3 Budget-Friendly Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing Ideas

You don't have to spend a fortune to make your kitchen cabinets look good as new. Try these easy, affordable upgrades.

Updating your kitchen can cost a lot of money—and it's unlikely you will recoup 100% of the costs of a major remodel. Doing minor kitchen upgrades, however, can yield higher returns and cost less overall.

According to the 2021 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling, a minor kitchen remodel that includes upgrades such as replacing the front of your cabinet doors and drawers with new wood panels has an return on investment (ROI) of 72%. While the total cost of a minor kitchen remodel is costly (about $26,200), updating your cabinets can give your entire kitchen a lift—for a fraction of the cost.

"Not only do you achieve a new style, but it is also a more affordable option when renovating the kitchen," says Adam Graham, industry analyst at remodeling site Fixr. "Kitchen cabinet design has a huge impact on the overall style of the space—by keeping them up to date and on-trend, the whole room is given a lift."

Plus, all your cabinets might need is an overall touch-up, not a full replacement—which can cost a lot more money and time. "Updating, upgrading, or refinishing your cabinets is a great option if you have a limited budget and can't afford to replace them," says Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer at home design site Trendey. "If you like the layout of your kitchen and the setup of your cabinets, then why change them? Just improve their look."

Here are some budget-friendly ways to upgrade your kitchen cabinets that will have them looking fresh, without the hefty price tag.

Kitchen with wooden floors and gray cabinets
Panichgul Studios, Inc

1. Paint your cabinets.

A fresh coat of paint can go a long way. "Your biggest friend to refresh your kitchen cabinets on a budget is paint," says Joey Olsen, owner of kitchen design company The Kitchen Guru. "A good-quality paint and some elbow grease are all you need to give your cabinets a lift."

According to Olsen, painting kitchen cabinets yourself costs between $250 to $500 for paint and materials for a small to medium kitchen. If you hire someone to do it, it could be around $2,000 to $6,000. Another option to consider is cabinet painting kits. "They have all-in-one kits for sale at Lowes and The Home Depot that make it easier than ever," says Olsen. This cabinet painting kit from Rust-Oleum, for example, is only $90.

If you are planning on going the DIY route, make sure you do the prep work thoroughly. The majority of the cost of hiring someone to paint goes into the prep work. "Plan to do the extensive prep work yourself or the new paint won't look professional or last," advises DelMonico.

2. Strip paint from wood cabinets.

Another option that costs even less than painting your cabinets is to strip and sand them. According to Fixr, stripping and sanding cabinets costs between $1 to $8 per square foot, while painting them costs about $3 to $12.

"Stripping and sanding down kitchen cabinets can get them back to their original state," says explains Graham. "It will give them a new look and is especially worthwhile if the cabinets are made from an aesthetic material such as solid wood."

DelMonico suggests adding starched paper fabric to the cabinet doors for a bohemian look. "If you have Shaker, raised, or inset doors then work with the architectural design of the door to know where to place the fabric," she says.

3. Get rid of the doors entirely.

You could also remove the doors on your kitchen cabinets for a new look that is affordable to achieve. "To give your kitchen a farmhouse feel, you could remove the doors completely and replace them with fabric curtains," says DelMonico.

She suggests adding starched fabric, paint, or peel-and-stick wallpaper to the back wall inside the cabinet. "Choose a darker design and paint your cabinets white to keep your kitchen feeling fresh and big," adds DelMonico. Alternatively, DelMonico suggests adding a metal panel with a stamped design over your cabinet door.

Upgrading the doors on your cabinets is a more affordable way to upgrade cabinets and give them a new look—after all, the doors are what you see most in a kitchen.

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