Closeup of a installers hands attaching a hinge a kitchen cabinet.
CUKROV PHOTOGRAPHY; STEVE CUKROV Closeup of a installers hands attaching a hinge a kitchen cabinet.

Specialty remodelers wanting to add another service to their replacement offerings may want to consider one of the hottest home trends that’s also highly profitable while adding a lot of value: kitchen cabinet refacing and redooring.

As the name suggests, kitchen cabinet refacing involves keeping the internals of the existing cabinets boxes and refacing the front doors, drawers and veneers. Redooring simply involves replacing doors and drawers in a color that matches existing cabinet boxes. Often the two terms are used interchangeably.

Either way, that simple refresh adds a lot of value. In the latest Remodeling Cost vs. Value report, a midrange minor kitchen remodel — including redooring — recoups more than 81 percent of its cost, coming in fifth overall for most value added. By comparison, a midrange major kitchen remodel — including new cabinets — recoups only 59% of its costs.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association doesn’t currently track the cabinet refacing and redooring market segment. But minor kitchen remodel/replacement — including refacing and redooring — is a $4.2 billion market excluding design and labor, according to NKBA. And that figure will only climb as more homeowners discover the benefits of cabinet refacing, says Heidi Morrissey, president of Kitchen Tune-Up, a 30-year-old franchise with 180 locations nationwide.

One of the biggest benefits is that refacing/dooring isn’t remodeling and all the attendant hassle that comes with it, Morrissey said. “When you put the word remodeling in front of something, that word carries so much weight. Homeowners’ biggest fear is the mess and the time,” she said. “If you can take those two elements away and still get the change without having to do dishes in the bathroom, then I’m more apt to do the change now. It’s why refacing will continue to grow.”

Today’s homeowners are more familiar than ever with the benefits of cabinet refacing thanks to networks such as HGTV, which often feature it in low-cost makeovers. “The big change in the last 10 years has been the education of the consumer about refacing,” Morrissey said. “Now it’s all about showing the different options and who they’re going to be working with.”

She credits those two factors with her franchise’s double-digit sales growth that’s been happening for years. Over the next five years, Kitchen Tune-Up plans to add another 100 stores. Although Kitchen Tune-up also does new cabinet kitchen remodels, Morrissey said the bulk of the work is in refacing. “It’s not only a great option, it’s preferred by most homeowners,” she added. “You’re getting the new look and the color without the demo. Customers like that.”

Like most replacement work, the margins for cabinet refacing are higher than major kitchen remodels that involve cabinet replacement. Morrissey says the average ticket price for cabinet refacing is around $8,000 with a 50% gross profit. She said most new cabinet jobs only see around 30% profit.

“With new cabinets costs are harder to manage and there’s more areas for delays,” she said. “With refacing, everything is known. I’m not going to take down a cabinet and go, ‘Oh no, look what’s there!’ You’re always going to be more profitable when you know your costs up front.”

But even though profits are higher, refacing actually can be more difficult than cabinet replacement. “When you tear out everything and you have a clean slate, that’s relatively easy,” Morrissey said. “Almost anyone in construction knows how to install new cabinets.”

With refacing, on the other hand, contractors have to work with the existing cabinets — and all their quirks, from things being out of level to unequal reveals. Often, refacing contractors must make corrections to fix those oddities. For example, a bigger door can cover up an out-of-whack reveal. “That’s where the skill set comes into play,” Morrissey added.

Firms that want to move into refacing will need to make sure their contractors are properly trained before entering the market. Then they will need to familiarize themselves with the different systems available. Morrissey recommended exploring different vendor groups as a good first step. “This is not something you can just pick up,” she said. “This is something that you need someone to train into.”

But the most important change firms may need to make is their conception of refacing. Morrissey says too many contractors are still stuck in old ideas about refacing being cheap or unsightly. “There’s always going to be people who are cabinet people, and they’re going to look at refacing as less than. They say it’s a band aid,” she says. “It’s so untrue. And that idea will only hold them back from exploring this option.”

That’s too bad because as the refacing/dooring market continues to grow so will its customer base. “There’s a misperception that once you reface it’s done. But people are now using their kitchen as a statement of their personality,” Morrissey said. “You can reface the same kitchen multiple times, because every five years a new trend comes along and that customer wants to stay on top of it. With refacing there’s the flexibility to do that change.”