Deciding between refinishing or replacing kitchen cabinets is a big decision. (1)
In its annual “Cost vs. Value” report for 2019, Remodeling Magazine puts the national average for a mid-range major kitchen remodel at $66,196 and an upscale major kitchen remodel at $131,510. The addition of luxury stone or marble counter tops, high-end faucets and flooring, a commercial-grade range and luxury faucets can all significantly increase the cost of a renovation. (2)
That said, savvy homeowners are wise to consider areas where they can save a little here, to spend a little more over there. I have found this to be most apparent when it comes to kitchen updates, especially kitchen cabinetry.
Many of my clients want to update their kitchen cabinetry but replacing cabinetry has not always been in the budget. So, how can we give our clients a whole new look without breaking the budget? We recommend refinishing (painting or re-staining) their existing cabinetry.
If our clients love their existing layout and their cabinet boxes are in good shape, refinishing cabinetry, rather than replacing it, is a fantastic option. In fact, it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to spruce up a tired kitchen.
So, should you paint your cabinets or just replace them with new ones? (3)
Let’s weigh the pros and cons carefully.
► You Save A Ton Of Money (3)
Let’s start out with the most obvious benefit of painting or re-staining over replacing – the costs. Painting costs a lot less than buying new cabinets and having them installed.
If you need to make an economical choice, painting or re-staining is the way to go. Even if you are not forced into making the most economical decision, painting is still an attractive option because it gives you more money to spend elsewhere.
New cabinets plus installation can cost more than half of your kitchen renovation budget. Cutting the costs there will allow you to do more things in your remodeling project, such as upgrade your flooring or counter tops or get those high-end appliances you really want.
► It’s A Quick Fix With A Big Impact
The simple act of repainting or re-staining cabinets gives your kitchen a major visual boost with one, fell swoop. (4)
If you don’t want to change the set-up of your cabinets, refinishing them can give a dated color or stain a fresh new look without costing you a fortune or putting you and your family through a full-scale reno. Updating hardware can also help make old cabinetry look new again. (1)
You may look at your old cabinets and think it would take a miracle to make them better. Paint or new stain just may be that miracle you are looking for! When done correctly, painted or re-stained cabinets will look just like new. (3)
► You Have More Color Options
You’ll have some flexibility about changing the look of your cabinets with a whole plethora of paint colors to choose from, certainly much more than cabinet manufacturers offer.
► Not All Cabinets Can Be Repainted/Refinished
Before you even think about repainting or re-staining your cabinetry, make sure they can be re-painted or re-stained in the first-place. If your cabinets aren’t wood, refinishing may not be an option. (1)
The decision to paint or replace your cabinets depends on the current shape that they are in too. If your cabinets are warped, chipped, or have other damage then painting them won’t solve your problem. Many people fail to recognize this and paint or re-stain their cabinets anyway. They are almost always disappointed with the results. (3)
► It’s a Purely Cosmetic Fix
If your biggest complaint with your kitchen is that the cabinets all seem to be in the wrong spots (or there aren’t enough of them), and not that they’re out-of-date or your least favorite color, the only solution is to replace them with a more thoughtful layout. (1)
Your choice of hinges and hardware may be limited by the pre-drilled holes too.
► It’s a Long, Detailed Process (3)
If your cabinets are in good enough shape to paint or re-stain, the hugest con you will run into is the painting process itself. This involves (3):
- Taking drawers out and doors off of the hinges
- Labeling everything so you know where it goes
- Thoroughly cleaning to remove dirt and stains
- Sanding to get rid of the old stain or paint surface
- Priming (for paint)
- Painting/Staining (possibly multiple coats)
- Putting drawers and doors back (new hinges and pulls recommended)
However, this can be compared to several weeks (dare I say months) of a kitchen renovation when cabinetry is being replaced and everything is being remodeled. You’ll need to remove everything from the cabinets and drawers anyway.
NOTE: We always recommend hiring a professional painter to complete the work. The result will be a cleaner, more precise and professional job and all sanding and prep work will be done right to ensure that the new paint or stain adheres correctly and lasts as long as possible.
So, when it’s time to update your kitchen, whether for functional or aesthetic purposes, you have to decide: Will you refinish or replace your kitchen cabinets?