I hope you are not expecting a Wikipedia definition for kitchen cabinet refacing[resurfacing], even they (literally) don't have an explanation of the service ;)
To put it plainly, kitchen cabinet refacing is the smartest way to renovate your kitchen cabinets.
Let's start with what cabinet refacing is not...
There is a lot of confusion, especially online about this service. Let's make it clear that it is not painting or staining existing cabinet doors, drawers, boxes or frames. When refacing, no paint, stain or lacquer application will happen. To paint or stain the existing kitchen cabinets is considered refinishing.
The most interesting part of refacing is that we use veneers or laminates to cover the exposed areas of the cabinetry (gables, front edges, toe kicks, etc.) matched to the new door and drawers that will be installed. Replacing the door and drawer fronts is the easiest and most obvious part of the job but applying veneers or laminates is the most tedious, and certainly the most rewarding.
Refacing (or even resurfacing) done properly will make your kitchen look like a brand new one! Only a professional cabinetmaker might be able to find out otherwise...and even they would really have to look for it. ;)
Homeowners have an extremely wide selection of materials and cabinet door styles to choose from, regardless if deciding on refacing or replacing. The material chosen for your cabinet doors will determine the quality, the look and the cost of the job. The style of the door will considerably determine the overall appearance of the kitchen.
Cabinet doors are available mainly in wood, MDF (painted or thermofoil), plywood, particleboard and acrylic. All of these options are certainly available for refacing.
What is good about kitchen cabinet refacing?
* It will save you 40% - 60% versus the cost of replacing, when comparing the same material and style.
* The absence of obvious and hidden costs that you will/could encounter when replacing the entire kitchen such as plumbing, electrical, flooring, etc.
* It is the best option when you have already had a granite or quartz countertop installed. Trying to remove an existing countertop can be almost impossible without risking damage or cracking.
* It is much faster and less disruptive than a complete remodel, saving you stress and missed time from work.
* Refacing can be a substantial investment in your home. Potential buyers will think you did a complete replacement...meaning more $$$ for you! :)
* Last but not least, your personal satisfaction...how good would it feel to have your friends or family think that you spend double what you really did? And only you will know better!
What are the negatives about refacing?
* Exposed edges on gables will not be perfect, especially with painted veneers. The laminate will chip during the trimming process making it harder than stained wood to touch up. However, on the other end of the scale some stain colors are very easy to apply and don't require any touch ups at all!
* The layout of your kitchen will stay mainly the same, especially if working with existing countertops. Adding or replacing a couple boxes, or increasing the functionality of your kitchen is still very possible.
There are very little negatives about cabinet refacing. It is a smart way to turn your old kitchen cabinetry into new!