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Buying & Selling Tips

7 Things You Should Know About Replacing Kitchen Cabinets

Learn about one of the biggest upgrades you can give your home
By Justin Kerby Dec 2, 2020

Replacing kitchen cabinets is one of the best ways to give your kitchen a makeover. If you know what you’re doing, replacing kitchen cabinets can be pretty straightforward – but be prepared, it will take a lot of time and effort. If you do the right research and stick to your plan, you might even enjoy the process. Start here and be sure you know these 7 things about replacing your kitchen cabinets. 


1. Refinish vs. Replace

When you look up tips for kitchen cabinet replacement, you’ll see dozens of search results asserting that you should consider refinishing your cabinets instead. The truth is, there’s a lot to be said for this argument. If you have solid cabinets already, but you simply don’t like the colouring, design details, or they have minor scratches and breaks, you might not need a full replacement. 

Kitchen cupboard refacing is an affordable alternative to cabinet replacement where you simply replace cabinet doors and drawer fronts, to give the exterior kitchen a new look. 

 Unfortunately, refinishing isn’t an option for every kitchen. You will have to opt for a replacement over a refinish if:

  • Your cabinets are of low-grade quality.

  • Your cabinet structure has serious damage that cannot be easily repaired -  such as swelling wood. 

  • You’re updating the kitchen layout. If you’re going this route, a kitchen cabinet replacement means you can change your cabinet structure to fit your new layout. 

  • Your kitchen cabinets are made of metal. This style started in the 1930s but remained until the 1950s, so if you’re in an older home, you might still have metal cabinets. Unfortunately, this sturdy material is hard to work with, making replacement the only option. 

  • Your cabinets have a lingering odour or mould growth. 

Once you’ve decided that replacement is the choice for you, it’s time to move onto the next set of kitchen cabinet details.


2. Stock, Semi-Custom, or Custom

Before you choose a cabinet, there are three kinds of cabinets you should know about: stock, semi-custom, and custom.


Stock cabinets are mass-produced and often sold at major retailers. These cabinets are typically the most affordable, can come pre-assembled, and usually only take a few weeks to deliver. Unfortunately, because they are mass-produced, stock cabinets come in a limited range of colours, materials, and styles.


Semi-custom, as the name suggests, allows you to have some freedom in the style and size of the cabinets. This option usually starts with stock cabinets but allows the consumer to make some alterations. You can purchase semi-custom cabinets and choose the dimensions of the drawers or select the detailing of the handles. This type of cabinet is more expensive than stock cabinets and often takes 1-2 months to deliver.


As the name implies, custom cabinets are built precisely to your specifications. You can choose the material, colour, size, and finish. Often, homeowners that select this option also choose to add in one-of-a-kind features in their homes such as a dishwasher in a drawer or a warming drawer. 

This option is the most expensive, so expect to pay up to five times more (and higher) than stock cabinets. You should also expect custom cabinets to take the longest to deliver. That being said, sometimes you get what you pay for. Custom cabinets will last a long time and will look exactly the way you want them to look.


3. Framed or Frameless

Cabinets come in two styles: framed and frameless.



A framed cabinet has a supporting structure in the front, which frames the entire box. In contrast, a frameless cabinet doesn't have this outline. There are varying positives and negatives to each type of cabinet. 

Framed cabinets are the typical choice you've seen in most kitchens. It's a more affordable choice and comes in many different types of materials and styles. Additionally, it can be hung on uneven walls.

Overall, framed cabinets are a popular and decent choice for a kitchen with two small drawbacks. Framed cabinets can sometimes take longer to install and might be made of lighter material.


The frameless cabinet is appropriate for those looking for a more modern, sleek design. This option usually offers a quick installation and uses thicker materials. However, frameless cabinets are more expensive and come in fewer material and styling options.


4. Decorating Style

Don't forget that your new kitchen cabinets should match the overall decorating style of the rest of your kitchen, so keep them in mind when you choose your floors, paint, or make any other updates to your home. You can look for kitchen interior design inspiration in magazines, online, on Pinterest, and in showrooms.

First, you'll have to choose the material you want to work with. Your options include natural wood finishes, painted wood, stained wood, or laminate finishes. After picking a material, you'll focus on the other design touches, such as your handle details.

With so many options available, you should be able to find exactly what you want, no matter what combination suits your tastes. And, if you can't, remember that custom cabinets are always an option!


5. Look at Models in Person

There's nothing wrong with purchasing kitchen cabinets online, but it's highly preferable to look at cabinets in person. When you go to a showroom, you can inspect aspects such as the quality of the wood, if the cabinet doors open easily, and if the hinges are adjustable. You can also look for details such as if the shelves are at least three-quarter-inch plywood, as anything less than that will start to sink under the weight of items.

These are all details that are easy to spot in person. If a nearby store doesn't have the exact colour of cabinet you want, you can still go and look at the brand at a model showroom to inspect for quality.


6. Set a Budget

As with any home improvement project, it's incredibly easy to go over budget. When you look at the options out there, it can be tempting to go for the most expensive and modern choice, but you should stick to a plan. 

First, do your research on what average kitchen cabinet renovations cost. Then, identify if you want to spend the average amount, more, or less. 

Make sure to calculate other factors into your final budgetary decision, such as:

  • Will higher quality cabinets increase the home's overall value significantly 

  • Are you planning to sell soon

Once you've identified a budget that makes sense for your goals, make sure you stick to it. 

7. Installation

The last thing you need to consider with kitchen cabinet replacements is if you want to take the do-it-yourself route or hire professional help for installation.

There are plenty of DIY guides and YouTube videos that walk you through a kitchen cabinet replacement. Of course, there are always risks involved when you tackle any home improvement project yourself. You may install the cabinets incorrectly and end up needing to hire help anyway. Or, you may damage the cabinets as you work with them.

Additionally, consider the liability implications. Some home insurance providers require proof of contractor work when paying out on insurance claims. If you don't have this proof, your claim may be denied.

Replacing your kitchen cabinets is a big project, but it's one that will be worth it once complete. Your kitchen will look completely new and your overall home will feel like it got a makeover. Don't forget to take each step one at a time. As you make each decision, you’re getting closer and closer to building the kitchen of your dreams.

Justin Kerby
Justin Kerby is the founder of Something Great, a digital marketing agency that specializes in real estate branding and content creation. They help companies create social media strategies, newsletters, blog content plans, and advertising campaigns.
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