Replace Countertop without Replacing Cabinets

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If you’re making over your kitchen but you don’t have a huge budget to spare, you might look into replacing your counters without replacing your cabinets.

While most people will usually get both their countertops and cabinets replaced simultaneously, some homeowners opt for one or the other.

In this Kitchen Infinity guide we take a look at the risks of replacing counters without changing your kitchen cabinets, helping you to decide whether this low-budget kitchen remodel option is right for you or not.

Let’s get to it!

Can you put new countertops on old cabinets?

Technically yes, you can put fresh counters on your existing cabinets. However, it depends on a lot of different factors and it’s not always the best option. If you’re looking for a cheap kitchen remodel, a new countertop on your existing cabinets is a great way to make a large aesthetic difference.

Still, there are many reasons that a new countertop installation may not make sense if you’re keeping your existing kitchen cabinetry. Here are some things to consider:

1. Your kitchen layout may not be ideal

If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen design, you might want to speak to a professional interior designer who can maximize the efficiency and practicality of the space. If you just install a countertop on your existing cabinets, you’re stuck with the same kitchen layout for many more years.

That’s not always good!

However, you might want to rip out your existing cabinetry and install new cabinets in a new layout that makes more sense for your needs. For example, you might add a kitchen island, a peninsula, a butcher block, a new sink, or you may change the shape of the room entirely.

There’s more than one way to organize a kitchen!

Changing the location of your sink or rearranging your kitchen’s surface area could be a great way to liven up the place and make the working triangle easier to fit into the place without a struggle. However, a new sink installation could necessitate totally new cabinetry as well as a fresh countertop solid surface.

Once you put a new countertop on your cabinets, you’re presumably committing to keep the space in the same layout for many years, so make sure that you’re totally happy with the place of everything if you’re going to change countertops and nothing else.

2. Many countertop warranties assume you have new cabinets

If you’re going for an expensive new countertop, such as granite or quartz, you’re likely to get a warranty from the manufacturer to cover any damage or problems that aren’t your fault. When you’re spending a lot of money on a new countertop, it’s good to know that you’ve got protection.

However, most warranty agreements assume that you’re replacing your cabinetry at the same time.

If your new counter has a problem during the warranty period but you installed it on top of old cabinetry, it could invalidate the warranty, even if the problem has nothing to do with the old cabinetry that the new counter sits upon.

3. You could damage your old cabinetry

If your kitchen cabinetry has been around for many years and is starting to look a little worse for wear, putting a big new countertop on it is not always a good idea. This is especially true for heavier countertop material like granite, quartz, and marble.

If you really must replace your countertop but leave the cabinetry as it is, then consider a countertop material that is light and easy to move. You might decide to eventually replace the old cabinetry underneath the new counters, so you need to give yourself options.

Lots of people use laminate for this purpose. Laminate is relatively light and cheap, so it’s not the end of the world if it sustains damage. The surface of laminate is also very easy to clean and wipe down, though the laminate surface won’t cope well with hot pots and pans like heavier stone slabs will.

4. It might not be a cohesive look

Finally, if you’re going to change countertop styles while leaving your cabinetry as it is, consider whether the two things really go together.

If your kitchen style is very dated but your counters look new and modern, it could create a disconnect in the aesthetic that doesn’t look good. You also have to consider your backsplash, for example. If your new counters and your existing backsplash clash, then you might need a new backsplash too.

Before the installation, make sure that everything goes well together! To help with inspiration you can check out our cabinets gallery and different colors for countertops.

What is the cheapest way to replace kitchen countertops?

If you’re looking to change counters to give your kitchen a fresher look, one might want to consider contact paper. This “peel and stick” paper is designed to be stuck over your existing counter as a layer, giving the space a new feel and look while keeping all the materials the same.

You can buy contact paper that is designed to look like marble, granite, stone, and various other materials.

Laminate counters are also very cheap compared to stone slabs, so many homeowners are installing laminate countertops in their homes for a cheap remodel. Laminate countertops are usually cheap MDF or particleboard coated with layers of thin veneer plastic on top.

The Bottom Line

A fresh countertop could be the injection of life that your kitchen needs, whether it’s for practical or aesthetic reasons. However, if you’re going to change the countertop without replacing the cabinetry or backsplash, make sure it makes sense in terms of the look, price, and risks.

Good luck!

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