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Wondering about the cost and work involved in refacing kitchen cabinets? We break it down so you can decide whether or not to DIY.

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Every 10 to 20 years or so, kitchens tend to look a bit outdated and it's time for a facelift. But, what if your cabinets are solid wood, high quality, and expensive? The answer isn't always replacing your kitchen cabinets -- sometimes it's refacing your kitchen cabinets!

New kitchen cabinets can cost anywhere from $4,000 to over $20,000, so if your cabinets are high quality and in good condition, you can save a lot by simply refurbishing them. Sometimes, you can get away with merely sanding and painting the cabinets for an instant makeover. But if you prefer that rich, warm wood look, you have two options:

-If you don't like the look of that country recessed panel design, try refacing kitchen cabinets with new doors of your choice, hardware, and matching veneers.
-If your cabinets are fairly flat-fronted and in good condition, try refacing kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and surrounds with veneer and simply replace the hardware.

Whichever option you choose, you don't have to rip the entire cabinet out of the walls; you leave the existing cabinet carcasses in place and essentially give the cabinets a facelift.

If you've already decided on the refacing route, now is the time to decide whether you're ready to DIY it or invest in a professional. Let's explore the options

Simply put, refacing your cabinets involves replacing the doors and hardware, and adding new wood or plastic veneer to all of the exposed wood parts, including the face frames (which surround the cabinet door openings) cabinet faces, shelf faces, and drawer fronts. Not all cabinets have visible face frames; the cabinets cover the entire surround (see a comparison of face frame vs. frameless cabinets here). However, you can add face frames to frameless cabinets; it'll just cost a bit more.

You can hire a contractor to come and take care of business for you. The contractor will replace the cabinet doors and drawers, reface other exposed areas with new veneer, and add the hardware of your choice. These are the same steps that you would also perform if you're going to do it yourself. A refacing job by a professional will start somewhere around $1,000 for rigid thermofoil (RTF) or plastic laminate and quarter-inch thick real wood veneer will begin at around $2,500 but can be as high as $9,000 for high-quality wood for a large job. It depends on the materials and the size of your kitchen. The job can take one day or up to a week for larger kitchens.

This job requires patience, lots of measuring and precision, as well as time. There are not a lot of steps to complete, but there are typically a lot of parts and pieces. Removing all the hardware and doors is probably the hardest part of this project. If you're a first-timer, you should allot at least 3-5 days to complete an average-sized kitchen refacing.

In this case, let's assume you are using a peel-and-stick laminate for the exposed surfaces, and perhaps the doors too. This is the easiest material to use for do-it-yourselfers. Material cost aside, you will be surprised at how much more money you can save in labor fees by doing this project yourself. Take a look:

Tools and Materials:

Wood Filler: Fill in all scratches, dents and dings in the cabinet doors and drawers with wood filler to make an even surface for the veneer. $11.

Sand Paper:
Sand the wood filler down so that the cabinet surface feels completely smooth. $4 to $11.

Utility Knife:
This is the most important tool in the project -- be sure to get extra blades or another knife just in case. Use it to cut the veneer and then to score it to size. $6.

Measuring Tape:
How else will you know what size to cut the veneer? $9.

A long straightedge is a very helpful tool when trying to make precise cuts with the utility knife. $3.

Work Gloves: Don't forget to put these on when sanding! it can get messy. $10.

Roller: If you can't find a roller, try using a wood block. $15.

Rags: Use these to thoroughly clean the surface of the cabinets, drawers and faces. Remove all the built-up dirt and grease before attaching the veneer or it will not stick. $3.

Drill: Use this to reattach all of the cabinets using the old hardware or new hardware that you purchased. You can also use this to add new cabinet and drawer pulls. $40.

That's little more than $100 in supplies (minus the materials).

So...are you ready to do it yourself -- and save a bundle?

Now that you know how to reface your cabinets -- and save money in the process -- take a look at this video for pull and knob options:


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