Before Refacing
Before Refacing
After Refacing- Kitchen is Espresso stained Maple doors in Shaker.
After Refacing- Kitchen is Espresso stained Maple doors in Shaker.

Kitchen Cabinet Refacing vs Cabinet Refinishing

Kitchen Cabinet refacing and refinishing are viable means of updating your kitchen while staying on budget or doing it as quickly and hassle free as possible. NY Kitchen Refaces does not refinish cabinets, but we understand it is an option to be considered. Below we will define the two methods and hopefully help you decide which one to choose.

In both cases you need to begin with a structurally sound cabinet box: Refacing and Refinishing require a structurally sound box. Some repairs can be done, for example, a common cabinet to replace is the cabinet housing the sink, which is prone to water damage. It can be inserted into the kitchen remodel and Refaced to blend in perfectly. Laminated cabinet boxes in structurally sound condition can be Refaced with new veneer but not refinished.

The Process of Refacing includes the removal of existing doors, molding and side panels replaced with brand new doors and molding. The frames of the cabinet boxes are called horizontal rails and vertical stiles. They are veneered  with matching veneer or  painted, depending on surface and  preference. The side of cabinets are either covered with the matching veneer or  a panel with the same design of the new doors or a complementary look.

Kitchen Refacing  is suitable for more kitchens and can completely change the look and feel of the room. You can choose from hundreds of styles and looks and type of doors from Cherry, Maple, Painted or Ridgid thermofoil doors. Refinishing is suitable for wood doors only. All exposed surfaces of wood cabinet box is sanded for either Refacing or Refinishing.

All exposed surfaces of wood cabinet box is sanded and prepped for veneer.
All exposed surfaces of wood cabinet box is sanded and prepped for veneer.
Veener in matching color  covers exposed areas of cabinet box.
Veener in matching color covers exposed areas of cabinet box.


Refinishing can provides a variety of color choices depending on your contractor .The best finished stain and paint to doors is usually done in a spray booth but on location is possible as well. of course you have more fumes and mess if you do. The face frames and sides either need to be refaced or painted on site. The U.S. Green Building Council reports off-gassing of oil-based finishes can last for months or even years. Some lower-VOC, water-based products largely finish off-gassing within a few days.

The Refinishing Process includes painting or staining. Painting is a temporary solution when your budget doesn’t allow any other solution yet.  It is prone to human error , as painting by hand or spray machine, depends on the contractors expertise and prep of the original surface.  Refinishing may be more affordable, but it is temporary because grease, dirt and glossy surfaces tend to shed paint, making it hard to get a good initial finish and poor future results if the paint bubbles or peels.

Staining, like painting, is also a temporary solution.  Over time the cabinets will change color due to the sun and heat and grease from cooking.  Staining requires a lot of messy prep work from sanding and stripping with toxic chemicals. If you have painted cabinets with lead paint specific health and safety precautions are required by law. This will increase the price and a professional is required for your best interest.

Cost of Labor vs. Materials vs Time: The process of Refinishing a kitchen is labor intensive but if you simply want a different color or finish it is a good choice versus a full kitchen remodel. Refacing can be comparable to the cost of refinishing, and 1/3  to 1/2 less than a full remodel. For Refinishing the cost of “dipping” doors in chemical to strip paint or use of the spray both is an added cost to the contractor. Additional hand sanding at your home is another labor cost, not to mention cost and time for clean up.

Basics Steps in the Process of Refinishing: Remove hardware and doors are usually removed and taken to contractors workshop for sanding and finishing. This will avoid accumulating dust and toxic fumes in your home. When the finished doors are reinstalled , they will release fumes VOCs . It depends on the type of chemicals used, oil based or water based.  It is recommended that you select Water based finish which is safer for your family and the environment. many contractors prefer using oil based finishes and paints because they are very durable and may be easier to apply.

A heavy coat of paint stripper in applied by hand to cabinet boxes. This means fumes and time is needed for this process. The doors, panels and moldings are sanded either at your home or back at the contractor’s workshop. This will determine costs and health concerns. You can’t change the style of kitchen doors, only the stain or paint color.

Depending on the sanding method  the longer the sanding process takes the more labor is involved. Usually hand sanding is done with various levels coarseness of sand paper. “Dipping” doors or wood items in stripping chemicals may be done. Inquire with the contractor what type of chemical are used. Dipping can remove the glue of some doors. Oil based vs. water based matters when it comes to fumes.

Avoid Off Gases by Ventilating Your Home: It is advised by health experts to keep windows and doors open as much as possible for ventilation; use fans to blow fumes outside; turn up the heat to decrease drying time and speed up off-gasing, and consider using air purifiers to help clean the air. Refacing has minimal health concerns and less VOCs are released. If you are concerned about off gases and dust, than Refacing is the best choice for you and your family.

Before Refacing
Before Refacing, kitchen had  outdated flat panels.
After Refacing Cabinets
Refaced with White Shaker Doors in Maple

The basic difference between Refacing and Refinishing your kitchen is the style and color options. Refacing allows you to completely change the look of your kitchen with a different style door style,type of material, color and finish. Refinishing only allows for change of color and finish.

Refacing can be done in wood or laminate (popular brand formica).  Hardwood doors choices include a variety of wood types, such as Maple, Cherry, Oak and more. More Eco-friendly options are available like Bamboo. NY Kitchen Reface also offers  Eco-friendly wood doors that are Forest Sustainable Certified and California Board Certified for Low VOC,  the release of volatile  off gas chemicals.

Kitchen is refaced  with an updated look.
Before and After: Kitchen is refaced with an updated look.
Antique White Maple Doors with Applied rope molding is one of many door options.
Antique White Maple Doors with Applied rope molding is one of many door options.

Comments are closed.