating your cabinets, you’ll need to decide whether to hire a professional or tackle the project yourself.

  • Pros and cons of hiring a professional: Hiring a professional for cabinet refacing or painting can save time and ensure a high-quality result. Professionals have the expertise and tools necessary to complete the project efficiently. However, this option can be more expensive than a DIY approach.
  • Tips for DIY cabinet painting or refacing: If you decide to take on the project yourself, research the process thoroughly and gather the necessary tools and materials. Be prepared to invest time and effort into the project, and don’t be afraid to seek help if needed.

Selecting the Right Materials and Colors

Choosing the appropriate materials and colors is crucial for a successful cabinet update.

  • Choosing high-quality materials for refacing: Opt for high-quality materials like wood veneers, laminate, or thermofoil when refacing your cabinets. These materials will provide a durable and attractive finish that can last for years.
  • Selecting the appropriate paint type and finish for painting: Choose a paint specifically designed for cabinets, such as a high-quality latex or oil-based paint. Consider factors like durability, ease of cleaning, and finish (e.g., matte, satin, or gloss) when selecting your paint.

Proper Preparation and Maintenance

Ensuring proper preparation and maintenance is key to the longevity of your updated cabinets.

  • Importance of thorough surface preparation: Before painting or refacing, clean and prep your cabinet surfaces by removing grease, dirt, and any loose or peeling paint. This step is crucial for a smooth and long-lasting finish.
  • Tips for maintaining refaced or painted cabinets: To keep your cabinets looking their best, clean them regularly with a mild detergent and water, and avoid harsh chemicals that may damage the finish. Touch up any scratches or dings promptly to prevent further damage. With proper care, your updated cabinets can remain beautiful and functional for years to come.


In summary, there are several key differences between cabinet refacing and painting. These differences can help you make a more informed and cost-effective decision.

Cabinet refacing involves replacing the visible surfaces with new materials. On the other hand, painting requires applying a fresh coat of paint to the existing cabinet surfaces. Each option has its pros and cons.

The best choice for your kitchen will depend on factors such as budget, timeframe, desired aesthetic, and environmental impact. Ultimately, it’s essential to consider your personal needs and preferences when deciding between painting or refacing your cabinets.

By weighing the factors mentioned in this article, you can confidently choose the option that will best transform your kitchen space. This decision will provide lasting satisfaction for your home.