First, the cabinets you choose for your new kitchen will be the items having the greatest visual impact. In the average kitchen cabinets are mounted on or against at least two walls (or the equivalent), and perhaps more. Cabinets will also create the base for an island, whether designed for cooking or for casual dining. The cabinets you select will establish the design of your kitchen.
Second, the cabinets you select will account for about half of the total cost of your kitchen renovation or remodel. Although you can find and purchase cabinetry in a wide range of price categories, this is an almost universally applicable rule of thumb. Good cabinetry in not inexpensive. Most contractors and kitchen designers will agree that kitchen cabinets are not the place to scrimp when designing a new kitchen. Your cabinets will outlast your kitchen floor, your appliances, and possibly your countertops (depending upon the material you choose).
Characteristics of good kitchen cabinet construction:
- Avoid drawers held together with glue, nails or staples
- Avoid drawers made with thin particle board
- Test the drawers before you buy to be sure they will support about 75 pounds when open
- The case or cabinet box should be made of wood that is 1/2 inch thick or more on all sides
- All surfaces of the cabinet should be finished, even the back and the interior sides
- Kitchen cabinets should have adjustable shelves (this is a clear indication of construction quality)
- All shelves in kitchen cabinets should be 5/8 inch thick or more, otherwise they will bow
- Check the quality of the hinges (most should be invisible from the front, no squeaks and no metals that will rust easily) and ensure that doors open completely
- The very best kitchen cabinets are made entirely of solid wood
- A plywood box or case with solid wood frames and doors can still be a good quality product
- Some reliable kitchen cabinets are available at lower cost because they are built with plywood supports and use medium- to high-density particle board for door and drawer fronts. Others use laminate over the particleboard.
Cabinet design installs the cabinet doors in one of two ways. Frameless construction was a very popular adoption from European design in the 60s. The style continues to be very popular in contemporary kitchens. In this style, the door covers the entire box or case of the cabinet. Alternatively, in framed construction, the doors are installed in a way that leaves a frame around the outside of the door. Framed construction is the norm in traditional, country, cottage, and many eclectic kitchen styles.
Ways to purchase kitchen cabinets:
- Knock-down cabinets can be purchased and taken home the same day. Many homeowners can install these units themselves. These are the least expensive types of cabinets and can be the perfect choice if you are on a tight budget.
- Stock kitchen cabinets are available only in standard sizes and limited styles and finishes because they are mass-produced by the manufacturer. These are also a good option when the budget is tight.
- Semi-custom cabinets are also available only in standard sizes. There is a larger selection of styles, finishes, accessories and options. These provide somewhat more flexibility in designing your kitchen.
- Custom cabinets, although available from some cabinet companies, are most often purchased from local cabinet makers. These cabinets are made to order and are thus built to the exact specifications of your needs. They are more expensive, but they offer the largest variety in wood, finish, style, size and special and unique details.
- Hybrid approaches are also very popular. By working with a cabinetmaker to select the kitchen cabinets you like from a manufacturer. The cabinetmaker then installs the standard size cabinets and customizes others for special sizes and needs, as well as adding personal touches and special features.
Many inserts and built-in features are also available to provide for organization and ease of access to items stored within your kitchen cabinets. From pull-out work surfaces, to drawer fronts for refrigerated drawers, to door covers for nooks for small appliances to wine racks, you can customize your cabinetry in a variety of ways to meet your needs. It is possible to create an appropriately designed cabinet or work surface for every need.
There are also a number of features available or customizable to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. These include lower work surfaces that pull out or that are stationary and leave open space beneath. Pull-out organizers, Lazy Susans and other enhancements to make items readily accessible.
This basic information should help you begin to make decisions about your new kitchen cabinets. Keep in mind when shopping that the appearance of your kitchen renovation will be established to a very large extent by the cabinets you choose. Your cabinetmaker will be able to help you consider the vast range of ways you can customize your cabinets and create a unique kitchen design.