Signs Your Old Cabinets Can be Refinished

In our last blogged, we talked about some of the reasons a homeowner might decide to refinish kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them. As long as the homeowner is happy with the general layout, refinishing or refacing them are vastly more economical solutions. 

But, not all cabinets are suitable for refinishing or even refacing. Certain conditions need to be met for the old cabinets to be utilized again. Here are some of the circumstances which are requirements of re-utilizing old cabinets:


Before and after. The difference is stunning.

Before and after. The difference is stunning.

Shelves have to be straight and undamaged, without warping, cracks, sagging, or other deficiencies. In some cases, some shelves can be replaced or repositioned, but this will have to be the exception, not the rule.

Face frames

The front of cabinets which isn’t comprised of doors or drawers is known as the face frame. The face frame should be secure and without breaks, cracks, or structural damage.


Drawers have to open and close smoothly and adequately. They can’t be warped, cracked, or otherwise damaged. The sides should be intact and align with the bottoms and each other in a tight fit. Slides and their components should also be undamaged and in good shape.

Water and mold damage

Water and wood rot damage are disqualifiers and are particularly prevalent beneath the sink cabinet. The sink area is also an area where sagging or other blemishes might be seen. 


If you intend to refinish your cabinets and plan to use the old hardware, make sure that it’s in good enough shape to reuse. Many times it will have to be cleaned and stripped of dirt, grease, and old paint if the cabinets were ever repainted. Hinges, handles and drawer pulls can all be reused if they’re in good condition.

If the old cabinets are going to be stripped and refinished (not painted) the location and spacing of the holes will usually remain the same. If they’re going to be painted, a little wood putty will open up a world of options for new hardware. 

Refinish or reface?

After it’s been determined that the cabinets are hearty and sound, the homeowner has options. One is refinishing the old cabinets and doors. The other is refacing the cabinets by replacing the old doors and drawers with new fronts. Either of these options is more economical than replacing old cabinets entirely. 

This list is by no means comprehensive, nor is it absolute. The best way to decide on the suitability of existing cabinets and the possibility of refinishing or refacing them is by consulting with a wood expert like the Wood Doctor. Both of these options will bring an exciting new look to kitchen cabinets, and the kitchen as a whole.

The Wood Doctor is the leader in wood restoration, refinishing and refacing in the Portland area. Call 503-560-5220 for a project consultation.