My Kitchen Cabinets are Outdated: What are My Options?

If your kitchen needs a facelift, but you’re not sure what to do, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got some ideas to help you update without taking on a massive, life-altering renovation or breaking the bank.

My Kitchen Cabinets are Outdated: What are My Options?

(Pixabay / arealgirlfriday)

The kitchen is where people spend a lot of their time. Between socializing, cooking meals, and eating together, the kitchen is one of the central hubs of the home. As such, it is also a place that gets a lot of wear and tear, but the possibility of long downtimes during renovations can be a serious turn-off to homeowners who want to upgrade their space. So can the hefty price tags of a total makeover.

Luckily, enhanced cabinets can go a long way in helping a kitchen look fresh and new. We’re going to share three distinct options for modernizing your kitchen by revitalizing your cabinets. Depending on your budget, level of skill, and time frame, you can choose the one that is best suited to you.


Refinishing is the least expensive option of the three, but it is a lot more limited. When you’re refinishing, you’re not actually changing the appearance of your cabinets other than the color and maybe the hardware. When you refinish your cabinetry, you completely strip down a painted cabinet and use stain (or strip down a stained cabinet and use paint), but the bones and face of your cabinet will stay the same. If your cabinets already have hardware, you can update it with relative ease. Hardware replacements can deliver a lot of bang for the buck.

A professional refinisher will make sure that your finishes are smooth and even. They will know the right paint to use and how to seal in the new color so that it wears beautifully over time. A professional will make sure that there are no drips, runs, or smudges goofing up your surfaces, and they’ll be able to complete the work fairly quickly. They are more expensive than a DIY refinishing kit, but they may also be able to deliver a better final product than you could achieve on your own—and save you a great deal of time in the process.

Of course, hiring a professional may not be in the cards for you, but you have another option. If you want to refinish your cabinets but don’t have the extra cash laying around, there are refinishing kits available at most hardware stores. These kits come with a stripping agent or deglosser, paint or stain, a scuff and stain resistant top coat, and detailed instructions for applying and maintaining your refinished cabinets. While this is a less expensive option, there is a learning curve, so plan on taking your time to learn how to do this well.


  • Less expensive than replacing your cabinets
  • Customizable
  • Options for different budgets
  • Easy way to update your cabinets without creating waste


  • Time-consuming if you’re doing it yourself with a possibility of lower quality and less durability
  • Doesn’t change anything about your cabinets other than the color


Though these first two options sound very similar, they are entirely different. Refacing doesn’t just cover up old cabinets – it completely updates them. It’s like a hybrid between refinishing and replacing because it lets you change up colors and hardware while adding to and repurposing existing cabinetry.

The refacing process involves removing doors, drawers, and hinges and either applying a new veneer to existing door and drawer fronts or utilizing entirely new door and drawer fronts. This option lets you change your style completely and update the hinges as well as the hardware and finish. Refaced cabinets can start off as any material and change to whatever solid wood, laminate, or veneer that you want. They also let you add in glass-front cabinet doors which can brighten up your kitchen while giving the illusion of space.

When you use a designer to reface your cabinets, you also have the option to add in additional useable space in your kitchen. For instance, if you have an empty space between the top of your existing cabinets and your ceiling, your designer can take measurements to fill in that space with a short, functional cabinet. They can also go through your current boxes and make any adjustments or repairs to extend the life of your kitchen.

Refacing cabinets is more expensive than refinishing but less expensive than replacement. It gives you almost all of the benefits of replacing your cabinets for a fraction of the time and cost.


  • Completely customizable
  • Able to add in additional cabinet space
  • Less expensive than replacement
  • Professional finishing
  • Repair existing cabinets
  • Creates less waste than replacing all of your cabinets


  • More expensive than refinishing
  • Nearly impossible to DIY


This option is not in most people’s budget because it involves completely gutting your kitchen and manufacturing all new cabinets. This is a highly individualized process, so it takes a lot of people, time, and money to complete. You can expect to spend thousands of dollars on a full replacement even if your kitchen is small.

The benefit of replacing all of your cabinets, however, is that your end result is precisely what you want. This route is endlessly customizable as far as styles, designs, materials, and colors go. If you want glass-front cabinets, you can choose them. If you want to forgo a base cabinet in lieu of that swanky, new dishwasher/food dehydrator/microwave combo that you read about in SkyMall magazine, you can go that route. The sky is the limit as far as design goes, but understand that you will be paying big bucks for that luxury.


  • Completely customizable


  • Expensive
  • Time-consuming

Updating your kitchen doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to kill your budget. Improved cabinetry can give your kitchen that lift you’ve been looking for, and depending on your timeframe, budget, and needs, you can achieve it in multiple ways.