Choosing between refinishing and replacing kitchen cabinets should be fairly easy, but if you’re unfamiliar with the wood repair process, the decision can be confusing. Refurbishing wood kitchen cabinets can feel like a daunting, unfamiliar project while replacing it seems easier: someone is hired to rip the power kitchen cabinets out and new cabinets are installed.
The painting process is just as clear, even if it is not fully understood. Like replacing the kitchen tile backsplash, adopting a new kitchen colour scheme, or trying new kitchen cabinet paint colours, refinishing kitchen cabinets can completely transform the look and feel of the cooking space—and at a cheaper price than replacing the cabinets would cost.
It’s not like Grandpa’s style of repair, where you strip down all the cabinets and sand them all down to bare wood, says Murphy. You don’t have to go through all of that.
Painting kitchen cabinets can take as little as a few days — Murphy says it depends on the size of the crew, but most painting projects can be completed in a week, often in three to five days. In addition, the kitchen does not have to be torn apart and the room does not have to be completely cleared out. Murphy says there’s no need to leave the house while working, and while most crews prefer residents not to cook, residents still have access to the refrigerator and snacks. And after a few days, the place looks very different.
We’ll remove dirt, grease, and grime from your cabinets, then lightly sand the surface, Murphy says. Then [we] give you new paint on the cabinets and protect them with a UV [ultraviolet] finish that lasts for many years.
Murphy estimates that repairing kitchen cabinets costs about a third as much as replacing cabinets. (And there are great time-saver pros, too.) The savings can be enough to buy new appliances and even new countertops, on top of the cost of repairing the cabinets.
Refinishing is cheaper and faster than replacing cabinets, but there are some issues that cabinet refinishing cannot fix. Severe water damage, split doors, and other structural issues should be addressed with new cabinets; Cabinets with excessive grease build-up are also better replaced since leftover contaminants from this grease can attack the cabinet material.
My parents have lived in their Florida home for 22 years and during that time they have updated the furnishings and optimized the space for our family’s needs. However, the kitchen remained relatively the same. I listened to my mom and dad discuss the possibilities for this central location, but things never really progressed. So on a recent visit home, I decided to get it started – starting with the wallpaper. Here, are three lessons I learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Use a wallpaper steamer (your fingernails will thank you). My father was unaware of my renovation plan and came home from work to see me meticulously peeling sliver after sliver of the fruit leaf border around 1993. a wallpaper steamer to go with it?’ The moment this miracle machine came into action, I learned my first lesson. Rather than jumping straight into a task, sometimes it helps to fully prepare yourself first with the right tools and even (gasp!) ask for help or advice. It will make the job so much faster and more effective.
Lesson 2: Watch your tools. Living in a New York City apartment where storage space is at a premium, I have tended to buy new brushes, rollers, and equipment for each of my decorating tasks. However, my handy dad who owns a home makes every effort to properly clean, store, and label all of his tools, knowing that another project is inevitably coming up. Once the wallpaper was successfully peeled off, it was the weekend and Dad was home to help with the next step. He introduced me to the world’s best trimming brush ( Blue Hawk’s Angled Brush, if interested) and taught me how to store it to save the brush for the next morning: rinse out as much paint as possible and put the still-damp brush in a zip-top sandwich bag overnight. The next morning the bristles were perfectly pliable and after a short drying with a paper towel ready for another coat. In the future, I may spend a little more money on the tools I choose, but I will also take proper care of them to get the best bang for my buck.
Lesson 3: Sometimes you have to learn your lessons. Over the next two days, as the cabinets were dismantled, primed, painted, and rehung, my father’s frustration boiled to boiling point until he told my brother and me that our quick, instant-ready approach was driving him crazy. It was at that moment that I realized his frustration was manifesting during the project, but it meant so much more. Dad wanted to keep us from making mistakes by learning from his (living with a roommate instead of paying the bills alone. Stocking up on groceries instead of ordering from Seamless every night.). But sometimes we learn more from the experience of screwing something up than from someone telling us how to do it right.
I know dad just wanted to pass on the knowledge and wisdom he’s gleaned over the years to spare me the same growing pains. Sometimes I will follow his advice and sometimes I have to learn on my own. Our parents want to protect us, but sometimes the only way we can learn is by facing ourselves. But tell me: let the paint dry for more than 45 minutes before applying the second coat.