Kitchen cabinets generally use up about half of a typical kitchen budget, so you’ll want to be sure you know what you’re getting. The best way to do that is to understand the differences in cabinet construction and materials and how those elements impact their quality and durability.
First, think about how you use your kitchen and how much storage space you need. What are your goals for how you want your kitchen to look and function. Think about the following questions:
1. What don’t you like about your current cabinets? The more specific you can be about what it is you want to have or change, the more focused you’ll be when choosing the right options for your new cabinets.
2. What is the style of your home and your kitchen? Identifying the style you’re looking for will help narrow your focus on available choices and provide some guidance to a kitchen designer or cabinet maker you might work with.
3. Are you looking for environmentally friendly cabinet choices? Going green is possible with products made from bamboo, reclaimed wood or wheat board.
4. What amount of storage space do you need? Look at what you currently have on your countertops that you would rather store in the cabinets.
5. Think about what is most important to you – aesthetic appeal, durability, quality construction, or budget? Be wise about allocating your money between quality materials/construction and aesthetic items like door style, finishes and ornamentation. Usually there is a happy medium somewhere in between.
6. Do you need new cabinets, or will a face lift work? If your current cabinets are in good condition and you won’t be changing the layout, you might want to go with refreshing the existing cabinets. This can be done in any of several ways:
- Cabinet refacing – this involves re-skinning them with a new wood or laminate veneer and replacing the doors.
- Replace cabinet doors and hinges
- Replace knobs and pulls – this can make a big difference to the overall appearance of the cabinets.
OK, the nitty-gritty about cabinets starts here. The basic type are stock, semi-custom and custom cabinets.
1. Stock: These are pre-manufactured in specific sizes, typically in 3″ increments. They come in a limited range of styles.
2. Semi-custom: Also pre-manufactured, but come in a wider array of options and in more sizes. There is more ability to pick and choose details for some customization choices.
3. Custom: These are built to the customer’s specifications, with no limitation on size, style, wood grade or finish. Completely made to order.
Construction and Quality
Cabinets can be made of particle board, MDF, plywood, solid wood, metal and laminate/ melamine.
Drawer slides vary in quality and physical location on the drawer (sidemount or on the bottom) which affects available drawer space.
Cabinets come in 2 basic style – framed or frameless. Framed cabinets have wood frame that outlines the front of the cabinet box. Frameless cabinets do not have this feature.
The most effective way to find the best cabinets is to look at what is available to you locally and see how they compare. Then determine how they match up with your budget. What you should be shooting for is a manufacturer that can give you the most of what you’re looking for (quality – as you see it, options, quantity, etc.) for what you’re willing to pay.