How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Cabinets?

Refinishing kitchen cabinets is an easy way to update the look of an older kitchen. The cost to refinish cabinets ranges from $1,500 to $5,000, with the national average at $2,975.

By Katie Flannery | Updated Oct 5, 2022 2:33 PM

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Cost to Refinish Cabinets

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  • Typical Range: $1,500 to $5,000
  • National Average: $2,975

The cost to refinish cabinets is far less than the cost to replace them. Cabinet refinishing is an excellent way to update and transform the look of an older kitchen without having to pay the cost for a full kitchen remodel. Refinishing involves removing the existing stain or paint; making repairs; sanding; then adding new stain, paint, or varnish. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the average cost to refinish cabinets runs from $1,500 to $5,000, with many homeowners spending $2,975 on average. The overall cost to refinish kitchen cabinets per square foot runs from $4 to $25, including labor and materials for painting, varnishing, shellacking, and glazing. The final price depends on the location of the cabinets, the type of finish, and the size of the cabinets. Professional cabinet refinishers charge between $35 and $75 per hour for labor, with the average total coming in around $500 to $1,000 per refinishing project. Labor costs can vary depending on geographic location, cabinet material, and refinishing product. This guide will cover some important factors that affect the cost to refinish cabinets, the different types of cabinet refinishing, some signs it’s time to refinish cabinets, and some frequently asked questions regarding kitchen cabinet refinishing costs.

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Refinishing vs. Refacing vs. Replacing

There are a few options available to change the look of a kitchen when it comes to cabinets. They can be refinished, refaced, or replaced. If the cabinets are in good shape and the homeowner likes the style but no longer enjoys the finish or color, cabinet refinishing may be the best option. Refinishing is the most budget-friendly way to change the look of a kitchen without major construction. Removing the current finish, sanding, and applying fresh paint or stain can create a new look and aesthetic in the room.

Refacing cabinets involves removing the existing cabinet doors and drawer fronts and installing new ones. If a different type of wood is used, matching veneer is installed on the cabinet boxes to match the new doors and drawers. This option is popular for homeowners who like the current layout of the cabinets, or for kitchens where the doors and drawer fronts aren’t in the best condition but the cabinet boxes are damage-free. Cabinet refacing costs from $4,000 to $9,500, which is considerably more than refinishing.

New kitchen cabinets cost the most to install, and this project is also the most time-intensive cabinet makeover option. Kitchen professionals will remove all the cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers and replace them with brand-new cabinets. A full cabinet replacement is necessary if the homeowner wants to remodel the kitchen and relocate the cabinets for a new layout.

Cost to Refinish Cabinets

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Factors in Calculating the Cost to Refinish Cabinets

How much does it cost to refinish cabinets? That depends on several factors. Prices can differ from the national average based on cabinet finish type, the number and size of cabinets, cabinet location and material, project complexity, and local labor prices.

Finish Type

Cabinet refinishing price ultimately depends on the type of finish. Some finishes take more time and effort to apply, which will increase the cost of labor. To refinish cabinets, they first must be stripped of paint or stain. If a homeowner wants the cabinets to be stained a different color, it will take longer to strip and sand the doors and drawer fronts to completely remove the stain before a new finish is applied. The quality of the paint or stain also affects the overall cost of the refinishing project. Some stains resist fading much better than others and come with a more expensive price tag. Some of the popular finishes for cabinets include painting, staining, varnishing, glazing, and shellacking. Each finish is discussed below.

Number and Size of Cabinets

The number of cabinets that need to be refinished impacts the overall cost. Homeowners can expect to pay between $4 and $25 per square foot, depending on the finish type and cabinet sizes. The more cabinets that are refinished, the more expensive the project will be. Since larger cabinets take longer to strip, sand, and refinish, they will come with a higher final labor cost.

Cabinet Location

Although the most common type of cabinet refinishing is for the kitchen, many homeowners utilize cabinets in other locations around the home. The following are some of the most common areas to find cabinets and the average cost for refinishing cabinets in those locations.

  • Kitchen cabinets. The average kitchen has about 150 square feet of materials, and refinishing kitchen cabinets can cost from $1,500 to $5,000 per project, including labor. The kitchen typically has the most cabinets in the house and is the most popular area for cabinet refinishing.
  • Bathroom cabinets. Since bathrooms are usually much smaller than kitchens, the amount of cabinetry in the room is significantly reduced. The cost to refinish bathroom cabinets ranges from $200 to $2,000 per project.
  • Office cabinets. Office space refinishing projects are less common since the cabinets don’t come into contact with heat and moisture as often as kitchen or bathroom cabinets. For a medium-size office, cabinet refinishing costs run from $500 to $2,000.

