N-Hance wood renewal advertises itself as a no mess, no odor, no dust quick and easy solution to refinish your cabinets for a fraction of the cost of replacing them. N-Hance is the wood resurfacing service that you’ve probably seen advertised in The Home Depot.
We used N-Hance to turn our old faux whitewashed pink cabinets into dark cherry cabinets. Did they really live up to their promise? Was it the most affordable and easiest kitchen cabinet renewal option available? And how have the cabinets held up over the years?
If you’ve ever walked anywhere near the appliance and kitchen section of Home Depot, you’ve seen the advertisements and the promises of a miraculous cabinet makeover for a fraction of the price of replacing all your cabinets or doors. As long as your wood cabinets are in reasonably good condition you can change the color of them with the N-Hance Wood Renewal system. Your kitchen will look amazing, the process only takes a few days and you’ll save thousands of dollars.
But is it true? My wife and I used N-Hance to change the color of our cabinets three years ago. Here’s what happened:
We bought our house for a steal because it was owned by a little old lady who hadn’t updated a single thing in the home since she moved in 20 years ago. The original builder’s grade paint was still on the walls and every single light fixture was original. The kitchen cabinets were a perfect mid-1990’s whitewashed pink color and they quickly rose to the top of our “must fix” list.
Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing Options and Costs
Something had to be done. We wanted a kitchen that was at least presentable, but we really couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money. Our cabinets and drawers were in excellent working condition, but they were really fairly ugly. After some research we came up with three options and we compared the pros and cons of each.
New Cabinet Cost
Our kitchen has about 22 cabinet doors and 6 drawers so we have a lot of cabinetry. Replacing all those cabinets would have allowed us to pick out exactly what we wanted and we would have probably upgraded some of our cabinet hardware, but most the cost with installation would have been anywhere between $25,000 – $45,000.
Cabinet Resurfacing Cost
When you reface a kitchen you essentially replace all the cabinet doors and then put matching laminate sheeting over your existing cabinet shells to match the new doors. Some people swear by resurfacing, but there are occasional horror stories about the laminate only lasting a few years before it falling away or chipping off. We looked into this option as well and for a kitchen of our size we were getting quotes between $9,500 and $13,000.
N-Hance Cabinet Color Change Cost
N-Hance is actually a company that offers a number of different wood (and granite) renewal services. They use a lot of fancy buzzwords and explanations, but when it comes right down to it they use a proprietary process to clean and stain your existing cabinets. They can clean you cabinets well enough to make them look new, they can tint the color of your existing cabinets, or they can completely change the color of your cabinets, as long as you’re going from a light color to a dark color. Because we wanted to go from faded pink to a dark cherry color our cabinets were given the full color change process. The cost for our kitchen? Just shy of $3,500.
So let’s look at that again:
|New Cabinets:||$25,000 – $45,000|
|Cabinet Resurfacing:||$9,000 – $13,000|
|N-Hance Color Change:||$3,500|
From a financial perspective N-Hance is by far the most affordable option.
The N-Hance Process – Start to Finish
It’s important to note that N-Hance franchises are local operations, so some companies might do things a little differently depending upon who is doing the work. We contacted our N-Hance contractor through The Home Depot, but you can actually look them up and reach out to them independently. We were told that going through Home Depot actually got us a lower price than going to them directly, but I’d encourage you to look into this yourself.
Here’s an overview of each step we took to get our cabinets resurfaced with The Home Depot and N-Hance.
Set up the Initial Meeting
My wife and I went to the kitchen cabinet area of our local Home Depot, asked about various cabinet options, and decided to schedule an estimate for the N-Hance process. Our cabinets were light and we wanted them darker, so they were good candidates.
The N-Hance Sales Pitch
About three days later the wife of the owner of our local N-Hance franchise came to our home with about 150 pounds of stained wood and cabinet door samples. She looked at our cabinets, took a bunch of measurements and notes and then went through the sales pitch. We didn’t really need much of pitch, we just needed a reasonable price and an estimate of how long it would take. She said she’d email us a formal quote in a day or so.
The Formal Quote
True to her word, we received an email with a quote about 24 hours later. We opted to have a special invisible “protective” layer put on the cabinets for an extra $300 and we asked if they would change our single knob cabinets to duel screw handles if we supplied the cabinet hardware. They agreed to do that for an extra $150. For about $3,500 we could get a “new” looking kitchen, so we agreed to it.
