after photo of kitchen cabinets
Photo: Geoffrey Gross
Colors for cabinets and walls that complement each other are more pleasing to the eye than dramatic color differences.
Assaulted by everything from grimy hands to cooking grease, kitchen cabinets take a beating. And although cabinet replacement might be inevitable, you can buy some time by painting your cabinets.

Painting cabinets, especially if you do the job yourself, costs far less than outright replacement. Bargain-basement cabinets for a 10x12-ft. kitchen can easily top $5,000, not including the cost of installation or new counters, and your new cabinets may be of lower quality than the ones you're getting rid of. Refacing cabinets, a process of veneering existing cabinet boxes and replacing doors and drawer fronts, is another option, but a top-notch refacing job starts at $3,500. The materials for painting (brushes, primer, paint) will cost about $200. Having a pro do the work will run at least $1,000, more if the painter insists on stripping all cabinets.

Be aware that even the highest-quality paint job can't cure the evils of poor kitchen design or hide fundamental structural flaws in cabinets. Cheap cabinets grow especially frail with old age. Thin sides and backs, which are often veneered with vinyl paper, can peel or delaminate. Undersize particleboard cabinet bottoms or shelves sag or even break. Hanging rails, particularly on upper cabinets, might begin to pull loose.

Although you can replace doors and drawers, widespread structural problems such as these would render cabinets a bad bet for refinishing, or much of anything else. You would be better off replacing them. But if damage seems limited to worn surfaces, nicks and dings, paint can work miracles, especially when coupled with new cabinet hardware.

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