Cabinet Refinishing, Remodeling & Refacing FAQ

What are pros and cons for using rigid thermal foil (RTF) cabinets for new kitchen cabinets installation or doors and drawer fronts when refacing kitchen cabinets?


There is no pros or advantages to using RTF finished cabinets, doors or drawer fronts. RTF suffers from these flaws:

  1. They look OK after installation but over the time they start yellowing and discoloring.
  2. They can’t be touched up without noticing the difference.
  3. They are not perfectly smooth and have some texture.
  4. They come in a limited spectrum of colors.
  5. They only come in satin sheen--no semi-gloss or gloss sheen available.
  6. If you replace a door or drawer front under warranty, the new component will have different color since aging and oxidation process changes the color of RTF.
  7. They are not cheaper than other kind of cabinets and usually more expensive.
  8. The core is either MDF or particle board, which is easy to break and impossible to fix without noticeable differences.
  9. Edges of doors, drawer fronts and frames tend to peel off. Pretty often bubbles occur on flat surface of panels.
  10. MDF or particle board easily swell and disintegrate if exposed to wet conditions.
For these reasons, solid wood cabinet doors, drawer fronts and panels are the best choice for any cabinet project, new or refaced kitchen and bathroom




What are advantages of traditionally finished kitchen cabinets with primer and enamel?


  1. If properly done, they surpass any other finishes like RTF or lacquer in quality and durability.
  2. They are smooth, washable, and have a lasting finish.
  3. They come in an unlimited spectrum of colors.
  4. They come in all sheens: flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, gloss and high-gloss.
  5. They are easily to touch up without noticing the difference.
  6. They don’t yellow like RTF or lacquer. However, they get a little bit darker. Even after touching up, a new spot will blend with the old finish.
  7. If you use a proper stain blocking and bonding primer, enamel can be used on almost any kind of material that cabinets are made from.
  8. If solid wood is used for cabinets, doors, drawer fronts and panels, and if right primer and enamel is used for finish coating, you get the best product available. Finish is smooth, washable, durable, lasting and easy to touch up.




Why do most contractors prefer tinted lacquer instead of enamel for cabinet finishes, new cabinets or cabinet refinishing or refacing?


Time is money for contractors, so lacquer is often used to finish a project more quickly. Lacquers and lacquer undercoats dry almost instantly. You can recoat the surface virtually in a few minutes, 15 min or so. Primers and enamel dry slowly and you can usually recoat the next day, or after a few hours if you work in a heated space. Cabinets can be finished with lacquer in one day, while enamel usually takes in 3 days.




What's the difference between cabinet refacing and cabinet resurfacing?


The terms refacing and resurfacing can usually be used interchangeably. Both involve taking the existing cabinet doors, drawer fronts, etc. and replacing their surfaces with laminates or thin wood veneers, as well as changing the hardware.




Why would you choose cabinet refacing or resurfacing instead of repainting or replacement?


Paint can apply solid colors, but it is not always the right choice, depending on the cabinet surface and desired outcome. A woodgrain texture will usually show through paint, and dark surfaces can be hard to cover up. If you are happy with your existing cabinet design and layout, refacing and resurfacing allows you to leave those unchanged will achieving the look of entirely new cabinets. And since refacing and resurfacing reuses your existing cabinets, the cost is much lower than tearing out your old cabinets and installing new ones.




What's the difference between refacing/resurfacing and refinishing?


Refacing and resurfacing is placing new materials, such as wood, on top of the existing cabinets, whereas refinishing is changing the current color, or finish, of the cabinets through sanding, stripping, and staining or painting. You can achieve a total transformation using refacing and resurfacing, such as turning textured oak cabinets into smooth white ones, or vice versa. You have much greater freedom to get the exact look you want when refacing/resurfacing. Refinishing is limited by what's possible with cabinet's material. For example, laminate and thermofoil cabinets cannot be sanded or stained, and they do not take paint well, making refinishing impossible.




When would you do cabinet refinishing?


Refinishing can be an affordable way to bring new life to cabinets, provided its material that can be refinished (i.e., sanded, stripped, stained, etc.), and they are free from dings, dents, scratches, and gouges. Refacing and resurfacing are better choices when you want to alter the appearance dramatically or cover beat up or aged surfaces. In all cases, refacing, resurfacing, or refinishing are cheaper than removing your old cabinets and replacing them with newly built ones.





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