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Cabinet Material

When it comes to refinishing cabinets, some materials are easier to refinish than others. Cabinets made from solid wood are easier to refinish and stain than other materials. Doors and drawer fronts made from laminate are easier to paint with the proper type of preparation. If a homeowner is determined to stain non-wood materials, it will take much longer to achieve that finish and it will be much more expensive.

Project Complexity

Cabinets that have intricate trim, carving, or detailing will have higher labor costs due to the additional time it takes to sand, strip, and refinish them. Since more complex cabinet styles require more expertise, the cost of refinishing will be more expensive.

Labor

Labor costs range from $35 to $75 per hour for cabinet refinishing, and it’s common for total labor prices to cost on average $500 to $1,000 per project. Overall labor pricing varies depending on the complexity of the project, the cabinet material, the refinishing materials, and the geographic location of the home. Labor and material costs in densely populated urban areas are typically more expensive than in more rural locations of the country.

Cost to Refinish Cabinets

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Additional Costs and Considerations

When budgeting for the cost to refinish cabinets, it’s beneficial for homeowners to know about any additional costs and considerations that will affect the price of the project. These can include cabinet preparation and repair, customizations, and any additional projects that need to be completed at the same time.

Preparation and Repair

Before any refinishing can begin, the cabinets will need to be prepped. Some cabinet materials will need more intensive preparation than others, with wood being the most time-intensive. Painting cabinets involves stripping the old paint or stain from the cabinet doors and drawers, repairing holes or cracks, sanding, and fixing any issues with the cabinet boxes. The cost of cabinet repairs is generally not included in the refinishing price, and repairs can cost approximately $300 on average. Homeowners may want to consider replacement if the cabinets need extensive repairs and the cost of fixing them would be close to the cost of total cabinet replacement.

Customizations

Customizing cabinets with distinctive finishing materials or carvings will add to the overall project price. Extensive customizations can cost about $5,000, and adding under-cabinet lighting can cost between $230 and $300 per light.

Additional Projects

Since the kitchen will not be functional during the refinishing process, it’s a good time to complete other projects around the kitchen. Many homeowners take this time to replace appliances, install a new backsplash, or repaint the kitchen.

Types of Cabinet Refinishing

The type of cabinet refinishing affects the overall cost of the project. Whether the cabinets will be painted, stained, glazed, varnished, or shellacked, they all need to be stripped and sanded. Stripping cabinets usually involves a chemical stripper that requires adequate ventilation and the use of protective gear including gloves and a respirator mask. Each finish has its own process, expense, and benefits.

Staining

Restaining cabinets costs from $1,500 to $5,000, or between $4 and $10 per square foot. The total cost depends on the number of cabinets and the cabinet material. If the project is to restore kitchen cabinets that were previously painted, the cabinet doors, drawers, and boxes will need to be stripped and sanded. Sanding cabinets that are covered in a layer of veneer is more time-intensive than sanding solid-wood cabinets, since sanding through the veneer is a real possibility. It’s usually recommended to restain solid-wood cabinets rather than veneer or laminate cabinet material.

Painting

Homeowners may also consider painting their kitchen cabinets as a way to refresh the room. Changing kitchen cabinet colors is easy with the vast array of paint colors that are available, although the cost to paint kitchen cabinets is typically more expensive than the cost of staining them. Painting cabinets usually costs between $6 and $14 per square foot. Choosing the right type of paint for cabinets will help prevent peeling and chipping due to heavy use. Professionals know how to paint kitchen cabinets the right way and will know the best type of paint to use for the job.

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Glazing

Cabinet glazing cost ranges from $300 to $1,000, or $10 to $25 per square foot, depending on the number of cabinets. Glaze is a semitransparent finish that is applied on top of paint to create the look of an antique patina. Homeowners will need to keep in mind that glazing can make the cabinet color darker.

Varnishing

Varnishing cabinets can cost from $200 to $400, or $6 to $16 per square foot. Varnish is typically applied over natural wood or paint to extend the life of the finish and protect it from wear.

