If you're looking at a kitchen remodel or you're just getting a little worried about the condition of your kitchen cabinets, you might be wondering how long kitchen cabinets should last for. On the whole, kitchen cabinets are built to be pretty sturdy, but water damage and wear-and-tear will inevitably take their toll as the years roll on.
Old cabinets aren't invincible!
In this Kitchen Infinity article we're going to look at cabinet refacing, replacing, refinishing, and how long your kitchen cabinet doors should last before they need sprucing up!
How Long Do Kitchen Cabinets Generally Last?
Kitchen cabinets should be replaced whenever they are in poor condition or whenever you feel that it's necessary to freshen up your kitchen's style as interior design trends change. High quality kitchen cabinets can last for up to 50 years. That is assuming the cabinets have been keep in good condition. It's not uncommon to hear of people who have kitchens designed in the '60s and '70s since the kitchen cabinetry at that time was made to last. However, cheaper (or poorly cared for) cabinets will usually last for less than half that time. At which point your cabinets will certainly need to be changed!
Generally speaking, if you've got high-quality custom kitchen cabinets in good condition, then you won't need to replace them for at least 25 years on average. In fact, many kitchen manufacturers give you a 25-year guarantee that their kitchen cabinets will last all that time without needing to be replaced. They might be replaced because of termite or water damage.
Old cabinets need replacing when they become too damaged or unfashionable to serve you!
How Long Should A New Kitchen Last?
Most manufacturers say that a whole new kitchen remodel – which includes countertops, cabinets, tiles, flooring, and more – should last for at least 20-25 years before it needs replacing.
Of course, this is assuming that you're working with high-quality durable drawer fronts and cabinet doors which you keep in good shape through proper maintenance and cleaning. If you neglect your new kitchen, it will obviously decline much quicker.
C'est la vie!
Although a completely new set of kitchen furniture should last for at least 20 years, it's quite possible that you'll want to replace or renew certain parts of the kitchen to keep them looking nice and on-trend for the times.
For example, when people want to freshen up their kitchen cabinets without getting new ones installed, they usually get them refaced or refinished.
What is Cabinet Refacing?
Kitchen cabinet refacing is when you replace your kitchen cabinet doors, but keep the existing framework and shelves as they are. If your cabinet reface project involves cabinet doors which are a totally different color, then you might paint or laminate the exterior cabinet frames to match the color of the new cabinet doors.
Refacing cabinets is a cheap way to make your kitchen design feel brand new.
If your shelves and cabinet frames are in good condition, then refacing is a great way to make your kitchen cabinets look like they're brand new by only replacing the front-facing part that people see. And on the topic, you might also be curious about cabinet refacing versus painting.
What is Cabinet Refinishing?
Cabinet refinishing is when you make your old cabinets look like new cabinets by taking off the doors and renovating them to make them look better or different. You can only do this if the existing cabinets are in decent condition.
For example, you might sand your cabinets down to get rid of grime and scratches on the surface. Then you could repaint them a different color and varnish them so they look like brand new fresh cabinets. You could keep the same fitting if you want, or you could screw on entirely new handles and hinges to help make the design feel more modern.
Cabinet refinishing is usually the cheapest way to renovate your kitchen cabinets, though it does require the most effort. If you're willing to put in the elbow grease, it could be a really cost-effective renovation project.
Is It Cheaper to Refinish or Replace Cabinets?
Generally speaking, it's cheaper to refinish cabinets than replace them entirely.
Replacing cabinets means that you're going to buy entire new cabinet frames, shelves, fittings, and wall mounts – it's a huge job which can quickly become expensive unless you're getting cheap low-quality cabinetry made from particle board or MDF.
Spoiler alert: don't bother with these low-quality cabinets!
On the other hand, when you refinish or reface cabinets, you're still working with the existing cabinet framework but just replacing or refinishing the doors, giving the kitchen cabinets the look of totally new cabinets despite just being different from the front.
If you're a homeowner looking to remodel your kitchen on the cheap, your best option would usually be to refinish your existing cabinets, assuming that you like them and they're in good condition.
However, if your kitchen cabinets are moldy, rotting, old, or you just don't like them, you should reface cabinet fronts with fresh doors that give the whole space a fresh feel without actually putting that much work in.
So yes, it's pretty much always cheaper to reface or refinish cabinets rather than replace them entirely, but you need to do what's right for you!
How Long Does Cabinet Refacing Last?
If your cabinetry is made from solid wood in good condition (i.e. your shelves and frames are still very strong) then you can usually expect a refacing project to last for another 15-20 years before needing a replacement.
Obviously, it's hard to say for sure without looking at your exact cabinet frames, but decent solid wood cabinet frames are built to last.
To maximize their lifespan, just make sure that you ventilate steam and moisture out of the kitchen when cooking. Also remember to clean the cabinets regularly and go over them with a polyurethane coat or waterproof veneer if they need it.
The more time you put into caring for your cabinet frames, the more time that your refaced cabinets will have!
When Should You Replace Your Kitchen Cabinets?
Sometimes, you just need to get rid of the old stuff and do a full cabinet replacement in your kitchen.
But how do you know when you should replace your kitchen cabinets?
A lot of homeowners do this every 10-15 years or every time they move home, but there are many reasons and telltale signs that you should replace your cabinets sooner rather than later:
- They're cheap – if your cabinets are made from cheap low-quality materials like particleboard or MDF, they're only going to last so many years before they succumb to moisture and water damage. So it's a good idea of knowing how to repair water damaged cabinets doors.
- Rot and/or mold – if your cabinet frames and rotting, moldy, or just losing their shape, it's time to get rid. Once the cabinet frames have been compromised, you need to replace everything and start again.
- Change of kitchen layout – if you want to change your kitchen layout entirely during a remodel, then you're going to need to get fresh cabinets all over. There's a chance you could repurpose your existing cabinets, but obviously it depends on the layout and whether you still like them.
- Bad smell – sometimes old cabinets just develop a nasty, funky, musty smell. Cleaning will sometimes get rid of this smell, but sometimes you just need to get rid and start again!
- You don't like them anymore – it's a simple reason, but sometimes you just don't like your cabinets anymore and you want to replace them!
There are many reasons you might want to replace your cabinets entirely rather than repair, reface, or refinish. Hopefully this has given you some food for thought!
The Bottom Line
Most of the time, kitchen cabinets will stick around for at least 10-15 years before you need to do anything to them, but it all depends on how well-constructed they are, what they're made from, and if you like them or not!
The cost of replacing all the cabinet drawers and doors can be huge, so think carefully about the best route for you and your kitchen.
Whether you get the cabinets replaced, refaced, or refinished, I hope you end up with the kitchen of your dreams.