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Freshen Your Space Replacing or Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

Freshen Your Space Replacing or Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

By Jacquelyn Nause


Kitchen remodels are a big undertaking, but you can save money by opting to refinish your cabinets instead of replacing them. Let’s take a look at each option to help you decide which choice is best for your project.

You Have Options

Typically, there are three ways to update the look of your cabinets. You can refinish the existing cabinet drawers and front with paint or stain. You can install new wood or laminate veneer, otherwise known as refacing. Or you can install completely new cabinet and door fronts. In all three cases, new hardware, such as handles and hinges, complete the look.

How to Decide

Functionality is key, so let’s take a look at a few key indicators that your cabinets need to be completely replaced. Improper levels, damaged cabinet faces or boxes, and environmental concerns such as mold, rot or fire damage each mean that you need to demo and start fresh. If you are not starting with high-quality cabinetry, it makes sense to replace the entire piece. Cabinets built before 1980 are generally of higher quality than newer ones but may have endured more wear and tear.


If you are able to keep the cabinet boxes, your workload just got a lot easier. You can purchase all new fronts, which will be substantially easier than refinishing, but also more pricey. If you plan to repaint or refinish, most jobs take two to four days, depending on the size of your kitchen and the method you’re using to refinish the cabinet fronts. A long weekend project is significantly less time and intrusion than a full remodel, making refinishing even more attractive than replacement.


New Life for Old Cabinets

Almost every type of kitchen cabinet can be repainted. It’s always less expensive to paint than to do an all-out replacement, so this is the most attractive option to most people.

Start by removing the doors and drawer fronts. Clean the cabinets to remove surface contaminants. Allow them to dry, then rough up the old finish with 80-grit sandpaper. Apply filler, such as a spackling compound, to even out holes and imperfections. Allow it to dry.


Sand cabinets smooth again with 120-grit sandpaper. Re-spackle and re-sand if necessary, or move on to priming the wood with a shellac primer. Once dry, lightly sand and vacuum the dust before applying your first coat of semi-gloss paint. Using long, light strokes, brush on the paint, allowing it to dry between coats. Lightly sand and dust between coats for a smooth finish. Then seal.

Once finished, it’s time to re-hang the doors and faces and install the new handles and pulls. Enjoy the look and feel of your “new” cabinets!


Ultimately, the decision to replace or refinish your cabinets depends on the quality of the existing cabinetry, the amount of effort you want to put into it and the budget you are working with. Preparation and planning are key to successfully updating the look of your cabinets and ending up with a finished product that will last.


Jacquelyn Nause is a contributing writer with specialties in real estate, parenting and wellness. She enjoys traveling with her husband, being a doting mother to her two incredible kids and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest playground.


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