Refacing the cabinets in your kitchen is a fast way to get a new and improved look. Frames, doors, drawer fronts, trim, and hardware can all be switched out without the hassle of changing the kitchen layout.

Refacing cabinets means adding new doors and sprucing up the framework that holds them. What you get in return is a whole new look for less than half the cost of new cabinets. Existing structures are left standing, no cabinets are ripped out, and the layout remains the same. A typical refacing job involves replacing the cabinet doors, the drawer fronts, and the hardware. Matching wood, paint, or laminate veneer is used to resurface any exposed cabinet framework. New veneers can also be purchased to cover existing doors or surrounding framework to give a just-installed appearance.

Door Fronts
The cabinet door is the most visible feature of a kitchen cabinet. When replacing old doors, one should consider both door style and door composition. Style options on most doors will include raised or recessed panel doors, flat fronts, bead board, glass front or partial lite, and a classic deco-form door. The three most common door style options are raised panel, recessed panel, or slab. A slab is a flat door with no raised or recessed profile. Flat-panel doors and drawers are simple and chic, while a framed glass door offers a stylish window to the contents within.

This is a standard European or concealed hinge used with a face frame adapter plate to give openings up to 170 degrees.

Photo Credit:

When it comes to door composition, wood is an obvious and popular choice. Wood door options include the classic U.S. species of Oak, Maple, Hickory, Birch, Pine, Alder, Cherry, and Poplar. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and metal are also viable door options, but a homeowner will want to take care that the doors, fronts, and cabinet veneers match or complement one another.

A standard refacing job includes replacement of old hinges and hardware. On frameless cabinets, which have no face frame, the hinges will attach to the door and the side or end panels of the cabinet box. Framed cabinets, with a frame around the front edges, feature hinges attached to the door and the frame.

There are two basic types of hinges—traditional and European. Traditional, or exposed, hinges include barrel hinges, which are the self-closing variety. These spring-loaded hinges are fully exposed and rest on the front frame of a framed cabinet. Knife hinges are partially embedded hinges that are either fully or almost fully visible on the face of the cabinet frame. These types of hinges provide a full 180 degrees for door opening.

Measure Before You Order

Kitchen cabinet refacing is a popular do-it-yourself endeavor, and begins by taking measurements of door and drawer openings to determine the material dimensions. For framed cabinets, a general rule of thumb is to have cabinet doors that overlap the openings by a 1/2 inch all the way around. If a single door is going to cover each cabinet, add 1 inch to the height and width of each opening—this will ensure the 1/2 inch overlap. For a double-door closure, add 1 inch to the opening width, divide by two and subtract 1/16 inch. This last calculation will leave 1/8 inch between the two doors for unimpeded door action. For frameless cabinet doors, the best step is to measure the old doors and round down to the nearest 1/8 inch. Width and height of drawer front openings should be taken as well, and all measurements should be taken to the nearest 1/16 or 1/8 inch, depending on the company supplying the replacement materials and their guidelines for measuring. When using measurements to order doors and materials, always list the width first. And, when you install your new doors, always check for level and plumb.

Concealed hinges—also called European hinges—are screwed into recesses in the backs of the door and the side panel or face frame of the cabinet and are not visible when the door is closed. Most concealed hinges are self-closing, easily adjusted, and limit the door opening to 110 degrees. It is important to keep in mind that the type of cabinet usually determines the type of hinge. A framed cabinet with partially overlaying doors and exposed frames will usually have knuckle, knife, or concealed hinges. Full overlay doors on frameless cabinets will always have concealed hinges.

Finish Options and Costs
The three basic finish options when refacing are—plastic laminate, rigid thermofoils (RTF), and wood. RTF, the least expensive of the three, is a popular option because it’s durable, has a wood-like appearance, is budget-friendly cost, and is easy-to-clean. RTF is applied to medium-density fiberboard (MDF) using heat and a special adhesive that is applied under intense pressure in a vacuum. The resulting RTF veneer, as it is called, is exceedingly durable and can be made to look just like a bright painted surface or natural wood. RTF’s inherent malleability makes it versatile and allows it to be shaped and molded to a host of panel and door styles.

Plastic laminates, are slightly more expensive than RTF veneers, and not as durable. Plastic laminates come in more color options than RTF but, because laminates cannot be shaped and molded, they are limited to plainer cabinet door styles. RTF, on the other hand, can be used for raised panel, cathedral, and arched door styles, among others.

Wood finishes have advanced to the point that homeowners no longer need to regularly wax the surfaces of the finished cabinetry. Durable heat-catalyzed polyurethane finishes do not require refinishing. Care might include regular dusting and, at most, a once-a-year furniture-grade polishing. Superior finishes can feature a number of qualities, including sealers to protect the wood and ultra violet inhibitors to resist the fading effects of light exposure.

Refacing can include appliances as well as cabinets. Matching or complemetary faces can be purchased for some refrigerators, stove hoods, and dishwashers.

The cost of a refacing job will depend on the size of the project, the materials, and options, but a typical refacing job generally costs between $1000-$5000. This is compared to a typical kitchen remodeling project, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. To determine the projected cost of a refacing project, some companies will give a price per unit. Count each cabinet door, drawer, end panel, and false front as a unit, and add up the kitchen’s units for a total unit count. Price per unit can range from as low as $150 to as high as $250, depending on options and material selection. Using a high-end wood door will up the costs, while a less expensive RTF veneer might be a more budget-friendly option.

Choosing Wood
A refacing project done in wood can cost up to 25 percent more than laminate and represents a significant upgrade. Woods can be ordered natural, stained, painted, or paint ready. Customers will also need to decide on the desired finish for their cabinets.

Kitchen cabinet refacing is a suitable job for the individual with basic carpentry skills. Remember to repair any damage by filling, sanding, and sealing any holes or voids before installing the new faces. Take the time to measure, and always check doors and cabinets for level and plumb. A standard refacing job may take up to a week for the do-it-yourselfer, or as little as two days for professionals. The new look will last for years.

Credit: Renovate Your World