Cabinetry is a huge part of a kitchen’s aesthetic and functionality. Not surprisingly, new cabinets are the largest expense when renovating. Refacing cabinets can be an economical choice for a cosmetic update, but in some cases the best option is still replacing cabinets.
Here are four ways to tell if your cabinets should be replaced instead of refaced.
1. Age of the Cabinets
Older cabinets (those built prior to 1980) were often built of better materials than cabinets built more recently and may still have the benefit of craftsmanship that can hold up for refacing. However, cabinets that are two to three decades old and do not have those well-built structures may be truly worn or damaged from time or wear-and-tear and should be replaced.
2. Quality of the Cabinets
Ultra-cheap, low-grade cabinets made of particle board or other inferior materials are not candidates for refacing because in order for the process to be successful, the cabinet boxes must be in solid shape. If the structure of the cabinets is significantly damaged due to, for example, pests (including pets) or mold, refacing is not an option.
3. Layout of the Cabinets
Cabinet boxes can only be refaced if they are kept in place. Changing the layout of the kitchen — which can include moving or removing walls, or adding an island or peninsula — changes the shape and dimensions of the space. Large structural changes to the room will require new cabinetry specifically designed for the new configuration.
4. Water Damage or Excessive Wear and Tear
Water damage from plumbing can cause wood to swell and lose its integrity. Faulty construction or excessive wear-and-tear can cause the wood to fall apart. Thoroughly examine the interior of the cabinets to look for this type of damage. If it exists, refacing will not be possible.
When choosing between replacing and refacing cabinets, consider the return on investment as well as the initial cost. New cabinets have many features that appeal to buyers, as well as make the kitchen more usable for the current homeowners. Today’s cabinetry incorporates many ergonomic improvements, such as drawers rather than shelves in base cabinets for greater convenience and ease of use. Cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling are dramatic, make smart use of limited space and provide out-of-the way storage for infrequently used items such as serving pieces.