How to Buy Replacement Cabinet Doors

Cabinets are undoubtedly the most expensive item in any kitchen remodel. One budget-friendly alternative to buying a whole new set is to replace just the doors and drawer fronts. You can do just about anything -- change a country kitchen to one with European flair, for example, or ditch the fifties white laminate for something more sleek and modern. Done right, you can have a whole new look in your kitchen for fraction of the cost of new cabinetry.

Consider the following as you explore the options:

1. Material: Cabinets and cabinet doors are usually made from solid wood or a laminate, which is a synthetic surface bonded to a manufactured fiberboard. Your new doors can be made from the same material as your old cabinet frames or they can be different. Some people resurface the base when they replace the doors.

2. Door style: Doors come in three basic styles: flat, recessed panel, and raised panel. Within those, there can be lots of variation. In a recessed panel door, for example, the panel can be flat or grooved while the frame can be thick or thin and have straight edges or curved. Sometimes people choose a different style for the drawer fronts and the doors.

3. Frameless or framed: Frameless cabinets do not have a front frame; the doors are attached to the cabinet sides. Some cabinet doors, called full overlay, look frameless because little to none of the base is visible when the doors are closed. On framed cabinets, the doors are attached to the front, usually exposing about an inch of the frame around the door. Whether your cabinet bases are framed will affect your door choice.

4. Hinges: Hinges can be exposed or hidden, depending on the framed or frameless style of the door. Even if you think your old hinges will work, it is usually safest to buy the hinges that are sold with your new door.

5. Hardware: Choosing new handles can be one of the most fun parts of dressing up the old cabinets. Everything from sleek chrome knobs to the country shabby-chic look is available. If you're saving lots of money by reusing your old cabinets, you might feel able to splurge on a hand painted ceramic knob or another specialty product. And no one says you have to use the same hardware on every cabinet. Consider creating a focal point on the doors under the sink or above the stove.

If replacing your cabinet doors seems overwhelming, remember that you're saving money in the long run, and consider hiring a contractor. Remember to check with the better business bureau, get referrals from past customers, and ask for pictures of previously completed projects.