Shellacking

It can cost between $200 and $400, or $6 to $16 per square foot, to shellac cabinets. Shellac protects and seals the natural wood and provides a natural finish to the cabinets.

Cost to Refinish Cabinets

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Do I Need Cabinet Refinishing?

One of the most budget-friendly ways of updating kitchen cabinets is to refinish them. Installing the best kitchen cabinets from scratch costs significantly more than stripping, sanding, staining, or painting them. If the kitchen cabinets are showing their age, look outdated, or have peeling paint, it’s time for a cabinet makeover. Below are a few red flags that indicate when cabinets are good candidates for refinishing.

Peeling, Flaking, or Blistering Paint

If the cabinets have been previously painted and the paint is starting to peel, flake, or blister, it’s a sign that they need to be refinished. Paint can peel off cabinet surfaces due to excessive moisture, lack of proper preparation before painting, or incorrect paint used on the cabinet surfaces. Cabinets with a peeling or flaking finish can make the entire room look tired and worn. To improve the look of the room, the old paint will need to be stripped off and the surface of the cabinets will need to be sanded and primed to prepare for new paint.

Water Damage

In most cases, the signs of water damage on cabinets can be repaired, and the cabinets can be updated with new paint or stain. If the cabinet doors or drawers are warped or rotting, those sections will likely need to be replaced.

Outdated Cabinet Finish

If the cabinets are in good shape but they look old and dated, refinishing them is an excellent option to make them look like new. Homeowners can update their kitchen and make it look fresh and modern by changing the color of the cabinets with paint or stain.

Improperly Functioning Doors

When the cabinet doors sag on their hinges and drawers don’t open and close as smoothly as they used to, refinishing can help. A professional can not only refinish the doors but repair them so they function properly.

Cost to Refinish Cabinets

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Cabinet Refinishing: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional 

Refinishing cabinets can be a good DIY project for homeowners with the experience, time, space, and tools for the project. DIY cabinet refinishing can be a time-consuming project that typically takes between 30 to 50 hours, or 3 to 5 days to complete. Even homeowners who know how to refinish cabinets may prefer to leave this job to the pros if they work full-time, as the refinishing project could take weeks to finish, during which time the kitchen wouldn’t be fully functional. Although homeowners could save money by attempting a DIY cabinet refinishing project, the time it takes to complete may not be worth it if the home is without a kitchen for a prolonged period of time.

Adequate ventilation and work space is needed to strip and sand the cabinet doors, drawers, and boxes. The steps required in a DIY cabinet refinishing project involve removing the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, shelves, and hardware. The old finish, paint, or stain then needs to be stripped and removed, and any repairs need to be made. The next steps are to clean and sand the cabinet surfaces, lay down a primer, apply new paint or stain, apply a clear protective top coat, reattach the hardware, and reassemble the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. When hiring a professional to refinish cabinets, homeowners can expect it to take between 1 and 3 days to have the kitchen looking like new. Professional cabinet painters have the proper tools and experience to complete the job quickly and efficiently. They also typically warrant their work to ensure they are delivering high-quality results.

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How to Save Money on the Cost to Refinish Cabinets

Most money-saving opportunities come when deciding on the type of finish to use for the cabinets. One way to save is to use the cheapest finishing option available, but there are other ways to save without compromising on quality or specific features.

  • Cut back on the customizations. Sticking to the basics will save on the overall cost of the refinishing project.
  • Get multiple quotes. Get at least three quotes from reputable cabinet refinishers in your area.
  • Opt out of the glaze. Glazing over the top of paint or stain isn’t a necessary step for refinishing cabinets. If you find that glazing falls outside of your budget, consider other finishing options to get the look you want.
  • Go for the good paint. It may seem counterintuitive to choose more expensive paint, but doing so can save money in the long run. A high-quality paint will last longer and reduce the number of times the cabinets need to be repainted.
  • Do some of the work yourself. Removing the cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware can save on labor costs.
  • Bundle painting projects. If other areas in the house need to be painted, ask your professional if they offer discounts for multiple painting jobs.
  • Ask about hardware. If the cabinet door and drawer pulls need to be replaced, ask if the cabinet refinishing company can get hardware at a wholesale price.

Questions to Ask About Cabinet Refinishing

Asking a cabinet refinishing professional the right questions can help minimize miscommunication and get the best results. The following are some questions to ask about the cost to refinish cabinets and the refinishing process.

