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Upgrading your kitchen cabinets can completely transform the look and feel of your space. Whether you're trying to update the style of your kitchen or improve its functionality, investing in kitchen cabinet upgrades is a great way to enhance your home. In this article, we will explore the many benefits of upgrading your cabinets, as well as some tips and ideas for transforming your space into a stylish and functional area that you can enjoy for years to come.

Importance of Kitchen Cabinets in a Home

Nick Syros

Kitchen cabinets are the heart of kitchen design. They shape the ambiance and functionality of one of the most important rooms in your home. According to Nick Syros with CoCreations Construction and Design, "Kitchen cabinets are so important in a home because the kitchen is the heart of the home. You use it more than any other room multiple times a day."

Having ample storage space in your kitchen cabinets allows you to keep your kitchen well-organized and clutter-free. It also enables you to store all of your cookware, dishes, utensils, and food items in a convenient and accessible manner. By having designated storage areas for different items, you can easily locate and access what you need when cooking or preparing meals. 

In addition, having sufficient storage in your kitchen cabinets can also help to improve the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. With the ability to neatly store away items, you can create a clean and streamlined look that makes actually using the kitchen for cooking much more appealing.

Liz Schoeneberger

West & Woodall REALTOR Liz Schoeneberger notes, "Kitchen cabinets are crucial for efficient storage, organization, and the overall visual appeal of a home. They contribute to the functionality of the kitchen while influencing the atmosphere of the entire space."

Why Upgrade Kitchen Cabinets

Deciding to upgrade your kitchen cabinets can breathe new life into your space. Liz explains, "Upgrading kitchen cabinets can enhance functionality, increase storage capacity, and elevate the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. At the same time, the improved durability of cabinets and incorporating modern features with them are additional advantages." For these reasons, whether your goal is to simply modernize a dated look, or you want to increase your home's value, a cabinet upgrade is a worthwhile investment.

Nick says, "Upgrading kitchen cabinets in a way that fits your personality and the current value of the home is not only a good investment, it's also a good way to fall in love with your home all over again."

He's seen many cases where clients deciding to invest in a kitchen cabinet upgrade has led to them saving and even making money in the long run because it allowed them to stay in their current house for longer. When they do decide to sell, it's usually for a higher price than what they would have gotten otherwise.

Nick adds, "A lot of the homes that were built in the 1980s, 1990s, and in the 2000s here in the North Carolina Research Triangle were pretty much put together at a time where the average cost of a home was a lot less. For that reason, builders at that time were putting in inexpensive cabinetry because they had to build it for less. Homes could only sell for a certain amount. As these homes increased in value, people are now living in $600,000 homes with cabinets that you would put in a $200,000 home. Does that make sense?"

Types of Kitchen Cabinet Upgrades

There are numerous ways to upgrade kitchen cabinets, each providing a different level of change.

Refacing

If your cabinets are still in good condition but look dated, refacing might be the best option. Refacing involves replacing cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and hardware and leaving the cabinet boxes intact.

Refinishing

Refinishing can transform your kitchen by sanding down the old cabinets and applying a fresh coat of paint or stain. While it is a way to work with what you currently have, Nick warns that refinishing isn't an inexpensive process. "You're going to want to hire folks who paint cabinets professionally, not a painter who primarily paints walls. You would have to have someone who understands which paint to use as well as the right procedure and process. Generally, those people are not inexpensive."

Keeping that in mind, he notes, "Where refinishing starts to make sense is if you have a bigger kitchen with a lot of cabinets and the cabinets are still functional. They're operating well, and you like the design."

Upgrade cabinet hardware

Janet Marks Breedlove

Cabinet hardware is often referred to as the 'jewelry' of your kitchen. West & Woodall REALTOR Janet Marks Breedlove says, "By simply replacing the old and worn-out hardware, you can significantly change the look and feel of your cabinets." She adds that this is a particularly good option if you know you're going to be selling your house soon because doing a full kitchen makeover simply doesn’t make sense at that point for most people.

Incorporate open shelving

Open shelves can replace upper cabinets, providing a place to display your favorite dishes or decorative items. They can often make the kitchen feel more open and airy and add a unique aesthetic element to the room.