The First Day
Our first day of cabinet resurfacing happened about two weeks later. We spent the previous weekend moving everything out of our kitchen cabinets and filling our dining room with boxes of plates and silverware and glasses and food. The whole color change process takes about three to four days, so you’ll be without a kitchen during that time. We put our microwave on our dining room table, moved our fridge into our family room and either ordered pizza or heated up quick frozen meals for the week.
On the first day of work the N-Hance crew showed up on time and consisted of the owner and two assistants. They looked the project over, brought in some equipment and quickly got to work.
Removing the Cabinet Doors and Hardware
The first real step was removing all the doors, knobs, hinges and drawer faces. They proceeded methodically, carefully labeling and numbering every cabinet door with mini Post-It Notes.
Taping Off The Cabinets
The N-Hance stain is applied with a spray gun (and there’s a bit of sanding involved), so the rest of the kitchen has to be taped off to avoid over spray. Every wall, back splash, appliance that can’t be moved, light, floor and ceiling which is close to the cabinets are taped over with blue painter’s tape. They hung brown paper cabinet openings to make sure the insides of the cabinets were not sprayed. This was the end of the first day for our kitchen. The N-Hance crew had spent about six hours or so at our home and had prepped our kitchen for the actual staining on the next day.
Cleaning the Cabinets
The doors were taken out to their truck. They were going to be cleaned and stained at their local facility and not here at our home. The cabinets, however, would have to be stained in place in our kitchen. First, they went over the cabinets and cleaned them thoroughly with a special cleaner and degreaser. They took their time with this process and really, really made sure every surface of the cabinets was grease free. This took all morning.
After the cabinets were cleaned the crew moved on to lightly sanding all the cabinets, essentially roughing them up a little bit with a high grit sandpaper. Like the cleaning, the result was not visibly noticeable to the naked eye, but they were very thorough careful about what they were doing.
Fill In Cracks and Dings
There were a few areas that required a little more than just a thorough cleaning. They filled in a couple dings and sanded out one discolored area of our cabinets. The crew took their time with this and went over the cabinets several times, making sure the results were to our liking. The idea behind all this is that if you spend a lot of time prepping the wood it will take the stain a whole lot easier.
Approving A Sample
There was a day of downtime here as our schedules didn’t mesh, but that night our N-Hance saleswoman showed up with one sample kitchen cabinet door that had been stained at their site. She wanted to be sure it was the proper color that we wanted for our entire kitchen. I won’t lie: we thought it was beautiful. I didn’t even think it was the same cabinet door, it was that much of a dramatic change.
Staining the Cabinets
At the beginning of the second day or work (technically third) day the N-Hance crew showed up with just two guys this time and got to work pretty quickly. They hung large plastic sheets from the ceiling to protect rest of the kitchen and began mixing the stain. Within an hour they had their electric air compressor working and they were beginning to spray our cabinets with an air gun paint sprayer. The initial spraying went slowly as they adjusted the sprayer and worked to make sure the cabinets matched our approved cabinet door. Eventually they planned on three coats and got to work. The paint spraying with the air compressor was a bit noisy, but there really was no discernible odor. The spraying of the kitchen took about 6 hours start to finish.
Clear Coat and UV Lightspeed Protection
We also opted to have our cabinets protected with a special process that involved using a UV light to cure the stain and give it a professional-looking finish. The clear coat finish was applied by hand and allowed to dry. After dry, it only took an hour or two for the N-Hance crew to slowly pull a large UV light unit around every inch of our cabinets, effectively “curing” the finish. They went through this process twice.
Attaching Cabinet Doors
On the third day of work the N-Hance crew arrived with all our stained cabinet doors and began installing them with the new hardware we had chosen. The new hinges matched our previous hinges exactly, but they needed to drill new holes for our cabinet handles which was a slow process. After a few hours everything was installed and back in order and we were very happy with our new kitchen.
Video Overview of N-Hance Cabinet Change
One Week After N-Hance
As we started moving food and plates back into our kitchen we realized that something “wasn’t right” but neither my wife and I could put our finger on it for the first day. Then we realized that several of the kitchen cabinet doors actually opened in the opposite direction than they had before. So we had some cabinets that used to open to the left now opening to the right and vice-versa. We shrugged this off until we realized our doors were now banging into each other and if we weren’t careful we could actually get our fingers smashed between cabinet handles pretty easily.
