How to Get White Kitchen Cabinets

New Custom kitchen with white cabinets and solid surface island.
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White cabinets are true full-spectrum kitchen improvements and can help your kitchen achieve a look of cool modernity. They can be extremely low-cost bargain cabinets, when in the form of thermofoil-covered MDF cabinets. Or they can be high-end cabinets, too, in the form of premium veneered cabinet boxes.

Pros and Cons of White Kitchen Cabinets

Pros

  • Neutral: White cabinets help provide a neutral canvas for other elements such as cabinet fixtures. Because white cabinets do not overwhelm the kitchen, they let you dress up the space in other ways—with fun and interesting countertops, for example.
  • Clean: The color white is not more hygienic than any other color. But it does psychologically convey a cleaner feeling.
  • Feeling: White cabinets help you avoid the heavy, ponderous feeling of darker woods.
  • Costs: Thermofoil/MDF white cabinets are relatively inexpensive. Painting kitchen cabinets is even cheaper.
  • Reflective: Adding more light colors in your kitchen means more reflected ambient light.

Cons

  • Trends: If you are concerned about trends, white cabinets are as susceptible to trends as any other color.
  • Cleaning: Though white cabinets do feel cleaner, they often don't look that way. Dirty shows up on white cabinets, necessitating frequent cleaning.
  • Resale: Some types of white kitchen cabinets do have a lower resale value than other types of cabinets.

Thermofoil-Faced White Kitchen Cabinets

Pros
  • Consistent color

  • Inexpensive

Cons
  • Difficult to repair

  • Possibility of delamination

Thermofoil is a very thin melamine coating that is adhered to the fiberboard core material of kitchen cabinets as a type of veneer.

Thermofoil does a good job of sealing particleboard material, since particleboard cannot tolerate any kind of moisture. Even small amounts of moisture will cause particle board to swell up, warp, and fall apart.

Thermofoil also gives you a consistent color coat. Because particleboard is porous, it does not take paint well. Laying a skin of thermofoil on the particleboard is the best way to cover it.

Be forewarned, though, because when thermofoil chips, it is difficult to repair. It cannot be painted, nor can it be patched very well. The best approach is to try to avoid ever chipping or scratching thermofoil.

On the plus side, white kitchen cabinets that are coated in thermofoil are abundantly available and fairly inexpensive.

Some types of white thermofoil cabinets have a dull look that many homeowners may not like, thus driving down the resale value. But if the thermofoil is incorporated in a kitchen that honestly aims for other contemporary aspects, such as sleek appliances, stainless steel hoods, and quality countertops, then it can be stylistically effective.

Refaced White Kitchen Cabinets

Pros
  • Less expensive than new cabinets

  • New doors and drawer fronts

Cons
  • More expensive than painting

  • Cabinet insides are not refaced

Refacing is another popular way to turn existing kitchen cabinets into attractive white kitchen cabinets. A refacing company comes into your home and removes the doors and fixtures, faces them with a thin veneer, and then faces the exposed parts of the cabinet boxes with veneer, too.

Note that the homeowner can choose thermofoil for refacing, though others do choose hardwood veneers. This is the rare chance for homeowners to get the look of hardwood without its skyrocket-high price.

While refacing is not as inexpensive as some advertisements claim, cabinet refacing is still less expensive than purchasing new cabinets.

White Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Pros
  • Least expensive option

  • Retains existing cabinets

Cons
  • Difficult project

  • Best when cabinets are removed

If your kitchen cabinets are a real wood surface (not melamine), they will take paint. The only question is whether you can condition the wood to sufficiently take the paint.

Kitchen cabinets near the stove area are notorious for having layers of kitchen grease that are difficult to wipe down. Sanding or the use of chemical solvents will be needed to prepare the wood.

The good news is that clean areas probably will need little more than a light sanding to roughen up the wood for your initial primer coat.

Painting kitchen cabinets is a major undertaking, far more involved than simply cleaning the boxes, sending them, and painting them. All fixtures must be removed. All contents must be removed and stored safely away.

To produce the best results, wall cabinets should be unscrewed and removed. Base cabinets are even more difficult to remove since they are topped with cabinets.

To professionally paint your kitchen cabinets, expect to spend at least a week or two on the project. You'll also need a clean, dry area, such as a garage.