7 min read

Kitchen Refresh vs. Kitchen Remodel — Which Is Right for You?

By: Alison McLennan | August 9, 2022

Topics: Kitchen Remodeling

“My kitchen doesn’t need a full remodel, I just want to freshen it up.” 

This is a statement we hear frequently from homeowners, and one that brings up an important question: What’s the difference between a kitchen refresh and a kitchen remodel?

In this post we’ll break down definitions of a refresh vs. a remodel, give some examples of each, and help you decide which approach is best for your kitchen project.


Download the 2023 Home Remodeling Cost Guide


What is a Kitchen Refresh?

At its most basic definition, a kitchen refresh is an aesthetic update that preserves the existing kitchen cabinetry, layout, and mechanicals. 

The cabinets are typically painted, and hardware may be replaced for an updated style. Appliances might be changed out for new models, but there is no change to their location or the mechanical elements needed for them to function. A more extensive refresh might also include changing out countertops and/or backsplash.

While a kitchen refresh may include an assortment of minor replacement items, such as lighting fixtures or the kitchen faucet, re-use of existing cabinetry is a distinguishing characteristic. That means kitchen refreshes work best for homeowners who are happy with their existing kitchen’s layout and functionality, and whose cabinets are in good condition.


How Much Does a Kitchen Refresh Cost in Lancaster?

As with the cost of a kitchen remodel, kitchen refreshes can vary significantly depending on the scope of work. At their most basic level, they can start as low as $5,000 for cabinet painting and new hardware. Add new countertops and a tile backsplash and that price will jump to $25,000 and up.

While it’s possible to freshen up your kitchen just by painting the cabinets, most of our clients are looking for a more dramatic transformation. Our typical kitchen refreshes usually involve painted cabinets, countertops, backsplash, minor trim work, and fresh paint. Projects such as these average in the ballpark of $30,000–$45,000.


A kitchen refresh might be right for you if:

  • You don’t want to change anything about the layout and functionality of your existing kitchen.
  • All the mechanical elements of your kitchen are in sound working order (rough-in plumbing, electrical, etc.)
  • Your cabinets are in good condition, including drawer glides and cabinet doors.

A kitchen refresh might not be a good option if:

  • You want to change the kitchen layout or relocate appliances to make their placement more intuitive.
  • You’re unhappy with the functionality of your kitchen but looking for a low-cost solution. In this case, a kitchen refresh will not solve your underlying pain points, and will consume finances you might rather save until you can plan a full-scale kitchen remodel.
  • You have heavy grease build-up on your cabinets (cabinets can be cleaned, but when the build-up is extensive, the cost of cleaning can eliminate the savings from re-using existing cabinetry).
  • Your cabinet doors or cabinet boxes are cracked or sagging, or there is water damage or swelling to the cabinet boxes. This often indicates the cabinets are at the end of their life.
  • Your cabinets were previously painted and you don’t know if the correct products were used to clean, prep, and finish them. It’s essential to use quality products to clean, prep, and paint cabinets. Cabinet paint is different than standard trim paint, and if your cabinets were previously painted with the wrong products, this could affect the longevity of your refresh.

Examples of Kitchen Refresh Projects in Lancaster

For simplicity we label all the projects in our online kitchen gallery as “kitchen remodels.” However, some of them are actually kitchen refreshes. The following examples include both straight-up refreshes—in which all cabinetry elements stayed in place—and hybrid refreshes, which involved minor cabinetry alterations. 

These projects ranged in price between $17,000 and $65,000.

Lancaster kitchen remodel with brick backsplash

Karen's Lancaster City Kitchen Remodel


Manheim Central Kitchen Remodel

Mark & Maureen's Manheim Kitchen Remodel


Manheim township Kitchen Remodel

Kathy's Manheim Township Home Remodel



Andrew & Marie's Centerville Kitchen Remodel


What is a Kitchen Remodel?

Unlike a kitchen refresh, a kitchen remodel typically involves removing all existing fixtures and starting with a blank slate. Everything is on the table, including reconfiguring walls and appliance locations to optimize traffic flow and functionality. 

Kitchen remodels usually entail full replacement of cabinets, countertops, backsplash, flooring, plumbing fixtures, lighting, paint, and appliances. With the extent of work being completed, it’s standard for kitchen remodels to require a building permit, whereas kitchen refreshes generally do not.


How Much Does a Kitchen Remodel Cost in Lancaster?

There’s such a wide range of options when it comes to full-scale kitchen remodels that it’s always a challenge to discuss “average” pricing. However, we’ve done our best to do just that in our Home Remodeling Cost Guide, which is free to download.

You can also read our post about kitchen remodeling costs in Lancaster, where we dive deep into the big elements that impact the price of a kitchen remodel. 


A kitchen remodel might be right for you if:

  • Your kitchen is not functioning well for your household, and your pain points will not be resolved unless you reconfigure the layout.
  • Your cabinets are of poor quality or in poor condition, and cannot be re-used.
  • The fixtures and finishes in your kitchen are showing their age and in need of replacement.

A kitchen remodel might not be a good option if:

  • The financial investment required for a full remodel is not available to you.
  • You don’t have the time or margin to engage with a design-build firm in designing a kitchen that will meet your needs.
  • You’re planning to sell your home in the near future.

Examples of Lancaster Kitchen Remodels

I’ll drop some of my favorite Lancaster kitchen remodels here, but you can also find lots of examples in our kitchen remodeling gallery

Or, if you love some before-and-after slider fun, check out the kitchen section of our before-and-after gallery

The projects below are full midrange kitchen remodels, which typically average between $85,000 and $130,000.


Bill & Liz's Conestoga Valley Kitchen Remodel


Mike & Abby's Manheim Township Kitchen Remodel


Mike & Fran's Leola Kitchen Remodel



Michelle & Peter's Hempfield Kitchen Remodel



Still Not Sure Which Kitchen Project Is Right for You?

If you’re still on the fence about whether to pursue a kitchen refresh or invest in a full-scale kitchen remodel, you’re not alone. This is a common question for our clients, and we love to help them discover the solution that best fits their needs. 

And that’s the purpose behind our consultations—we want to provide an easy way for you to explore your options, without any cost or obligation. You can book a consultation by clicking below. 

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Written by Alison McLennan

Alison is President of McLennan Contracting, which she owns alongside her husband, Tim. Together they have three children, whom they homeschool. When she isn't working, teaching, or planning the family's latest RV trip, Alison can be found introverting with a book in one hand and coffee in the other, or playing video games with her kids.

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