Differences Between Cabinet Refinishing vs. Cabinet Refacing

Oh the options…

What is cabinet refinishing? What is refacing? What’s the difference? A broad search of the internet will likely make your head spin. Let us explain cabinet refinishing vs. refacing in a way that makes sense.


Cabinet refinishing is more or less restoring what you have, back to its original form. Think of it as having your car repainted in the same color it came in, with cosmetic issues being fixed. Except in this case, it’s not paint, it’s stain and finish. Finish being the clear coat applied over the colored stain that you’ve chosen. Your cabinet boxes all remain in place. The cabinet doors will be used again. The drawer faces will be used again. Basically, everything in the kitchen stays the same. Although yes, sometimes a new door or drawer face must be built due to damage. With cabinet refinishing vs. refacing, the same color stain is matched and put back into worn spots. Entire new clear coats are done to bring the finish back to life. So, you get the same color as before, just renewed, with any defect corrected to the best ability the refinishing company can handle. Anything outside of stain would be considered repainting, just to clarify.


Cabinet refacing means changing the face of what you see. The boxes stay the same in terms of location, size, shape, layout. In this case, we’re talking about the physical goods of the kitchen. Refacing, cosmetically, can be done with stain OR painted goods. The biggest difference between refacing and refinishing cabinets is that the face of the box, the doors, and the drawers, all may change. or just some or the other. How? Well, for a full refacing, an actual thin layer of wood, whether veneer or real wood, is applied to the face of all the boxes and exposed panels. Next, all new doors and drawers are built to replace the old ones. You could take, in theory, an all oak kitchen and make it maple, without gutting the whole kitchen.

More commonly, however, people ONLY replace the doors and drawers with new ones, and leave the face of the boxes as is. We consider that a refacing hybrid option. From there, staining or painting can be achieved, again, that’s back to the cosmetic aspect, no physical structure. And a quality, professional staining and painting company should be employed for the best results.

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