I want to give my kitchen a new look without spending a fortune. I think that either putting up new cabinet doors or refinishing the existing ones would go a long way toward updating the kitchen. What is involved in refinishing my kitchen cabinet doors, and what is the cost differential of replacing them?
Morgan B. ~ San Jose, California
There are a couple of ways to go about refinishing your cabinets yourself. You can use chemical strippers, heat, or sanding. Each method has its pros and cons. Each technique also takes a certain amount of practice to get good at.
Chemical strippers are widely available and are usually very effective. They are also messy and can burn you if you do not wear the appropriate safety gear, and always wear a respirator for the fumes.
Heat guns use extremely high heat to remove finishes. They typically work best on paint. A respirator should always be worn because some very dangerous chemicals can be released when heating up old finishes.
Sanding is very straightforward. It takes time and generates some potentially toxic dust so always wear a respirator. This is not a great way to remove old finishes back to raw wood. This is a better method to use when doing basic prep for painting.
All of the above mentioned methods are labor and time intensive. You can count on a week for a small kitchen and two weeks for a large kitchen. You will also have to take into consideration how much of the framework around the cabinets will need refinishing as well.
Replacing doors is faster; you will just have to make sure that you do a thorough job of measuring for your replacements if you are doing it yourself. Approximate cost per door is roughly $40 and drawer front is $15. All replacement doors come with complete installation instructions for doing it yourself.
At the end of the day, if you place a zero value on your labor, refinishing will be cheaper. New doors will cost more but will probably go a bit faster.