Replace, refinish or reface? Five things to consider in a kitchen cabinet remodel | Home/Garden
Exchange of cabinets
Joni Lay decided to replace the cabinets in their 1948 Atlanta home. “Any other would have put a plaster on a bigger problem,” she said. The chipboard cabinets were crumbling and the kitchen was cramped. She wanted to adjust the flow, create a dining area and increase the quality. To get there, her family went without a kitchen for two months.
(Courtesy photo by Joni Lay)
So often the desire for a do-it-yourselfer comes out of nowhere. If you don’t realize that you are dissatisfied with your kitchen, then you see a route in a magazine or walk through a model house or a friend’s kitchen. You come home and something inside of you changes.
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All of a sudden you want your brown cabinets white or your raised panels recessed. You can no longer look at your kitchen like this. You long (sorry) for a change.
Next, look at what new cabinets cost, then stop right away. What is wise. Because if you ever have a price on new kitchen cabinets, you know that buying a new home is cheaper.
Because of this, I never changed my kitchen cabinets. I’ve always moved.
But when I recently spoke to a couple of kitchen cabinet experts – who personally picked up passed out customers and resuscitated them with smelling salts after customers received their estimates for new cabinets – I got acquainted with two other less costly, less invasive cabinet update alternatives: Rework and rework.
“Most home improvement workers don’t realize that there is a whole world of ways that they can get a whole new look without tearing out their cabinets,” said Ted Gibson, national plumbing dealer for Home Depot.
Refurbishing or repainting cabinets (replacing the knobs and handles in the process) is the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get a new look. If you like the style and placement of your cabinets but not their color, or if they look tired and have a film of grease and grime on them, fix them up, says Jennifer Wagner, kitchen plumber at The Home Depot.
You can hold back the grain and not cover it, said Wagner. “With re-dyeing, you can transform old yellow oak into cherry or espresso or dye it with a tint like sage.
To get my parents’ house ready for sale, I painted the 45-year-old walnut-colored cabinets a glossy white and provided them with brushed nickel knobs. Wow what a difference for not a lot of cost.
If you like the basic layout of your kitchen, but you don’t like the look of the cabinets, when you repaint you will get new door fronts, new drawers and a completely new veneer including shelf edges and cabinet sides. Plus, you can keep your counters, which when you replace your cabinets, you can’t.
“The post-processing results in a much higher quality custom finish than most customers expect,” said Gibson, “especially if you add crown or cabinet moldings and toe-kick moldings.”
The cost goes up when you decide you really, really don’t like the layout of your kitchen. Say you have a galley kitchen and you want a U-shaped kitchen, or you have a U-shaped kitchen and you want to add an island, or you want the sink to be closer to the refrigerator. If that’s the case and you want to change the footprint of your kitchen, add cabinets, move appliances, and run plumbing, then look for new cabinets.
Ouch. I am sorry.
“If you reposition yourself, you can add a few cabinets and reconfigure them a little, but at some point it’s better to swap them out,” Gibson said. “A good rule of thumb is that if you’re adding or reconfiguring more than 50 percent of your cabinets, swapping is the best option.”
And so it happens. One minute you flick through a home magazine at your doctor’s appointment and the next you wake up on the floor of the design center while someone fans an estimate across your face.
Shortly afterward, you’ll be eating your Styrofoam cardboard meals and washing cups and making coffee in the bathroom while your kitchen is being torn apart.
Of course, nothing is as simple as the home improvement folks would make it seem. Here are some other factors to consider when weighing your options for upgraded kitchen cabinets.
The rest of the house. Most houses have uniform cabinets throughout. So, if you have locker rooms in the kitchen, consider going back to the cabinets in other parts of the house. Closets don’t have to go together everywhere, but they should all get along. Like I said, you might just want to buy a new home.
The syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two books on Home and Lifestyle and the newly published “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go” (Sterling Publishing 2016).
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