Take doors off cabinets

Taking the doors off some of the cabinets helps to achieve a similar look to open shelving while still being able to make use of the cabinet boxes and the shelving that's already in place. This also adds variety to the look of the cabinets and can give more character to an otherwise standard kitchen.

Add glass inserts to the doors

If you prefer to keep your dishes dust-free while still displaying them, consider adding glass inserts to your cabinet doors. You can choose from various types of glass, such as clear, frosted, or patterned, depending on the look you're going for.

Replacing kitchen cabinets

Of course, the ultimate kitchen cabinet upgrade is to replace them entirely. Nick says that if you currently have old or builder-grade (stock) cabinets and are looking for a way to overhaul the look of your kitchen, replacing the cabinets with semi-custom or custom versions is the way to go.

Lowe's offers this explanation of the difference between the three types of cabinets.

  • Stock cabinets are typically available fully assembled in standard sizes and how they're arranged. "Sizes and styles are more limited than with custom options, but the price is right for remodeling on a budget."
  • Semi-custom cabinets offer more options for customization and offer a larger range of sizes and styles than stock cabinets. They are built after you order them and require a longer lead time for delivery.
  • Custom cabinets are made-to-order and are built to the specifications of the homeowner. These cabinets offer the highest level of customization and can be tailored to fit any style or design preference. They are usually more expensive than stock or semi-custom cabinets.

Considerations for Upgrading Kitchen Cabinets

When considering upgrading your kitchen cabinets, there are several important factors to keep in mind that will determine which direction you go in.

Budget considerations

When developing a budget for upgrading cabinets, first, consider the cost of the actual cabinets themselves. This can vary greatly depending on the material, style, and size of the cabinets you choose.

Next, think about the cost of installation. If you are not comfortable installing the cabinets yourself, you will need to hire a professional to do the job. This can add to the overall cost of the project significantly, so be sure to budget accordingly. Nick warns that hiring someone to do installation doesn't necessarily mean they'll order, pick up the cabinets, or dispose of the old ones. In many cases, they are simply being hired to install the cabinets. Be sure to clarify with them before you hire them the exact services that they can and will provide.

Additionally, you may need to factor in the cost of any additional features or upgrades you want to include in your new cabinets, such as soft-close hinges, pull-out shelves, or built-in organizers.

Another important consideration is the cost of removing and disposing of your old cabinets. As noted previously, this can be a large expense, especially if your cabinets are large or difficult to remove.

Finally, don't forget to budget for any unexpected expenses that may arise during the installation process. It's always a good idea to set aside some extra money in case something unexpected comes up.

Time and labor involved

If you're planning to upgrade your kitchen cabinets yourself, you'll want to carefully consider the time and labor that will be involved. It's important to keep in mind that it will almost always take longer than you think it will. If you can be fairly flexible with having your kitchen in a state of disarray for a while and you're fairly experienced with projects around the house, tackling this as a DIY project might be a good fit for you.

If that's not the case, you'll need to hire someone who is experienced with this type of project, but be sure and account for their time, labor, and expertise when you're developing your budget.

Potential impact on the rest of the kitchen

Upgrading your kitchen cabinets can have a domino effect on the rest of the kitchen - especially if you are outright replacing them. At this point, you're talking about a partial-to-full kitchen remodel, which Nick says catches many people by surprise. "Anytime you do kitchen cabinets, you have to do countertops. And usually, if there's a tile backsplash, in order to get the countertop up, you're going to compromise the backsplash to some degree."

The Bottom Line on Kitchen Cabinet Upgrades

When you’re ready to give your kitchen a makeover, start with the cabinets. They can make the biggest impact in transforming your kitchen into a more beautiful and functional space. If you need a professional to complete the project for you, be sure to check out our Recommended Homeowner Resources Guide to find local experts that come highly recommended by our agents.

How to Ask Us About a Potential Home Improvement

If you’re considering a home improvement project that you’d like us to weigh in on as far as whether it will add value to your home, we’d love to hear from you! While our agents can’t address specific examples, they’d be happy to offer general guidance. Simply email marketing@westandwoodall.com, and we’ll get to your topic as soon as we can.

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