3 kitchen cabinet overhaul options

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Q: We have late-1980s oak cabinets in our kitchen that are stained dark walnut. They look dated but are in good shape. When we moved in four years ago, there were outdated appliances and ugly tile. At that time, we thought we could live with the cabinets (and the equally dated-looking hardwood floor), so we replaced the tile with granite and updated all of the appliances.

But now we’re looking at the cabinets and wondering if we were a bit shortsighted. We don’t want to paint all of the cabinets because we like a wood-grain look. We’ve thought of these three options:

1. Replace the existing cabinets without replacing granite. I suspect this would be very expensive given the amount of cabinetry we have. (We have 26-30 doors/drawers; about 22 linear feet and a large center island.)

2. Reface. About a year ago, we received an estimate for refacing: $26,000 to $30,000, which seemed really expensive.

3. Refinish the cabinets, replacing the doors and drawers with updated unfinished wood, sanding the existing cabinets, then staining the cabinets and the new doors/drawers with a new color.

As you can imagine, cost is a consideration, but I don’t have a good handle on what each option would cost — both in terms of dollars and headaches.

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A. You’ve identified all the viable options we would consider. Let’s take each one in turn.

New custom cabinets would be very expensive, and the granite countertops would be removed and replaced. You risk the possibility of breakage during that process, potentially increasing the cost. On the plus side: You’ll get exactly what you want. But if cost is an object, this is priciest.

Refacing is a middle ground between refinishing and replacing. Refacing can probably be done without removing the granite. We presume the $26,000 to $30,000 price tag includes new doors and drawer fronts. But even at that, we agree, the price seems dear.

To give you an example, Bill just finished a complete kitchen remodel. While his kitchen is small, he thinks he got some pretty good bang for the buck.

He used the old cabinet carcasses, added a new cabinet for the oven, replaced the doors and drawer fronts, installed $8,000 worth of soapstone counters, and a new high-end cooktop, oven, dishwasher and vent hood. Completely painted and out the door, the project cost about $25,000.

Refinishing is not only realistic but also downright cheap compared with the first two options — especially if you undertake the heavy lifting yourself by at least stripping the carcasses. There are two suboptions: You can replace the drawer fronts and cabinet doors, or you can refinish them. …CONTINUED