Cabinet Refacing: A Complete How-To

Mar 8th 2021

Are your cabinets looking a little worse for wear? If your cabinets have seen better days, you might be wondering how you can give them a new lease on life, without a full kitchen remodel. Imagining days of construction and a kitchen you can’t use doesn’t sound like much fun, and thankfully, a full remodel isn’t your only option. Instead, consider kitchen cabinet refacing to help give your cabinets a fresh new update.

Cabinet refacing is the low-cost alternative to fully replacing your existing kitchen cabinets with all new cabinetry. You can get the look of new cabinets, without having to go through the tear down and rebuilding process. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! You just have to ensure that you learn how to reface cabinets properly, or hire someone experienced in cabinet refacing to do it for you. Here’s what you should know about kitchen cabinet refacing.

The Advantages of Cabinet Refacing

No matter what the project, there are always advantages and disadvantages to everything. It’s helpful to know both so that you can make an informed decision for yourself and your home and decide whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for you. It’s particularly important to know all of this if you intend to do some work on your kitchen cabinets. Whether you’re considering DIY cabinet refacing or a full cabinet overhaul, here’s what you should know.

The advantages of cabinet refacing are significant if you need to upgrade the look of your cabinets. First, consider that cabinet refacing is considerably less expensive than fully replacing your cabinets, especially if you do the work yourself. Your cabinet refacing cost will be a fraction of the cost of rebuilding your cabinetry, but you achieve the new look. DIY cabinet refacing is a great way to save money and make a big impact with a smaller budget. Also, keep in mind that kitchen cabinet refacing is significantly less disruptive than a full renovation or remodel because the kitchen is still usable during the process. This means your home will be much more liveable during your upgrade, but it also means you won’t be trying to cook dinner in a microwave in your bedroom.

Another advantage is that you’ll be able to reuse much of your existing kitchen, rather than having to scratch it and start all over. Existing cabinet boxes are often in excellent shape, even if they appear worn on the outside, and older cabinetry is often higher quality than new cabinets. In addition, your countertops and plumbing are often re-usable, too, so you’ll save money there as well (and won’t be trying to get water for boiling from your bathroom spout).

Additional advantages include the opportunity to choose an entirely new look and feel by refacing cabinet doors in your room, without destroying your existing room. While cabinet refacing does require refinishing the cabinet boxes and replacing the cabinet doors, that also means you can choose from hundreds of cabinet door styles from the source you choose. You’ll be able to pick a design and finish that you love for your kitchen cabinet refacing project, without having to survive weeks without a functional kitchen.

The Disadvantages of Fully Replacing Your Cabinets

Cabinet refacing is a pretty quick process, typically only taking 2 to 5 days to complete after receiving the replacement cabinet doors. The wait time for the doors is about 2 1/2 weeks for unfinished doors, and 5 weeks for painted doors. Your kitchen will still be usable during the process, and the cabinet refacing cost is significantly less than the cost of completely replacing your cabinets. Even if DIY cabinet refacing sounds like a big project, the alternative has some serious disadvantages that you should consider.

Replacing your existing cabinets entirely with brand new cabinetry can take a long time, depending on the type of cabinets you need, the number of people able to perform the work, and whether or not you require any custom cabinetry. Even if fully replacing your cabinets takes the same amount of time as cabinet refacing, your kitchen will be an unusable space during the process. Finally, existing cabinet demolition is messy, noisy, and destructive to your flooring. It’s a serious undertaking, and one that can uncover more problems than you were prepared to tackle. As such, if your cabinet boxes are still in solid shape, cabinet refacing is often an excellent solution, and one that is significantly less intrusive and less expensive.

How to Reface Cabinets Yourself

If you’re interested in DIY cabinet refacing, it can be helpful to read about the process first, before you get started. This explanation of the kitchen cabinet refacing process covers the prep of the existing cabinet boxes, followed by the finishing of the boxes and new unfinished cabinet doors. Here’s what you’ll be doing for DIY cabinet refacing.

Begin by processing your existing boxes and follow by painting and installing your new cabinet doors. To get started with your cabinet boxes, you’ll need to establish whether you will be painting your cabinets or looking for a wood finish. If you are aiming for a wood finish, you’ll need to find a veneer that matches your new cabinet doors to reface the visible parts of the cabinet boxes. This process has its own set of directions, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you purchase your veneer. If you will be painting your cabinets, continue with the process as described below.