  • How long have you been refinishing cabinets?
  • Are you insured?
  • Do you have examples of past projects I can look at?
  • Will you provide references?
  • How can I read customer reviews?
  • Do you provide free estimates?
  • Do you sell cabinet hardware?
  • How do you price cabinet refinishing projects?
  • What selection of stains and paints do you have?
  • What type of stain or paint do you recommend for my cabinets?
  • What do I need to do before you begin the refinishing process?
  • What is your cabinet preparation process?
  • How do you keep the doors and drawers organized?
  • How will you protect the room during the cabinet refinishing?
  • Do you handle cabinet door and drawer repairs?
  • What techniques do you use to apply paint and stain?
  • What types of top coats do you use?
  • Who will refinish the cabinets?
  • How long will the cabinet refinishing project take?
  • What are the steps you take to complete the cabinet refinishing project?
  • What happens if you run out of paint or stain during the refinishing project? How can you ensure the paint or stain color will match the original paint selection?
  • Will I be able to use the kitchen while you’re refinishing the cabinets?
  • How can I maintain the cabinets after the refinishing job?
  • What warranties do you offer?
  • What kind of guarantees do you provide for the refinishing work?
  • What is your payment plan?
  • How can I leave a review?

FAQs

Before choosing the right finish and color for a cabinet refinishing project, homeowners will want to be sure they have all the information they need regarding the cost to refinish cabinets. Below are several frequently asked questions about cabinet refinishing and the overall refinishing process.

Q. What questions should I ask a professional about cabinet refinishing?

Before hiring anyone to refinish the cabinets in their home, homeowners will want to ask some questions regarding the contractor’s experience with cabinet refinishing projects. Some questions can include asking how long the company has been in business, how much experience they have refinishing cabinets, and whether they can provide references from previous customers. Homeowners will also want to make sure the contractor is insured to protect themselves in case someone is injured during the project. It’s a good idea to always ask to see the contractor’s portfolio of past projects and inquire about the types of paint or stain they recommend for the home’s cabinets. Other important things to ask the contractor about include how they will protect the home during the refinishing process, how the homeowner can help prepare for the refinishing, who will complete the work, and how they will apply the paint or stain for a long-lasting finish.

Q. How long does it take to refinish kitchen cabinets?

It typically takes the best cabinet painters and refinishers between 2 and 3 days, or about 14 hours to complete a cabinet refinishing project.

Q. How do you care for refinished cabinets?

The best way to care for refinished cabinets is to clean up marks and smears when they’re fresh. Use a soft, damp microfiber cloth to clean the spot, and dry it immediately. For stubborn spots, use a paint-safe cleaner; alternatively, homeowners can make their own with a cup of water, a teaspoon of vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap. Avoid soaking the cabinet surface, and use a circular motion when cleaning the area. Some cleaners to avoid on refinished cabinets are abrasive sponges, citrus cleaners or degreasers, oil soap, cleaners with abrasive particles, ammonia, and spray polishes with wax or silicone.

Q. What is the difference between cabinet refacing and refinishing?

Cabinet refacing involves the replacement of the cabinet doors and drawer faces while a new veneer is placed over the cabinet boxes so they match the new doors and drawers. Many homeowners choose this option if they like the existing layout of the cabinets and want a new look and style for the cabinets. Refinishing involves keeping the existing cabinet doors and drawers and changing the color with paint or stain. If the cabinets are in good condition and a homeowner is happy with the layout and style of the cabinets, but wants to change the overall look, refinishing is the most budget-friendly and efficient way to change the look of older cabinets.

Q. Is it cheaper to refinish or replace cabinets?

It’s typically less expensive to refinish the existing cabinets than to replace them with new ones. Refinishing cabinets usually costs about two-thirds the amount to reface cabinets, and refacing ranges from 70 to 80 percent of the total cost of installing brand-new replacement cabinets.

Q. Does painting cabinets lower a home’s value?

Refreshing cabinets by giving them a new coat of paint typically increases a home’s value unless the paint color looks outdated or is an unusual choice for the room. Painting cabinets white or another neutral color can make the space look updated and modern, while overly dark paint or fluorescent colors can be a turnoff to potential home buyers. While painting cabinets purple, hot pink, or bright orange may make some homeowners feel at home, it may be best to paint the cabinets in a more neutral color before putting the home on the market.

Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, The Cabinet Doctors

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