Refacing vs. Replacing Kitchen Cabinets: What to Know

White cabinets in open kitchen with stainless steel appliances

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

When your kitchen cabinets are scratched and beat up, what are your alternatives?

Not long ago, the only alternative to cabinet replacement was to paint the cabinets—an adequate substitute but difficult when you are confronted with largely unpaintable thermofoil cabinets. Now, cabinet refacing and cabinet replacement are both equally viable options when your cabinets are looking the worse for wear.

Cabinet refacing has been around for a long time—essentially it is wood-veneering taken to the next level—but cabinet refacing as a cottage industry is new. Since cabinet refacing is a close substitute for replacement, the differences tend to blur. The main difference is that refaced cabinets have a look that is new, but the cabinet boxes, and therefore the entire cabinet layout, are not new.

What Cabinet Refacing Is

  • Less expensive than replacement

  • Cabinets aren't sent to the landfill; more environmentally friendly

  • Less mess and disruption

  • Cabinet boxes must be in good shape

  • All boxes remain the same size and in the same locations

  • Insides aren't refaced

Cabinet refacing consists of two major components: one, installation of new drawer fronts and cabinet doors; two, veneering of the cabinet boxes. In addition, new cabinet hardware is usually installed.

The insides of the cabinets usually remain the same.

What Cabinet Replacement Is

  • Lets you add more space, if needed

  • Better resale value

  • Allows you to completely re-think your kitchen

  • More expensive than refacing

  • Huge disruption

  • Trashes potentially functional cabinets

With cabinet replacement, all of the existing cabinets are removed.

Experienced installers set and precisely level your base cabinets, a critical task to ensure that counters remain level enough so that the eggs don't roll.

Improperly leveled bases might result in counters cracking years down the road. Wall cabinets are hung. Doors and hardware are installed.

  Reface Cabinets Replace Cabinets
What It Is Cabinet boxes are veneered, new doors installed, and drawer fronts replaced. Existing cabinets are completely removed and new cabinets are installed.
Can You Do It Yourself? Difficult for a do-it-yourselfer because veneering has a learning curve. Easier than refacing but still difficult to get right.
Professional Work Only a moderate number of companies reface cabinets. You will find a far greater number of individuals and companies that install new cabinets than reface them.
Cost Refacing is about 30 to 50-percent less than replacement. Expect to pay about $13,000 to $30,000 for contractor-grade cabinets.
When It's Recommended Best when the cabinet boxes are in solid shape and cost is an issue. Best when doing a whole-kitchen remodel or when cabinet boxes are in poor shape.

Do-It-Yourself Installation

Cabinet Refacing

While there are companies that sell refacing materials and equipment to the general public, cabinet refacing requires techniques and tools that most DIYers do not have. So, cabinet refacing is usually done by experienced professionals.

Cabinet Replacement

Cabinet replacement is partially about the heavy lifting of wall cabinets, but mostly about precise leveling of base cabinets. Professionals will always do a better job than you, but you can save money by doing it yourself.

Professional Installation

Cabinet Refacing

Fewer companies reface cabinets than replace cabinets, though the balance is slowly shifting as more homeowners discover refacing. Some franchises provide refacing services throughout the United States. Cabinet refacing is a niche industry, so don't expect a general carpenter or handyman service to be able to provide this service.


One way to save money with cabinet refacing is to provide your own cabinet hardware rather than buying from the refacing company.

Cabinet Replacement

From home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's to local kitchen remodel centers to individual contractors who will install for a price, there is no shortage of companies that replace cabinets.


In some cases, cabinet refacing can be just as expensive as cabinet replacement. If that's the case and you're trying to save on costs, painting cabinets is another alternative.

Cabinet Refacing

Cabinet refacing costs range from $7,000 to $10,000 at a minimum to reface kitchen cabinets in a 10-foot by 10-foot kitchen.

Cabinet refacing costs about 30-percent to 50-percent less than the cost of replacing cabinets in a full kitchen.

Cabinet Replacement

Costs for kitchen cabinet replacement range from $13,000 to $30,000 for contractor-grade, budget cabinets.

When Cabinet Refacing Is Best

  • When the cabinet boxes are in solid shape
  • When cost is an issue
  • When remodeling, as opposed to building a new house
  • When you like your current kitchen layout

When Cabinet Replacement Is Best

  • When constructing a new house, bumping out your kitchen, or building a new addition containing a kitchen
  • When changing the current kitchen layout
  • When cabinet boxes, drawers, or doors are in bad shape
  • When doing a whole-kitchen remodel

How Environmentally Friendly Are They?

Cabinet Refacing

The only items that get landfilled are cabinet doors and drawer fronts, making cabinet refacing an eco-friendly option.

Cabinet Replacement

Often, every bit of the cabinets—from boxes to hardware—gets landfilled. It's possible, though, to donate good cabinets to recycling yards such as Habitat for Humanity's ReStores.


If you're at all handy, seriously consider RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets. They come flat-packed, and you assemble and install them yourself.

  • What is kitchen cabinet refacing?

    To reface kitchen cabinets, the cabinets themselves must be in good shape as only the outer layer or skin of the cabinet is removed and replaced with a new one.

  • What is kitchen cabinet replacement?

    Just like it says, this is replacing the kitchen cabinets entirely. The old cabinets are taken off the wall and replaced with new ones. If you're changing the layout and design of your kitchen or your original cabinets are in bad shape, replacing them is the way to go.

  • Is it less expensive to reface kitchen cabinets or replace them?

    In most cases, refacing kitchen cabinets will save 30 to 50 percent in comparison to the cost of replacing kitchen cabinets.