Is Cabinet Refinishing The Same as Cabinet Restoring? Your Questions Answered

Is Cabinet Refinishing The Same as Cabinet Restoring? Your Questions Answered

When it comes to home improvement projects, particularly ones that focus on updating or rejuvenating your kitchen, cabinets often take center stage. The terms “cabinet refinishing” and “cabinet restoring” get tossed around frequently, leading to some confusion. 

This article aims to set the record straight by diving into the nuances of each method.

Cabinet Refinishing Defined

What It Involves: Cabinet refinishing is a process that primarily involves altering the surface finish of the cabinets. It includes stripping away the old finish, such as paint, varnish, or stain, then applying a new finish to the exposed wood. It can also involve light sanding to ensure the surface is smooth and ready to accept the new finish.

Tools and Materials: Generally, you’ll need paint or stain, sandpaper, brushes, and sometimes a paint sprayer. You may also need a chemical stripper if you’re removing a particularly stubborn old finish.

Who It’s For: Refinishing is ideal for those who are content with the design and functionality of their cabinets but desire a different color or finish to modernize or better match their interior décor.

Cabinet Restoration Defined

What It Involves: Restoration is a more holistic process. It can include refinishing, but it goes beyond that to address any structural or functional issues. This might mean fixing broken knobs, patching up holes, aligning misaligned doors, or even replacing parts of the cabinet that are damaged beyond repair.

Tools and Materials: In addition to all the tools and materials you’d need for refinishing, restoration might require screws, hinges, wood patches, or even new cabinet doors or drawer fronts.

Who It’s For: If your cabinets are showing their age not just in appearance but in function, like doors not closing properly or visible damage to the wood, then restoration is more up your alley.

Core Differences

Cost Factor: Refinishing primarily involves labor and paint or stain, which isn’t terribly expensive, while restoration can involve additional parts and more hours of labor, thus raising the cost.

Time Commitment: Refinishing, in most cases, can be completed in a few days to a week. Restoration could take several weeks, depending on the extent of the repairs needed.

Skill Level: Refinishing usually demands less technical skill and can often be a DIY project for those who are handy. Restoration often requires a higher skill level, particularly if there are structural issues to address.

Customization: Refinishing offers limited options for customization—mainly color and type of finish. Restoration, however, allows for significant changes, like new handles or adding features like pull-out shelves.

Now let’s look at the answers to some of the most common questions asked about cabinet refinishing and restoration: 

What About Cabinet Refacing?

Refacing is another term you might encounter. This involves replacing the “face” of your cabinet, like doors, drawer fronts, and side panels, while leaving the cabinet boxes intact. It’s less extensive than full restoration but more transformative than simple refinishing.

Can I Mix and Match?

Yes, you can combine elements of both refinishing and restoration. For instance, you can restore a cabinet’s structure and then refinish its surface.

Is Professional Help Necessary?

While refinishing can be a DIY job for the experienced home improvement enthusiast, restoration often benefits from professional expertise, especially if carpentry or intricate repairs are involved.

How Do I Know If My Cabinets Are Good Candidates for Refinishing?

If your cabinets are structurally sound, without significant warping, rotting, or large cracks, they can usually be refinished. You’ll also want to consider the quality of the original material; solid wood cabinets tend to respond better to refinishing than those made from particle board.

Is Sanding Necessary for Refinishing?

Is Sanding Necessary for Refinishing

Sanding helps to create a smooth surface and ensures better adhesion of the new paint or stain. However, some modern refinishing products claim to work without the need for sanding. Always read the instructions and possibly test on an inconspicuous area first.

Will Restoration Fix All Structural Issues?

Not all structural problems may be fixable with restoration. In cases of extreme damage, it might be more cost-effective to replace the cabinets altogether. A professional can help you assess whether restoration is a feasible option.

How Long Do Both Processes Take?

While refinishing can take anywhere from a few days to a week, restoration time varies widely based on the scope of the repairs. Some jobs can take several weeks. Ensure you have a clear timeline from your contractor if you choose to go professional.

Can I Use My Cabinets During the Process?

During refinishing or restoration, your kitchen will likely be a work zone, making cabinets inaccessible. Plan accordingly; you may need a temporary setup for your essential kitchen items.

Are There Eco-friendly Options?

Yes, some low-VOC paints and stains are less harmful to the environment and have less of a lingering smell. If sustainability concerns you, these are good options to consider.

How Do I Maintain My Cabinets Post-Refinishing or Restoration?

For both, regular cleaning with a gentle cleaner is advised. Avoid harsh chemicals that could strip away the finish. With restoration, check periodically to ensure all the hardware remains tight and functional.

What Preparations Do I Need to Make Before Either Process Begins?

Before either refinishing or restoring your cabinets, you’ll need to empty them completely. Protect your countertops and floors, and consider setting up a temporary kitchen space. If you’re DIYing, make sure you’ve got all your supplies ready.

How Do I Choose a Reliable Contractor for Restoration?

For restoration, especially, it’s crucial to find a contractor with a proven track record. Look for online reviews, ask for recommendations from friends or family, and request to see a portfolio of their work. Always get multiple quotes and ask plenty of questions.

Can I Restore or Refinish My Bathroom Cabinets the Same Way as My Kitchen Cabinets?

While the methods are largely similar, you’ll need to consider the humidity in bathrooms, which could affect the types of finishes and materials that should be used.

What About Mixing Refinishing and Restoration?

You can mix elements of refinishing and restoration to suit your needs. For example, you may wish to restore the cabinet boxes but refinish the doors for a new look.

Does Refinishing or Restoration Affect My Home’s Appraisal Value?

Yes, a well-executed refinishing or restoration project can improve your home’s value. However, it’s worth noting that the impact is generally more substantial if it complements a well-maintained and modernized home overall.

What Are the Trends in Cabinet Finishes?

Trends shift, but currently, matte finishes and neutral colors like gray, taupe, and white are popular. Wooden finishes that bring out the natural grain are also in vogue.

Should I Change the Hardware Too?

New hardware like knobs and handles can dramatically change the look of your cabinets and is relatively simple to implement. It’s often done in both refinishing and restoration projects.

How Do I Care for My Cabinets After the Process?

Post-project maintenance will ensure longevity. For wooden cabinets, wood cleaners and conditioners can help maintain the luster. Polishing hardware will keep it looking new, and quick fixes like tightening a loose screw can prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.

Is It Possible to Do Partial Restoration?

Yes, if only certain parts of your cabinets are worn out or damaged, you can opt for a partial restoration. However, keep in mind that the newly restored parts may stand out against the older sections.

Though they may seem similar, cabinet refinishing and restoration serve different needs, involve different processes, and yield different results. By understanding these differences, you can make a more informed decision about which route to take for your kitchen upgrade. Consult professionals for estimates and advice tailored to your specific needs, and enjoy the journey of making your kitchen a more beautiful and functional space.

Let Allen Brothers Be Your Restore and Refinish Guide!

Choose Allen Brothers Cabinet Painting for expert guidance on your cabinet restoration. We offer a full range of services, from assessment to finishing touches, ensuring your cabinets look better than ever. Reach out today to make your restoration process seamless and successful.