Old Doors: Strip and Re-Finish, or Replace?

Opinions vary about whether it's cheaper to replace a cabinet door or re-finish it. October 1, 2010

I have a customer who wants to have her kitchen doors and drawer fronts refinished. I gave her a quote for refacing them but she would rather have them refinished because of the cost. The house has a foundation problem and she is afraid she will not get the money back from the kitchen when she sells the house. I just want to direct her to the most cost efficient and ethical way. The house was built in the late 70's and the cabinets are original. They are not in bad shape, just worn. Any advice?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
Define refinish. A light scuff and a new clear coat, or a full strip and new stain and clear?

From the original questioner:
Because the doors and drawer fronts are worn I assume I would have to completely strip them and then stain and clear coat.

From contributor K:
I can build you a door in ten minutes, or strip one in an hour. Which one do you think would be less expensive? The thought that stripping an old door is saving money is nuts.

From contributor B:
Re-staining the old worn out cabinets can bring a fresh look for a minimal investment of materials, time and effort.

From contributor G:
Even dip stripping is pretty labor intensive, and stripping doesn't always remove the stain, just the coating.

From contributor W:
Just so you know:
20 plus cabinet doors can stripped in an hour, removing the finish and the old stain at the same time. As in any endeavor, the key is in having the right equipment and the knowledge to use it.

Just as cabinetmaking requires an investment in the tools of that trade to be efficient, productive, and etc., so too does an investment need to be made if one wants to add a finishing/refinishing segment to one's business. Adding color and top-coat may be a perfectly fine solution to the problem. Why not take the doors to a local, well-equipped refinishing shop for stripping, then you do the refinishing?

From contributor D:
It has been my experience (25 plus years) that you cannot build a door less expensive than it can be stripped, period! The raw materials and time required make it impossible. You can buy doors from a large manufacturer of doors, such as Conestoga Cabinetry, at a price that makes sense to replace the doors and drawer heads instead of stripping. As already stated, proper tools and knowledge to use said tools is a key component in any service business.