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  • Leah C.

Exploring the Differences Between Cabinet Painting & Cabinet Refacing

Do you have a hard time determining what is the best option for your kitchen or bathroom transformation? Today it feels like there are so many different ideas out there for what we can do. Most of the time these ideas can come with a big price tag although it may not always need to. If you are considering updating the cabinetry I recommend you take a look at cabinet painting and cabinet refacing as they are two great alternatives to replacing your cabinets. These two options are significant time and money savers.

You may be asking what’s the difference between the two in terms of process, outcome and pricing. I am here to help you. 

Cabinet painting has been trending up for the last 7 years. It is a great way to update any space with a budget friendly price tag. The fun part about cabinet painting is your color options are endless. You could stay with the classic white cabinets that are transitional over time or you could opt for something trendier like green cabinets. 

When cabinet painting is done right it can last for years. The proper process is pretty labor intensive and if you are wanting a near factory finish it is best to use top of the line cabinet paints and sprayers. *For more information on the best cabinet paints checkout our blog "Top Tips for Choosing the Perfect Cabinet Paint for Your Kitchen Makeover".

The traditional cabinet painting process utilities the existing doors/drawers as well as cabinet frames. As a rule of thumb, the cabinet painting should always involve the following steps:

1 Remove all of the door and drawer fronts along with any cabinet hardware (handles/knobs/hinges). 

2 Cleaning. The cabinets need a good old fashion scrubbing to remove any contaminants. Whether this is dust, dirt, grease, oils etc. all need to be eliminated. 

3 Sanding. After everything is cleaned the cabinets then need to be sanded so they have a scuffed-up surface. This step is important so there is proper adhesion of the primer. 

4 Priming. Depending on the type of cabinet you have will determine the primer that is used. If you have laminate cabinets a bonding primer is needed. If you have wood cabinets, it is best to go with a bonding primer that has a stain blocker.

The stain blocking component is important for wood cabinets as you can run into bleed thru. Bleed through can be from old stain finishes or tannins in the wood. 

*The stain blocking component is important for wood cabinets, so you don't run into bleed thru like the photo to the right. Bleed through can be from old stain finishes or tannins in the wood. 

5 Buff sanding. Buff sanding gives the cabinets a final sanding before the finish is sprayed. This will remove any little bit of roughness that could be on them. 

6 Painting. For a smooth finish that you would see on brand new cabinets it is best to spray them. This way you eliminate any possibly of seeing brush/roll marks. You don’t want anyone to know that your cabinets were painted right? 

7 Installation. The final step is reinstallation of the door/drawer fronts and cabinet hardware. 

Most cabinet painting projects that are completed by a professional cabinet painter should take between 5-7 business days, depending on the project size of course. Depending on the contractors set up they may bring the doors/drawers back to their shop or they may do them right in the home. *Always ask if they plan to bring them back to the shop or do them in the home as this could potentially mean you have to plan a little more. 

Pricing for cabinet painting can vary significantly depending on where you live, who is doing the project (handyman vs. cabinet painter), project size and scope, what materials they use (factory grade paints vs. interior wall paint), method of paint application (brushing/rolling vs. spraying), & prep work (cleaning/sanding/priming vs. priming). I have seen pricing for kitchens go between $2,000.00-$10,000.00.

Now, if you are someone who loves a stain finish cabinet refacing is another great alternative to replacement. Traditional cabinet refacing involves replacing the door/drawer fronts then applying a wood veneer to the cabinet frames. This means you could go from the good old 90s golden oak cabinet to any wood species and stain finish you can imagine. 

The process of cabinet refacing is quite similar to cabinet painting. Step 4 is where the change is process starts. Here is what you should expect with the refacing process:

1 Remove the door/drawer fronts and cabinet hardware.

2 Cleaning.

3 Sanding.

4 Apply adhesive. Instead of priming the cabinets a contact cement is applied. This is so the veneer will adhere to the cabinet frames.

5 Veneer the frames. After the contact cement is applied strips of wood are cut to size and applied to the cabinet frames.

6 Trimming. Once the veneer is applied it is time to trim off any excess veneer.

7 Moldings. To finish off the frame's applied moldings are typically added. These include light rails for under cabinet lighting, crown molding, etc.

8 Installation. The last step, just like cabinet painting, is installing the new door/drawer fronts along with knobs/handles. 

Depending on the project size and scope really determines how long a project like this will take. If you are keeping it simple and just changing the door/drawer fronts not installing any applied moldings or panels, most projects are completed within 4-6 business days. 

Pricing for refacing is typically 3-4x the cost of painting. The door/drawer style, applied moldings, wood species, finish, and project size will all play a role in the cost.

The plus side to cabinet refacing is that it is not as disruptive as cabinet painting, and it allows for a stain finish if you are not into a solid tone. 

Another fun idea when renovating your space is to consider the combination of cabinet painting and cabinet refacing. If you are really wanting to update the style of your cabinets, you can replace the door and drawer fronts then paint everything. Or you could reface the lower cabinets and/or island then paint the other areas. The combination of the paint and wood finishes really gives it an upscale look.

I hope this helps answer any questions you had about cabinet painting vs. cabinet refacing. No go out there and have fun designing your new space!

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