Refacing, Refinishing or Resurfacing Cabinets?

Cabinet Refacing, Cabinet Refinishing, and Cabinet Resurface – The Difference Is Not Just in the Name

If you’ve been viewing your cabinets and thinking that they look drab and outdated, or perhaps you just realize that they’re not as functional as they used to be; chances are, you could be planning to make some changes – maybe even replace the entire cabinetry. Before you even think of ripping out your cabinets and spending a considerable amount on a long and messy replacement process, you might want to consider more economical and quicker alternatives. Depending on the construction and configuration of your cabinets, you can reface, refinish or resurface them to get brand new-looking cabinetry even if you’re on a budget. These processes may sound similar, but they are actually different methods. Below is a rundown of the difference between refacing, refinishing, and resurfacing to help you decide which option will work best for your cabinets.

The Process/Method – How Each Is Done

Refacing is a process that lets you keep existing cabinet boxes and just replace all cabinet doors and drawer fronts along with the frames, face, and side panels with new ones. Not only does it cover all blemishes, but also enables you to repair everything that doesn’t function right anymore. With this process you can install new crown moldings or decorated hardware, get new drawer boxes and roll-outs/glides, and change cabinet style and color using rigid thermofoil, plastic laminate or wood veneer replacement to give your cabinets a fresher and more updated appearance.

Resurfacing is interchangeably used with the term refacing, especially among professional remodelers and cabinet makers. As the word implies, the front and visible surfaces of the cabinets get resurfaced using the same process as that of refacing. In essence, both techniques involve stripping cabinet doors, drawer fronts and fixed side panels off of your existing cabinets and replacing them with new materials – all without necessarily tearing off the cabinet boxes from the walls.

Refinishing, on the other hand, allows you to keep all components of the original cabinetry and simply give faded or outdated color motif a facelift with a new finish (e.g., a new coat of paint or different stain). Depending on the type of refinishing you want done, this can be done using several methods, starting with the removal of the existing finish through meticulous hand sanding or stripping through a chemical process. After prepping, application of new stain follows – either in the same shade as the original or something deeper to provide a bolder look. You may also opt for a fresh coat of acrylic paint, specifically engineered to adhere to cabinet surfaces.

Cost Comparison – How the Prices Compare

If budget is a concern, refinishing can be the cheaper option because you would be keeping all of your existing cabinets. Quote estimates often show that cabinet refinishing costs approximately 40% less than if you reface or resurface them. On average, refinishing can cost between $2,500 and $3,500; while refacing/resurfacing cost is almost double that figure and may vary depending on the chosen type of materials and door style.

Refacing, Resurfacing, or Refinishing – Consider the Differences When Making the Choice

While these processes have the same end-objective of revitalizing your cabinetry, you should keep in mind the crucial differences that can make a significant impact on the appearance and functionality of your cabinets.


  • Refacing or Resurfacing can only be effective if your base cabinets are structurally sound and in reasonably good shape. It is thus imperative to first inspect your cabinetry to ensure that the cabinets are not warped or broken and without any swelling or splitting caused by water damage.
  • Refinishing only works on (existing) wood cabinets. If your cabinets are made of thermofoil or deco-lam/plastic laminate, refinishing is out of the question because such materials can neither be sanded nor stripped and it is almost impossible for paint to stick to their surface. Likewise, it cannot be an option if the cabinets were previously painted as DEP regulations in handling stripped paint may make this process become too expensive.
  • ResurfacingandRefacingproducts such as thermofoil, laminate, and wood veneer are essentially designed to withstand moisture (humidity) and heat; thus, lasts longer. If any problems arise, it’s not even necessary to repair or replace all the surfaces of the entire cabinet.
  • Although a well-donerefinishingjob can certainly provide a whole new look and feel to your cabinets, staining and painting may just be temporary solutions. Heat and humidity can deteriorate refinished cabinets in as short as a couple of years, causing discoloration and fading, cracks, and bubbles. This can result to another round of expenditure, mess, and inconvenience. Moreover, sanding or chemically stripping can wear down your cabinet fronts and make them look even more “worn out” over time.
  • Color options with refinishing is rather limited to lighter shades as paints/stains are commonly hand-tinted by the technician; deep or bright color-bases cannot be easily mixed. This process is therefore more ideal when white, off-white, or creamy toned cabinets are the desired result.
  • With refacing, design and color options are limitless with a huge array of textures, patterns, and colors – laminex, ultra high-gloss decorative board for modern designs, and wooden panels/doors for those who prefer the more traditional touch.
  • Along with cost, the other most significant difference between these processes is the time involved in completing the job. Refacing/resurfacing typically takes 3 to 5 days to complete. On the other hand refinishing is a labor-intensive process and takes longer than five days to get completely done.



The choice between refacing, resurfacing and refinishing is mainly personal and all depends on what you like, the extent of change you plan on doing, and how much you want to spend. Whatever process you opt for, bear in mind that it is not a job for the novice because these processes require expertise to attain the purpose of a long-lasting “god-as-new” appearance. It is therefore to your best interest to consult the cabinet refacing or refinishing professionals that can expertly handle these meticulous processes.