Working With What You’ve Got

Sandra Wood

The kitchen cabinet industry is multi-faceted and driven by a diverse customer base. One area is kitchen cabinet refinishing, which often appeals to the customer who likes their kitchen but doesn’t like the colour, or a customer who may have limited funds to do a total replacement and wants to spruce up what they have. 

Kitchen Makeovers of Aldergrove, BC operates in this space and has done so since 2009 when Tanya Bilmer was doing residential house painting. Tanya’s clients kept asking her to spraypaint their cabinets. Eventually, Tanya was convinced and started spraying cabinets on her customers’ front lawns. 

Today, Kitchen Makeovers is now owned by partners Jessica Louise (daughter of Tanya Bilmer) and Johnny Alvernaz. Together with their team of 30, they work on 8- 12 projects a week and complete anywhere from 30-50 kitchens a month. 

CKCA: What are the pros and cons of refinishing a kitchen? 

Jessica: The pros are you get a like-new kitchen at a fraction of the cost, in a fraction of the time. The con is it’s not a new kitchen, and we are only fine finishers and therefore can only work with what you have already in place. 

CKCA: Do you also replace the hardware (external and internal) in the refinishing project? 

Jessica: We do offer upgrades to new hinges and handles as an option. 

CKCA: What’s the average cost of a typical kitchen refinish? 

Jessica: Our average job is about $6,000. 

CKCA: Do you have consistent work coming through your doors, and is there lots of business for refinishing? 

Jessica: We have consistent year-round work; it is not seasonal. It’s a huge market. 

CKCA: Are you bidding on work where the customer will either transform their kitchen or want to rebuild it? 

Jessica: No, typically, our customers love their kitchens, but they hate the colour. This is our ideal client. 

CKCA: What’s the most common type of kitchen makeover you do? 

Jessica: Chantilly Lace is the most popular colour. The most common types of kitchens we refinish are maple shaker cabinets. 

CKCA: Is white still the most popular colour, or what else is trending in the refinishing business? 

Jessica: Yes, white is still the most popular colour. However, we see a lot more accent colours as well. Black, blue, grey, and green lowers are super trendy right now. 

CKCA: Do you find it difficult to paint over solid wood with beautiful natural grains? 

Jessica: No, but sometimes we get calls asking for re-staining, but we don’t offer it very often as it has to be the right project for us to take on. It’s also costly because it is more labour intensive. 

CKCA: Do you ever go into a kitchen and determine that there’s no way you can refinish it? The quality of the existing cabinets is not great, and you recommend a complete replacement, and you refer them to a cabinet company? 

Jessica: No, we aren’t currently working with a manufacturer, but we want the customer to end up with the best result for them, and if we can’t provide that with our services, we recommend they go elsewhere. 

CKCA: Do you think coatings have come a long way, and do you have a special coating you work with? 

Jessica: Absolutely. When Tanya started, she was using lacquer. Now we use a water-based polyurethane from ENVIROLAK, a Canadian company in Ontario. 

CKCA: How do you stay up-to-date on the latest coatings technology for your work? 

Jessica: There are always new products coming out. These products are always shared online in the Facebook Groups we joined. I would say it is essential to try and test as many as possible before deciding on what you’re using.

CKCA: The majority of readers of this article are kitchen cabinet manufacturers, any final thoughts or comments you’d like to share? 

Jessica: I want to thank the kitchen cabinet manufacturers in BC. Without the quality products they create, we wouldn’t have a business to operate. People will always need new kitchens in new homes, but I think there’s a lot of room for refinishing in the homeowner renovation process. 

We wish Kitchen Makeovers continued success as a niche part of the kitchen cabinet industry. Interestingly, kitchen cabinet manufacturers can add to the selling features of their quality products the ability for their cabinets to be refinished down the road because they are built to last. 

We’re very grateful that Kitchen Makeovers shared their story, and we’re always pleased to hear from members who take great pride in what they do and foster a great team culture. In a tough labour market, we know how important that is. 

The Canadian economy is comprised of many small companies like this one. With the increased demand for kitchens as Canada looks to house a growing population, it is clear there is plenty of work for everyone.

CKCA Members strive for quality, professionalism, and innovation. For more profiles like these and many other benefits, consider becoming a CKCA member!

Sandra Wood is the Secretary and Executive Director for the CKCA. She enjoys “connecting the dots” and facilitating strong networking opportunities to engage members. She believes associations are about fostering strong business relationships fueled by an empathic and sound business approach.

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