Old Kitchen Cabinets – Replace or Repair?


Know the signs that indicate it’s time for them to go

You’re not even sure how old your kitchen cabinets are exactly, although they’ve served you well. But lately you’ve noticed you’re putting additional effort into repairing and maintaining them. They’re definitely aging, and yet you haven’t reached the point of considering replacing them.

In fact, you think that you might be better off resurfacing them. Here’s the truth of that matter – you could very well start the project only to discover it costs more than you expected. And for what reason? To make your old cabinets look new? Too many people who had begun restoring original cabinets got through about 70% of the project before wishing they had just replaced the damn things.replace-kitchen-cabinets-doors

This is not to say that you should never set out to repair them. There are cases where it is cost effective to resurface rather than replace. All you need is the knowledge of how to make the choice. That’s the intent of this piece, to teach you to identify the cabinets you need to replace from those that you don’t.

There’s a sense of permanency to newly installed solid wood kitchen cabinets. Even if youlongest-lasting-parts-of-the-kitchen move into a previously owned home, the cabinets may seem on the stable side. How long they last usually depends on the quality of the wood. It’s not uncommon for cabinets of the highest quality to last fifty years. Crazy, right? Cabinets are among the longest lasting parts of any home.

When weighing the factors of whether or not the cabinets need to be replaced, you may want to look at other appliances or kitchen features that also need replacing. It’s interesting to note the average life of standard kitchen appliances. For instance, a sink will last between 5 to 10 years. A faucet can get through about 15 years. The dishwasher? It’s looking to fulfill its duties for a good 9 years. The gas range lasts about 15 years and the fridge goes strong for over a decade. Natural stone countertops last forever, allegedly, while marble countertops last a fifth of a century.

The reason it’s necessary to consider these facts in relation to cabinets is due to the connection they have to each other – you want them all to match. If parts need to be replaced, you want the new ones to fit in the established theme. An excellent way to ensure this is to pick classic style cabinets, they have a universal timeless look and make for a safe investment.

Age isn’t the only factor that determines a cabinet’s life, other issues can cause them to deteriorate faster, regardless of quality. Also, some simply just don’t hold up well. Not every set of cabinets is going to last a half century, that’s more likely an exception to the rule. So how exactly do you know when it’s time for them to go?
Have you ever considered just how much environmental adversity cabinets are imperiled by in their normal kitchen lives? They suffer exposure to water, steam and other damaging elements, more so than any other cabinet in your home. This is why they are typically replaced before other fixtures, even if they were originally installed at the same time. So let’s look at the signs that indicate you should replace your cabinets rather than attempt to repair them:

Water Damage

If the cabinets are warped and dark spots have begun to appear, the damage may be irreparable. If you cannot close the doors properly there could be severe degradation caused by water. Cabinets are susceptible to it because they are mostly made of wood that is easily affected by excessive moisture exposure. If the cabinets are bubbling, the laminate is beginning to peel, the wood has started to blacken or change colors, or mold has formed, you’re looking at advanced damage.repair-water-damage-kitchen-sink-leak

You’ll want to locate the source of the water causing the issues, assuming it’s not just from years of exposure. Dry out the cabinet completely, and make the necessary repairs. You may need to replace some parts and bleach out stains, adding up to some serious costs. Always be certain that the cabinets can be repaired before investing time and money in trying to do so.

Soft Surface

If you notice that the cabinet surface has become soft to the touch, it’s a sign of severe damage. Push on the sides, do they feel soft, too? The structural integrity is of utmost importance, if the sides are already deteriorating there is no way to save them at that point.


The key to preventing mold damage is catching it early. It can be cleaned and removed. But if it has had a substantial opportunity to spread, your cabinet is in trouble. It can adversely affect the structure and in severe cases it can also be a genuine health hazard.


Poor Condition

If you can no longer drill into the cabinet box against the wall, or securely mount new hinges, it has become too worn to support new doors. Don’t waste your time trying to make repairs that will fail. If the wood is unable to support new hardware, it’s got to go.

So when are cabinets able to be saved? If you intend to reface your cabinets, you’ll need to update the doors, paint them, and add a layer of veneer. This is a typical remodeling technique. Go a little further and add hardware like new handles and you’ll create an all new look.before-and-after-kitchen-repair-remodel

That’s an advantage to re-facing your cabinets. It allows you the opportunity to restyle them and go modern without breaking the bank. However, there are associated costs that aren’t necessarily cheap. You’d be looking at around $150 to replace each door and drawer. You’ll need to figure out how long you expect the refurbished cabinets to last. Will you need to replace them in a few years? Bottom line, if the cabinets are still in good condition inside and out, you’re good to go. If you still appreciate everything about them, from function to style, it’s a no-brainer, all that’s needed is a little repair. The bottom line is to always do an intensive inspection first, to ensure that your decision is the right one. That’s key to saving time and money in the world of modern kitchen cabinets.


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