Reface or Replace?

Published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune; Weekend Edition, July 4-7, 2009

 “Bring it all together and build your dream”


  You may be planning to replace appli­ances and find that the counters have become worn and stained, and the see­through upper cabinets that seemed like a great idea in 1989 now look a little dated. Is there an affordable solution?
  refacing-article-7_5_092The solution most people think of first is a complete kitchen renovation. This approach provides the greatest flexibility because you are starting fresh, building out from the bare walls. It allows improved functionality because you can modify the work triangle, knock down walls and add new elements like a food pantry cabinet, wine storage, improved lighting and many others.
  Unfortunately, the complete kitchen renovation also requires a significant budg­et because it touches every surface and quickly spreads to adjoining living spaces.
  It may even trigger structural upgrades when you start removing walls or adding windows. This comprehensive approach may take the kitchen out of service for weeks, however, creating inconvenience and additional costs.
  A more affordable alternative is to update and refresh the look of a kitchen with a cabinet refacing. This option is par­ticularly viable if the existing layout works well already and the cabinet boxes are in good structural condition. Refacing an 
average-size kitchen will take just two to three days, and it can be planned as part of a larger phased project; reface the cabinets now, install new countertops in the fall and replace the flooring in the spring. This approach is budget-friendly, costing 30 per­cent to 50 percent less than replacing the cabinets with new.
  A typical refacing project begins with the contractor prepping the room to minimize dust and mess. They then remove the doors and drawer fronts from the existing cabinets, lightly sand and vacuum the cabinet boxes and apply a prefinished, real wood veneer to the exposed faces. Next comes new crown moulding, corbels and any other special items, followed by new pre-hinged, pre­finished doors and drawer fronts. Some final adjustments and cleanup, and you have a new kitchen after just a cou­ple of days work.
  Some might ask, “Can I do this myself?” The answer, with caution, is probably “yes.” First, savings may be reduced because you will be buying supplies at retail compared to a contractor who buys at wholesale. And while refacing is consider­ably less expensive than a complete renovation, it is not cheap. Second, you may find that there are tools and skills that you don’t own that may make the job more difficult, take longer or not turn out as well as what a professional can do. Finally, you have to determine the value of your time. If you get interrupted or you overestimate the time you have to commit to this project, it could become the memorable project of 2009-10.
  So, if your kitchen is tired and you want to do something about it, consider your options. Replacing everything with new will provide you with the kitchen you always dreamed of but it may not be affordable.
  Refacing your existing cabinets is affordable and will provide a completely updated new look at a fraction of the cost. And remember, whatever you decide to do, always hire a licensed professional so your job is done quickly and correctly.
  — Lee Hanson is a cabinet- maker and owner of Custom Design Woodworks Inc., a business that has served the Lake Tahoe area since 1990. See www.custom designwoodworks. com.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.