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3 Reasons NOT to Refinish Your Cabinets

Jan 23, 2013 | by Guest Writer

To refinish or not refinish, that is the question…what’s the answer?  Each kitchen has its own unique configuration, materials, and budget, so before you can determine if cabinet refinishing is right for you, consider your particular situation and ask yourself:

  • Do you intend to keep existing cabinets, changing only their color?
  • Are your cabinets made of solid wood or laminate?
  • Do you want to update features like countertops, islands, glass doors, etc.?
  • Are you prepared to have your kitchen “out of service” for weeks?

Definition: To Re·fin·ish 

Refinishing wood cabinets is an involved and painstaking process in which the paint, varnish or stain is removed from the surface by sanding or use of a chemical stripping agent.  Once the old finish is gone, a new one is applied. 

sanding cabinets

Reason #1: Cost and Labor

If you’re happy with your kitchen’s layout and style of cabinetry and they’re made of solid wood, cabinet refinishing would be an option.  However, laminates cannot be stripped or sanded and MDF can only be repainted or refaced.  You can save money by doing the cabinet refinishing yourself, but the process is labor intensive, requiring the use of caustic chemicals.  If you hire a professional, the cost is less than replacing the cabinets but probably at least as much as refacing them.  

Reason #2: The Finished Look

In order to refinish your solid wood cabinets they must be in good condition with no warping or splitting.  Even under the best conditions the process of sanding and stripping weakens the wood surface making it less forgiving which may result in an inconsistent finish.  Remember also that you can only refinish darker – lighter is only possible if you bleach the doors first.   

Reason #3: The Life of Your Cabinetry

Once the cabinet refinishing is complete, maintaining the finish becomes a challenge.  Refinished cabinets are vulnerable to color changes due to heat, direct sunlight, and water from sinks and dishwashers.  If MDF swells from moisture, the paint can peel and crack.

Put on a Happy Face

Consider refacing as an alternative to refinishing: The cabinet boxes, doors, and drawer fronts are replaced with new ones and a thin, strong veneer is applied to cabinet sides, frames and moldings.  This means you’ll have perfectly matched kitchen cabinets throughout that are long lasting, durable, cost-effective and beautiful!   

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Topics: Cabinet Refinishing

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