The average cost of a professional cabinet refinishing is between $1,800 and $2,200 nationwide, but most homeowners will pay around $2,000. When you hire a pro to refinish your bathroom or kitchen cabinets, that price includes labor, materials like stain and top coat and minor repairs.
While this is no small price, it's comparatively cheaper than new cabinets, which can cost as much as four times more than refinishing old cabinets. But, since updated cabinets are key to a kitchen or bathroom remodel, there's no better way to save money on these pricey projects than refinishing your cabinets instead of installing new ones.
Refinishing cabinets is an eco-friendly option as well as a cost-effective one, since it keeps old cabinets out of landfills, and prevents trees from being cut down to make new cabinets. With refinishing, you'll get an all-new look, but without getting rid of your old doors, face frames and cabinet boxes.
Whether you're tackling an entire kitchen remodel -- new countertops, backsplash and all -- or just looking to give your tired old bathroom cabinets a little life, this guide will cover common cost factors and what to expect from a cabinet refinish before you hire a pro.
What's in this cost guide?
- Refinishing cost factors
- Cabinet refinishing benefits
- What's included in refinishing
- Tips to hire a pro
Your total bathroom or kitchen cabinet refinishing costs will depend on a number of factors, broken down below:
The biggest impact to your total cost will be how many, and how big, your cabinets are, typically measured in linear feet. The more linear feet of cabinetry you need to refinish, the more it will cost.
For example, Chris Botta, owner of Affordable Cabinet Refinishing in Phoenix, Arizona, typically charges $38 per linear foot of cabinetry. Botta says it costs $1,800–$2,200 to refinish the cabinets in the kitchen of a typical 2,000- to 2,500-square-foot home -- which isn't bad if you compare it to the average cost of $5,000–$25,000 to install new cabinets and countertops in that same kitchen.
A smaller kitchen or bathroom with less cabinet space will cost even less. 30 linear square feet of cabinets, for example, would be $1,140 for customers of Chris Botta.
Although materials like stain and top coat are often included in your pro's total quote, your choice of finish could increase the costs thanks to the increased complexity -- and, therefore, time -- it takes to complete the project.
For example, changing the color of your cabinet costs more than keeping it the same color, because the old stain must be completely removed. It may also take more coats of new paint or stain to cover the old color.
Choosing paint versus stain for the new finish also affects the price. Staining cabinets requires removal of the existing finish, which can be time-consuming -- especially if there is ornate detail work on the cabinetry or if the existing paint or stain is difficult to remove.
Quality of stain is also a cost factor. High-quality stains, which are more resistant to fading and stains are a higher price. However, this upfront investment will extend the life of your cabinets.
In some cases, the existing layout of your bathroom or kitchen cabinetry adds complexity to the job. Traits like tight angles or cabinets installed in corners with double hinged doors make the project more difficult and time-consuming.
Cabinetry with a lot of detailing will take longer to strip, sand and refinish. More complex designs may require more skill, increasing the cost of refinishing.
Changing out cabinet hardware is a relatively affordable add-on. The total cost of new hardware depends on how many new knobs or pulls you need to purchase. Handles and knobs range from $3–$15 each at hardware stores and cabinet showrooms.
There are actually several different ways to refresh cabinets so, before you invest in a cabinet refresh, make sure refinishing, and not cabinet refacing, painting or replacements, is the right option for you.
It's a budget option that lets you reuse existing cabinets
Refinishing, or the process of removing the old paint or stain from cabinets, sanding the surface and applying new paint or stain, is a straightforward and cost-effective option. It lets reuse your old cabinets that are in good shape, but not the color you want.
If you're attempting a bathroom or kitchen remodel on a budget, this is a great way to save on your total costs.
It's more long-lasting than repainting
Refinishing isn't the same as repainting. You can paint directly over the top of an existing finish without removing it, but painting cabinets doesn't give you as durable a surface. To truly refinish cabinets, you must:
- Remove the old paint or stain
- Clean, sand and prime the surface
- And apply new, stain to the bare wood
Painting is a quick and easy but short-lived fix. Refinishing is more involved, a true do-over that will last for years.
It's cheaper than refacing or replacing
Refinishing isn't the same as refacing, either. Cabinet refacing, also known as reskinning, puts new doors and drawer fronts (known as skins) on existing cabinet. Hardware is often replaced as well. After the doors and drawer fronts have been swapped out, a veneer is then applied over the new skins.
Since refacing is a rebuilding of existing cabinets, and refinishing just changes the surface color and fixes minor damages, cabinet refacing costs twice as much as refinishing.
It's a good choice if your cabinets are in good shape
Refinishing your cabinets is a good choice if the current cabinet design and layout is functional, the cabinets are in good condition, and you just want an updated color or stain.
Refinishing is better on wood than lacquer or wood veneer cabinets
Solid wood cabinets are good candidates for refinishing because the wood can stand up to sanding and stripping.
Lacquer or wood veneer cabinets aren't good candidates for refinishing. And refinishing is a great option if you want a new look for your kitchen but cannot afford to buy new cabinets.
Refinishing your bathroom or kitchen cabinets in an average-sized room takes around five days. You won't be able to use your kitchen for several days during this time, so plan on eating out.
Once you've decided that a refinish is the right move for you and your home, and have found a pro to help, below are the steps normally included in a cabinet refinishing project:
Remove cabinet doors, drawers, shelves and hardware.
Removing all cabinet parts is often, but not always, the first step in the process. It allows the contractor to take them offsite to work on them or touch-up hard-to-reach areas. Removing doors, drawers and shelves to work on elsewhere will also let you use your kitchen until they begin refinishing the cabinet boxes on site.
However, removing your doors, drawers and shelves is an optional step. Chris Botta of Affordable Cabinet Refinishing, for example, has developed a way to refinish clients' cabinets in place rather than remove all hardware, cabinet doors and drawer faces. Skipping this step saves time in the overall process.
Strip old finish
The old paint, stain, and varnish will be removed from the doors and drawer faces with a chemical paint stripper and a hand tool. Many contractors do this offsite, too, because of the fumes and mess. Regardless of whether they remove doors and drawers or not, they'll always strip the cabinet boxes on site. You won't be able to use the kitchen during this time.
Clean and sand the cabinets
Surface preparation is key to making a new finish adhere properly and look great. Once the original finish is removed, a pro will repair any splits, holes or dings in the wood and sand all surfaces until they are clean and smooth. Some professional cabinet refinishers will charge an additional fee for repairs.
Apply a primer
After sanding, the contractor will put primer on all wood surfaces to be sure the new finish bonds properly to the wood.
Apply new paint or stain
Finally, the fun part! After preparing all of your cabinet surfaces, your pro will apply the stain or new paint you've chosen to the primed wood.
Apply a clear coat varnish
To make your new finish or paint last, they will then to apply a protective topcoat that will resist stains and scratching.
Put hardware back on doors and drawers, and attach them to the cabinet
The last step: the contractor will reassemble the newly refinished bathroom or kitchen cabinets -- put doors back on their hinges, knobs on their drawers -- and voila!
While some homeowners might be tempted to attempt a do-it-yourself cabinet refinish project, it's worthwhile to hire a professional to make sure it gets done well. Before you start your search for a cabinet refinishing expert, be sure to:
- Make sure your cabinet refinisher is licensed. Find a licensed, qualified professional with experience refinishing cabinets.
- Ask for free estimates. Most professionals will do a free design consultation with you to discuss cost, timeframe, process and the best new finish for your cabinets. This is helpful not just to get a confirmation of the total cost of the project, but also to make sure you're all aligned on what you want your new look to be.