When Should You Replace Your Kitchen Cabinets?

Most cabinet experts recommend replacing your kitchen cabinets when:

  • The cabinet boxes are damaged
  • Your cabinets smell bad
  • Your cabinets are more than 15 years old
  • You want to update the layout of your cabinets

We’ll go over each situation in more detail.


Need a quote to replace your kitchen cabinets? Contact us online or call 480-641-9611 and we’ll send one of our cabinet experts to your home for a free, same-day quote.


Boxes are damaged

Most cabinets today are made of engineered wood, usually either:

  • Particle board: Tiny chips or sticks of wood are adhered together with resin or glue.
  • Plywood: Thin sheets of wood are glued together in alternate directions to make the wood slightly stronger than particle board.

Cabinets of engineered wood eventually see 2 types of damage:

  1. Structural damage
  2. Water damage

Let’s cover each type of damage in more detail.

Structural damage

Engineered wood isn’t as durable as solid hardwood because it’s various pieces of wood adhered together. This means that, as the cabinets age, the resin or glue binding the wood is prone to breaking down, weakening the structure.

Your cabinets likely have structural damage if you notice:

  • The cabinets have gone “soft” or feel almost spongy to the touch
  • You can’t install new holes or hinges, or the existing ones are starting to come loose or fall apart
  • Shelves have warped under the weight of dishes and other kitchenware

If you notice the above signs of structural damage, you’ll want to replace the cabinets, as you can’t repair structural damage and letting them get worse will only cause more expensive issues in the near future.

But if your cabinets are structurally sound and have no water damage, you may be able to reface them, which would give you a new finish and completely brand new doors and drawer fronts. At Cabinet Coatings, we’ll even give you doors and drawer fronts made of solid hardwood, helping your cabinets last that much longer.

Learn more about how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them.

Water damage

Being so close to the sink and stove, kitchen cabinets frequently come in contact with water. Over time, the water can seep through or get underneath the cabinet finish, getting the wood beneath it wet.

Since wood swells when it gets wet, the repeated expanding and contracting degrades the structure of the wood, causing some of the following tell-tale signs of water damage:

  • Doors or shelving have started to warp
  • Finish has started bubbling or peeling
  • Stains or other discoloration
  • Mold or mildew

You can try repairing water-damaged cabinets—like removing stains or refinishing the cabinets—but depending on the extent of the damage, you may be better off replacing your cabinets in the long run.

Plus, if you have mold growth, that’s very hard to get rid of, so you’ll want to replace the cabinets if they’ve started molding. Improper removal of mold or letting it go untreated could pose health risks to your family.

Cabinets smell bad

The engineered wood most cabinets are made of is porous, which means it will absorb the odors of your kitchen over time.

Unfortunately, since the odors have made a home in the cabinet base, repainting or refacing the cabinets won’t rid your kitchen of the funky odors.

Cabinets are 15+ years old

Quality kitchen cabinets can last upwards of 30 to 50 years, but if your cabinets are made of engineered wood, they’ll probably last about half that long.

As kitchen cabinets age, you’ll start to see the following signs:

  • Structural or water damage (see sections above)
  • Doors and drawers not closing completely
  • Doors coming loose from the hinges
  • Loose cabinet pulls that won’t tighten

You’re ready to update your cabinets

You could benefit from replacing your cabinets if:

  • Your cabinets are hard to access. Are some cabinets so tall or deep that they’re hard to reach? If so, you’d benefit from a remodel to get cabinets that are designed around your unique kitchen and the way you use it.
  • The cabinet doors and drawers don’t function properly. If the cabinet doors or drawers get stuck, make an odd noise, or hit each other when opening them, it’s probably time to replace the cabinets.
  • You’re ready for a new look. If you’d like to update the look of your cabinets (new door and drawer styles, a new color to better match stainless steel appliances, etc.), you’re sometimes better off completely replacing them instead of refacing or refinishing them.

A cabinet remodel will give you entirely new kitchen cabinets—customized to your specific style, needs and wants.

Need a quote to replace your kitchen cabinets?

Schedule an appointment online or call us at 480-641-9611. One of our finishing pros will give you an in-home or virtual consultation—for free. We’ll work with your tastes and budget to help you redesign your kitchen cabinets, so they fit perfectly with your lifestyle.

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