Buyer Beware Before:


Refacers are listed in the yellow pages most often under "Kitchen Cabinets and Equipment-Household." But be aware; the quality of work varies widely, and bad refacing work looks bad. If you can, get a recommendation from friends and visit the company's showroom. If the company does not have one, it will send a rep to your home with samples of veneers, cabinet hardware, counters and cabinet doors. Make sure you spend as much time discussing the process with the salesperson as the esthetics.
Since the industry is composed of both local mom-and-pop refacers and national companies like Sears, U.S. Remodelers and Kitchen Tune-Up, it's easy to get several bids. Before you sign a contract, check references and insurance coverage carefully. Ask lots of questions, and nail down the terms of the warranty (for instance, if it's based on full-replacement or prorated cost). Also ask to see past jobs in person. Check out corners, edges and where stiles and rails meet on the face frame. These intersections should be crisp and the grain should run with the length of each member like any wood cabinet. Check to make sure the inside edges of the face frames have been faced as well. Refacing offers convenience and savings —but only if the work is done well. Dealing with Lead If your kitchen cabinets were painted before 1978, the paint most likely has lead in it, and refacing contractors are required to take special precautions when working. They're also required by federal law to provide homeowners with the "Protect Your Family From Lead in the Home" brochure. New adhesives are being developed so refacers don't have to sand, but until they come to market, you should be wary of contractors who aren't knowledgeable about dealing with lead or are cavalier about it. Alure Kitchen Refacing, in East Meadow, New York, has sent its workers to HUD-sponsored seminars to learn how to remove lead paint safely. The key, says Alure General Manager Sal Ferro, is to keep surfaces moist to keep the dust down, seal the kitchen with plastic and have workers wear respirators. Alure also cleans up with HEPA vacuums, which don't exhaust lead dust. Sears and U.S. Remodelers deal with the issue by encapsulating cabinets that have lead paint on them with 1/4-in. MDF or composite board. It's glued to the old surface and the refacing is put on top of that, according to Gary DiBartolo, national business manager for Sears Home Improvement Services.
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