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I hate dated oak cabinetry – is it worth refinishing them?

The question

I am considering buying a house with dated golden oak cabinetry, which I despise. How big a job would it be to refinish them?

The answer

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The good news: Oak is hardwood, so it's tough. The bad news: Stripping and repainting or staining the doors can cost up to $100 apiece.

Before you do anything, though, you need to conduct what I call the "How Much Can I Spruce Up the Old and Be Happy Test."

Ask yourself: After stripping and restaining the cabinets, will I be content with the cabinetry's style and function? Will it still look dated? Will it still be crooked? If you decide to do the refinishing, make sure that you are not living in the house at the time, as it is hard on the lungs.

Alternatively, you could spend up to $200 per door (hey, you really hate them, remember) to reface the old cabinets.

Whichever route you go, beware the creep factor: If you don't manage the costs carefully, refurbishing the cabinets can be more expensive (and ultimately less satisfying) than ripping out the old and buying new. It's your call.

Dee Dee Taylor Eustace is an architect and interior designer. Follow her on Twitter: @ddtaylordd. Have a design dilemma? E-mail

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