Preparing Cabinets and Doors for Cabinet Refacing

To prepare the cabinet boxes, start by cleaning the cabinets thoroughly. Any grease remaining on the surfaces will interfere with refinishing. TSP is the preferred product for this job, as it will not only clean and remove even heavy grease deposits, but with a strong enough concentration can even dull and etch the paint so that it is ready to be primed.

Next, lightly sand any rough areas or areas with bubbled or peeling paint or varnish. Then sand all surfaces until they are smooth and even. Take your time with this step—the results will be well worth the extra effort.

After you receive your replacement cabinet doors, get ready to paint them like an expert by inspecting them for any scratches first. Smooth any scratches with 180-grit sandpaper, being sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid making cross-grain scratches.

After sanding, wipe the wood with a damp cloth to remove dust particles and let dry. If the finish you’re working with is an oil based product, you may dampen a cloth with mineral spirits or paint thinner, rather than water, which will allow it to dry much more rapidly. Remove any residual grit with a clean cloth (tack cloth is best) or a vacuum.

Sealing, Filling, and Painting the Wood for Cabinet Refacing

Next is the most important step in the entire process—sealing and priming the wood. The priming coat, also called a sealing coat, or sealing indicating coat, seals the wood so that the final paint will adhere evenly. The priming coat also helps you spot uneven areas in the wood while it’s still easy to correct the blemish. Primer can be applied by brush or roller. A roller is great for the bigger areas followed by a good quality brush for smoothing and painting the finer details on the cabinet doors. Expect to pay $6-$10 for a good, fine-bristle brush. Try not to get paint all over the brush, dipping only about 1/2″ to 1″ into the paint is best. Between coats you can place the brush in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out, and avoid cleaning it until the end of each day.

Any hardware or paint store will have a wide selection of sealer/primer and paint for your doors. Match the primer with the paint you plan to use. If you are using latex (water based) paint, use a latex primer. For oil based paint, use an oil based primer. Also try to use a primer with a drying time of 30 minutes or less. White primer works best because it will show the uneven areas better so you can spot (and correct) the areas that need filling before painting.

Once the first coat of primer is dry you’ll be able to see uneven areas, scratches, or dents in the wood. All hardwoods have voids, which cannot be seen until the wood is primed. A filler can be used to fill all of these spots so you can obtain a perfect painted finish. We recommend Bondo 907 Glazing and Spot Putty and Elmer’s Wood Filler Max White. The Bondo putty works best because its orange color makes it easier to see where you have filled. The Elmer’s is white. After filling, sand the filled areas using a 3M sponge to keep your fingers from sanding dips in the filled areas, wipe the dust off, and apply one last primer coat.

When the primer has dried, give the doors another light sanding and wipe them clean of any dust. If the final inspection doesn’t show any unfilled scratches or small voids, you’re ready to paint.

Because of your careful prep work, this is actually the easiest phase of the project. Apply paint using the same technique you used with the primer—roller for the large areas, and paint brush to smooth and paint the smaller and detailed areas. There’s no need to sand between paint coats, but make sure there’s no dried paint on the brush that could work its way into your finish. Although the finish may look good after one coat of paint, two coats are normally applied to assure durability of the finish. Follow the directions on your paint and adhere to the drying time recommendations.

Get New Cabinet Doors for Your Cabinet Refacing Project at The Door Stop

Get your unfinished cabinet doors online from the oldest and largest manufacturer of custom cabinet doors on the web—CabinetDoors.Com. We have over 40 years of experience crafting several hundred replacement cabinet door styles, and we are proud to have a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ and the highest customer reviews online.

Our door styles can be priced online to get a clear idea of your cabinet refacing cost for your project. We offer custom-sized door styles in a variety of wood types, so your cabinet doors can be ordered factory direct, manufactured to your specs, and shipped to your door in about two weeks. If you choose, we’ll even bore hinge holes for you and you can order Soft-Close Blum Hinges to be included in your order.

Let Cabinetdoors.com help you with your cabinet refacing needs and get high quality cabinet doors at a great price. We help make your kitchen cabinet refacing as easy as possible. Contact us at 1-800-342-1010 for any additional help or questions about how to reface cabinets properly. We look forward to helping you with your project. When it comes to replacement cabinet doors, The Door Stop always delivers.

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