I started looking at more of the cabinet doors more closely and that’s when I noticed that two of the cabinet doors were actually installed “upside down” with the filled in old cabinet hole clearly showing in the opposite corner of the new handle. We realized that when the N-Hance crew was attaching the cabinet doors again they had no labels and no way of knowing which door went with which cabinet. At some point the labels were removed (probably during the staining process) and never re-attached.
We called N-Hance and after a little bit of back and forth they agreed to correct the problems and even refinish one of the doors because of the handle and hole issues. I consider this a pretty minor mistake and since they agreed to fix the error we were more than happy with the final results.
This does highlight the inherent problem with any contracted service: the end result is only going to be as good as the people who work at the franchise in your area. I don’t know how much experience or training our installers had. I suspect they were relatively new to this given some of the confusion we had in scheduling and processing.
After completing our cabinet resurfacing N-Hance left behind a few maintenance items. First, they gave us two cans of a special “cleaning fluid” which is the approved cleaner, though I suspect it’s just their version of Pledge. They also gave us a touch-up marker for little scratches and a very small glass vial of stain. I guess we can paint that on if we need to.
Water is the enemy of these cabinets, so you’re not supposed to wipe them down with any sort of water-based product or damp rag. Instead, you can use the approved cleaner and buy more (from N-Hance) when you need it.
N-Hance Cabinets – How Do They Hold Up?
We had our cabinets resurfaced (stained) by N-Hance about three years ago. While we still think the cabinets look a lot better than they were when they were pink, we’re starting to see some of the inherent problems in using a proprietary stain on our cabinets. Here are the issues we’ve noticed:
Color differences: Most of our kitchen cabinets do not get direct sunlight, so we didn’t notice this at first, but the cabinets are not all the same shade. This is not something you notice right away, but more than one person has commented about the cabinets on one side of the kitchen being a little darker than the other. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s something that nags at us every now and then.
Hardware Holes: Again, this might not be typical, but because we replaced our single screw knobs with double screw knobs the filled in holes can still be noticed if you’re looking at the cabinets with more than a casual glance. We were told they would be “virtually invisible” but they were clearly no better at using wood filler than I am.
Over spray: Yes, the N-Hance crew took their time and were entirely professional. They taped off and covered everything they could before using the paint sprayer. But whenever you spray any sort of paint or stain you’re bound to leave a few spots on things you didn’t intend to stain. There was minimal over spray in our kitchen, but there were several spots on our tile backsplash as well as a few spots on the edge of our kitchen walls. I was able to paint over the spots on the wall, but we still have a few small stain spots in our tile grout.
Wear Spots: The single biggest complaint we have about the N-Hance process is the lack of durability in the stain. We are not rough with our cabinets, we’ve only used the specialized cleaner and we’ve been cautious about splashes and spills. But after the second year or so the surface area behind almost every cabinet handle has a big wear spot where the stain has rubbed off. Almost every cabinet edge in our kitchen has a thin line of pinkish light wood poking through the stain. The N-Hance process uses a water based stain and poly so that it dries quickly and doesn’t have much an odor, but those benefits sacrifice strength and ability to hold us to everyday use. The durability of N-Hance stain is questionable. It just doesn’t hold up to being touched by accident.
We’ve used the stain marker they gave us (it doesn’t really match the color on our cabinets) and we’ve tried wood touch up pencils. Both help a little bit, but it’s hard not to notice the light worn areas on our dark wood cabinets.
Overall, our kitchen still looks pretty good, but we’re disappointed in the wear. We’ll keep touching up spots and keep covering up things with stains and pencils and markers, but at some point we made need to call them in to see if they can do a touch up without taking the whole kitchen apart.
Based on this wear issue, I’m not sure if I can really recommend using N-Hance unless you’re planning to move soon or you’re not actually going to use your cabinets all that much. Don’t get me wrong: the cabinets look 100% better than the pink whitewash we had before. We still tell people to look into N-Hance for their own kitchen. We do, however, warn them that with with regular use and regular wear they will have spots that only last about two years before needing touch-up.
For the cost, the durability issues of N-Hance make it a somewhat questionable long-term investment. If, however, your cabinets are in good condition and you have a limited budget, the N-Hance process was relatively affordable and hassle-free. If you’re itching for project and want to save some money, you’d probably be better off finding some off-the-shelf cabinet stain product and then doing it yourself or paying a handyman to do it for you.