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Cabinet Refacing vs Painting: Which One is Right for Your Kitchen Remodel?

Are you considering a kitchen remodel and wondering what to do about your current cabinets? Or maybe you’re considering buying a house but hate the existing cabinets. Luckily, you don’t need to make a whole-cloth replacement to get a fresh new look–you can paint or reface the existing cabinets!

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of cabinet refacing vs painting, and how to decide which method is right for your kitchen remodel.

Various colors of paint and veneers to consider when deciding between cabinet refacing vs painting

Cabinet Refacing vs Painting Basics

Cabinet refacing

Cabinet refacing is the act of replacing the fronts of your cabinet doors and drawers. In this process, you leave the cabinets mostly intact, removing the fronts of the doors and drawers before sanding down the cabinet fronts and covering them with laminate or veneer. The door and drawer fronts are then replaced.

Some pros of cabinet refacing vs painting is that the end result is often more durable, as laminate and veneer are made to withstand wear and tear. It’s also easier to customize your new cabinets, given the variety of hardware, door styles, and finishes available on the market. And, of course, refacing is less messy than dealing with paint!

On the other hand, cabinet refacing can be expensive, as you’re replacing entire door and drawer fronts (though, refacing is considerably less expensive than completely replacing your cabinets). You also have fewer color options than when repainting your cabinets.

If you hire professionals to help with your cabinet refacing project, you can expect the whole thing to take about four days.

Consider refacing when the cabinets’ internal shelves, frames, and drawers are in good shape, but the doors are in a bad way, or you want a new look. Refacing makes your cabinets appear new, even though you’ve just replaced the doors, for far less money than a complete cabinet replacement.

Refacing may be the way to go if you’re considering selling anytime soon. It adds value to your home’s worth on the market.

Above all else, carefully consider different styles and colors before you start a refacing project. Although cheaper than replacing entire cabinets, the process will still put a dent in your piggy bank, and you don’t want to repeat it in short order because you didn’t weigh all your style options first.

Cabinet painting

Cabinet painting is the act of, well, painting your cabinets. Typically, this is done by removing the cabinet doors and hardware, sanding the doors, painting or staining them, and then reassembling everything.

Cabinet painting should really only be considered when your existing cabinets and hardware are in good shape. It is recommended that you use high-quality paint if this is your chosen route; the longevity it provides will be well worth it.

Cabinet painting has some definite advantages over cabinet refacing. First, it’s much more affordable. You also have a wider variety of colors and finishes, allowing for more flexibility and creativity.

Cabinet painting has a few cons when compared to cabinet refacing, though. First of all, it’s time-consuming. In addition to sanding and painting, you need to wait between coats for the paint to dry, and then again between your final coat and finish. This can leave your kitchen in disarray for several days.

Cabinet painting can also be messier than refacing, even if you take the most careful precautions ahead of time. And, although cabinet painting can result in a durable look that will last for years, paint is prone to chipping and peeling, especially in high-traffic areas.

Consider painting your cabinets when doors are in good condition, and you’re satisfied with the rest of the cabinet, including the hardware, but you want to change the look of your kitchen.

DIY vs Hiring a Professional

Cabinet refacing

A DIY cabinet refacing will look something like this:

A roll of oak veneer used to reface cabinets
  1. Protect your kitchen with a covering, like a drop cloth or old sheets, to ensure everything else in the room stays safe from damage.
  2. Remove all cabinet doors, drawers, drawer fronts, and hardware from the cabinets and pulls from the drawers.
  3. Clean all over the cabinets and drawers–fronts, backs, sides, tops, bottoms–with a cleaning solution designed to remove oils and grease.
  4. Once the clean pieces are dry, sand any exposed surfaces lightly using medium-grit sandpaper.
  5. Wipe down all surfaces with a tack cloth or microfiber cloth to remove any remaining dust or other particles.
  6. Apply veneer sheets and paint or stain the rest of the cabinet to match (if desired).
  7. Finish with a clear coat of polyurethane.
  8. Reassemble your like-new cabinets.

Cabinet painting

If you decide to do your own cabinet painting, you’ll follow these basic steps:

  1. Remove cabinet hardware and doors.
  2. Clean the cabinet surfaces with a cleaning solution or a mixture of vinegar and warm water. Add a dab of dish soap for really grimy surfaces.
  3. Sand the surfaces to be painted or stained.
  4. Apply a coat of primer to provide a solid base for semi-gloss and water-based paints, or get a two-in-one primer and paint combination.
  5. Apply paint with a roller, flat brush, or angled brush.

Pros of Doing it Yourself

The number one benefit of doing either of these cabinet upgrades yourself is, undoubtedly, the up-front cost savings.

Kitchen with lavender lower cabinets and white upper cabinets showing the advantage of DIY repainting

And for those who love to DIY or want more latitude to express themselves, doing these refinishing tasks could bring great joy.

Cons of Doing it Yourself

The cash you save up front by doing these projects yourself may not be worth it in the end if you have an unsavory result. Sometimes, you may need to replace the entire cabinets shortly after refacing or painting them. And do you really want your kitchen upgrade to look anything less than professional?

Cabinet refacing vs painting can be tricky. Removing and reinstalling cabinet doors and drawers may be easy enough, but adding veneer takes some knowledge and skill that’s par for the course for a professional, but not for your everyday DIYer.

Once you add in the cost of all new hardware, are you really saving that much money by refacing your cabinets yourself?

If you go the DIY route and paint your own cabinets, there are also some challenges to consider.

First and foremost, cabinets can be extremely detailed and may require special tools to paint all the cracks and crevices adequately. If you have cabinets like that, consider hiring a professional to paint them.

Next, as we mentioned, painting can get messy. You might end up with paint even in the most unlikely places that you swear you covered with a drop cloth.

How to Decide Which is Right for You

So, how do you decide which one–cabinet refacing vs painting–is right for your kitchen? If you’ve read this far and you’re still unsure, spend some time considering these factors.


Are you dying for a change but need to keep your costs low? Can you splurge a little on refacing via a professional, or on the tools you’ll need to attempt to do it yourself?

Condition of existing cabinets

We said it above, but if your existing cabinets aren’t in good shape, no amount of refacing or paint will fix the problem. It’s best to save your cash for a full cabinet replacement.


Do you want your fresh cabinets ready in time for an event or an occasion? How many days of having a torn-up kitchen can you endure without losing your sanity? Any DIY project of this type is going to take some time.

Hiring a professional will give you great results in less time, but if you don’t mind the wait, refacing or painting will save you a decent amount of cash.

Maintenance requirements

Cabinet resurfacing calls for relatively easy maintenance, like cleaning grime and stains on a regular basis with hot water and vinegar or a gentle degreaser. Although refaced cabinets can last 15 to 20 years, chipping and peeling can be a problem if the veneer isn’t applied properly. To avoid those hard-to-fix issues, treat your refaced cabinets gently.

Roll of veneer over bare plywood

Painting your cabinets presents some challenges when it comes to maintenance. Paint seems like a magnet for dirt, grease, and grime. You’ll want to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals or tools that can easily strip your newly beloved paint.

Cabinet Can-do

Whether you want to brighten up your kitchen, change the style, or get your house ready to put on the market, refacing or painting your cabinets is a relatively inexpensive way to meet your goals.

In the cabinet refacing vs painting debate, whichever method you choose, you’ll end up with what feels like a brand new space for a fraction of what a total kitchen makeover or cabinet replacement would cost. Find more details about painting your kitchen cabinets on our website!