Re: RE-covering formica kitchen cabinets
The basic cabinets don't change styles much but the doors and hardware do, so often you can get an entirely new look by using new doors and refinishing the cabinets. And yes, there are other considerations to make first- structural integrity, ease of changing the finish to what you want, and the cost of the new doors (which with a good woodshop isn't beyond DIY'ing). If you approach a cabinet-maker to make the doors you're going to get sticker-shocked.
One trick I use to is to see if there are currently-manufactured cabinets available that have doors which will fit in the style wanted, then price those doors (which can usually be special-ordered separately). Most of the time I can get doors this way for half of what custom-made ones will cost locally, but this only works for situations where all the cabinetry is standard sizes and the new ones come in those sizes too. Since the new 'replacement' doors will be pre-bored for all the hardware you must make sure that it will work before ordering. This is one time I like big-box stores because I can buy a cabinet, take it to the site, pull the door and check the fit, then return the cabinet for a full refund without anyone caring about anything.
Basic cabinet face-frame refacing isn't really all that hard to do, but it's a job where the results you get depend on how well you handle the details. A few tools you'll need are beyond the basics too; a trim router or laminate trimmer and jigs for hinging come to mind. Basic refacing often forgets that cabinets have exposed sides which should be refaced to match, and they may have crown molding which will now be too short to reinstall after adding the facing. Because of all this I consider the job to be 7-8 out of 10 on the DIY scale if you expect great results, and not much less for just acceptable results. It's a case of where if you have to ask, you probably shouldn't tackle it yourself.
Do your checks and figures, and then check them against installing new cabinets before you make the final decision- new may not cost much more and if that's the case just go with new and go for quality- cheap cabinetry does not last no matter how good it looks today.
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