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Tracy Tesmer, Founder Of Tracy Tesmer Design

Replacing vs. Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets

Last Updated on October 6, 2011

This guest blog post was written by Tracy Tesmer, founder of Tracy Tesmer Design • Build • Remodel • Repair, a Gainesville, GA residential remodeling company specializing in kitchen remodeling. Tracy has over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry and hosts a weekly home improvement radio show in WDUN in north Georgia.

When it comes time to remodel your kitchen, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with decisions, questions and stress. With many things to consider, such as floors, appliances and counters, cabinets can be one of the most difficult, and expensive, decisions you will make about your kitchen. Study the cabinets you already have to see if they can be integrated into your new design. In most instances, you will be given the choice of replacing or refinishing your cabinets. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to replacing and refinishing cabinets. Make sure you understand them both before you make the final decision.


  • If one of the goals of your remodeling is to add extra storage space, replacing your cabinets is likely the best option.
  • If the wood, frames or joints are bad, replacing cabinets will be able to fix these issues.
  • Replacing cabinets is time consuming because it requires a demolition of the current cabinets. When you go to choose cabinets you will be able to choose between three different types:
  1. Stock cabinets – These are mass produced but have a wide variety of options.
  2. Semi-custom cabinets – The cabinets are pre-made but you can help choose moldings, trims, finishes, etc. These are typically more expensive than stock cabinets.
  3. Custom cabinets – These are specifically made for your wishes and style choice. This the most expensive form of cabinets. You can create just about anything you dream up, with any type of finish, design or material.
  • Replacing cabinets allow you full control of the design and look you want for your cabinets.
  • A disadvantage may be that you will be without cabinets throughout the replacing process.


  • If you currently like the style and/or layout of the cabinets you have, this may be the best alternative because you can change up the look of your cabinets without having to replace them completely.
  • Refinishing your cabinets is a less expensive, more economical alternative to changing things up. You will not have full control or as much flexibility when refinishing cabinets as you will with replacing them.

Determining Factors:

  • Budget – If you have a modest budget, cabinet replacement may not be an option. However, if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars on sprucing up your kitchen, replacing cabinets can certainly allow room for more creativity and personalization. Remember that out of all line items in a total kitchen remodel, cabinets typically take up the largest percentage of your budget.
  • Needs – This will depend on whether you need more storage space. If you need more space and want to build them up vertically, then simply refinishing the cabinets will not add this. Replacing cabinets can add more storage and allow for a different kitchen workflow.
  • Time – Time constraints will definitely help make a decision for this process. Full kitchen overhauls typically involve several weeks or months of work. You will need to make other accommodations for storing kitchen supplies while it is being remodeled.

No matter which form of cabinet refinishing you choose to use, you will be able to make it unique and your own. Whether you choose a simple DIY re-paint, polish and hardware change, a more complex professional refinishing, or a complete demolition and re-do, you will finish the process with a revitalized kitchen!

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