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Resurface or Refinish: Which Is Best for Your Cabinets?

Kitchen Cabinets
One way to add pizzazz to your kitchen is to resurface or refinish drab cabinets. People often use the terms resurfacing and refinishing interchangeably - while both processes can radically transform your cabinets, the precise details of each process are distinct.
Read on to learn more about resurfacing and refinishing, and find the ideal solution to spruce up your kitchen cabinets.


Also known as refacing, resurfacing entails transforming the style of your cabinets without replacing the cabinet structure itself.
Most resurfacing projects involve removing the cabinet doors, side panels, and drawer faces and replacing these with new ones. You may also opt to install new hardware such as hinges, knobs, and handles.
When resurfacing cabinets, you can either apply laminate, rigid thermofoils (RFTs), or wood veneers.
Laminate is a great way to add a contemporary touch to your kitchen cabinets. Plastic laminate is inexpensive, long-lasting, and comes in numerous designs, colors, and patterns. Consider applying laminate to cabinets with a symmetrical box design.
RTFs are more flexible than plastic laminates and are best for refacing cabinets with curves and intricate angles. Opt for rigid thermofoils if you are looking to reface your cabinets with a more realistic looking finish.
Lastly, if you are looking to keep your wood-based cabinets but you want to install a new type of wood, consider applying real wood veneers. Wood veneers come in a wide array of wood types - such as oak, maple, and cherry - and numerous stain colors. While they will give your cabinet an even more realistic finish, wood veneers are the most costly resurfacing option.
When to Resurface
Consider resurfacing if your existing cabinetry is still in good shape. If your cabinet boxes are broken or damaged, however, installing entirely new cabinets may be ideal.
Pros and Cons of Resurfacing
Resurfacing your kitchen cabinets can be cheaper than tearing down and replacing your existing cabinets.
Resurfacing is also time effective, allowing you to get a brand new kitchen in a short time. Additionally, during a resurfacing project, you can continue to use your kitchen.
On the downside, resurfacing is not ideal for fixing poor kitchen design or structurally unsound cabinetry.


Refinishing allows you to change your cabinets' paint or stain while maintaining the existing cabinetry.
The refinishing process includes several steps:
  • Selecting wood stain color
  • Sanding off the existing finish
  • Applying the stain as desired
You may opt to spruce up your cabinets with the same stain color or choose an entirely different color. Alternatively, you may choose to change the cabinets from stained wood to solidly painted wood.
If you are looking to add a pop of color, consider painting your cabinets. Compared to refinishing, painting is a less involving process.
When to Refinish
Opt for refinishing if you want to retain your existing cabinetry but want to infuse a dash of color or rich finishes to your cabinets and kitchen as a whole.
Alternatively, opt for refinishing if you are looking to match your cabinetry with your new counter tops without spending too much money on renovation.
Pros and Cons of Refinishing
Refinishing is less costly than resurfacing or replacing your cabinets. While high-quality stain does not come cheap, the cost of replacing or resurfacing cabinet drawers, side panels, and hardware is significantly higher.
Remodeling your kitchen can be a significant expense. Nonetheless, with proper planning you can transform your kitchen from drab to dapper just by making a few changes to your cabinets. While doing it yourself may seem like a great way to save costs, a cabinetry contractor can help you achieve professional and outstanding finishes for your kitchen.
Whether you are looking for standard or custom cabinets in Houston and its surrounding areas, get in touch with the cabinet experts at BMC Cabinetry.