Cabinet Buying Guide
Before purchasing your cabinetry, it is important to spend some time researching and learning about various cabinet types, styles, and designs as well as knowing how to identify the range of quality of cabinets on the market. It will help guide you towards making an educated decision on what cabinet features are important as well as give you an idea of what your budget can afford.
Cabinets can be a large expense when remolding and can account for up to 40% of your budget. Cabinetry is something you will want to last for years, so it’s important to consider everything from quality of the construction to how you will function in your kitchen to how it the look of the design will complement the rest of your home.
Understanding the contents of this guide will help you know what questions to ask, what features to look for, and what things to avoid when shopping for your cabinetry. Knowing your budget will help refine the scope of cabinetry you are looking for and will help eliminate a lot of the available options. Remember, eliminating options will make this process a lot less daunting. Focus on finding what qualities you find most important so you know how to divide your budget between the things you are more comfortable investing your money in and what things you might find less important or “extra”.
This guide will give you an overview of the vast industry of cabinet making, including:
It may be helpful to bring this guide along when you go shopping. It includes defining helpful terminology so you can ask educated questions and understand what the vendors or manufacturers are referring to. Remember, buying cabinets is a long-term investment, so it is likely that you will have to make multiple trips to your vendor before you are ready to finalize the design and purchase your cabinetry.
Fully designing the kitchen before purchasing your cabinetry ensures that you will have the most functional and cost-effective layout that can last a decade, especially when investing on something as expensive as cabinetry.
There are three types of cabinets. Stock, Semi-custom, and Custom. The three types are also indicative of the cost investment associated with each type. The space you are working with may not require custom cabinets, but the variety that comes with semi-custom or custom options may be worth the extra investment.
Start at $70 per Linear foot
Limited in colors and styles
Limited standard cabinet dimensions
Home centers (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) sell pre-assembled cabinets, while some other stores may require assembly (The Container Store, Ikea)
Basic hardware & drawer slides
$150 - $250 per linear foot
Available in more size configurations
Larger selection of colors, styles, and design
Standard cabinet dimensions, but have more customizable options available
More precise fit for your kitchen
Some added features available
Choice of hardware quality
Can easily cost $500+ per linear foot
Unlimited colors, styles, and design
Custom cabinet dimensions built specifically for your space and needs
Include many added features
Premium hardware & drawer slides
Also known as European-Style, the doors and drawers attach directly to the cabinet box, eliminating the face frame. This look is more contemporary and access to the interior is easier. However, the lack of the face frame can compromise rigidity/sturdiness.
Made of a box and face frame, to which the doors attach. On the interior, there is a small “lip” around the front of the cabinet, created by the frame. The frame is a more traditional look, but adds additional support to the cabinet.
In the large scheme of cabinet design, framed vs. frameless cabinets mostly comes down to which look you like the best. Frameless is a more streamlined, clean look, but a full-overlay framed cabinet can achieve the same look. Most cabinets that you must assemble yourself will only come in a frameless style. Most traditional cabinets come with a frame. Inset cabinet doors tend to be more expensive due to the precision in matching the cabinet doors inside the frame.
Quality of Construction
The quality of your cabinetry is a matter of longevity. Undergoing a kitchen renovation is long and laborious, so you want to select a level of construction that matches with your goals for how long you want the cabinetry to last within the budget that you can afford. Most reputable manufacturers, including stock cabinet manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty on their products, so be careful of manufacturers or cabinet lines that offer less. Here are some basics on what to look for in recognizing the level of quality of cabinetry components:
Premium Quality: Expensive
Solid Wood Dovetail Joinery Full Extension Drawer Slide
Standard Quality: Affordable
Particle Board Veneer Nailed Joinery Integrated with Soft Close
Base Line Quality: Limited Budget
MDF Veneered Panel Stapled / Glued Joinery Integrated without Soft Close
Once you have selected the vendor / manufacturer for your cabinets, the most important thing to consider when buying your cabinets is not only the overall use and design of your kitchen, but the design of the individual cabinets and storage spaces. The details will determine the level of functionality and usability of your space.
Important things to consider when selecting your cabinet components:
*** Where are your appliances going?
*** What size are your appliances?
What do you need to store in your kitchen?
Will the cabinets / drawers be deep and wide enough to store the size of your pots & pans?
Do you need an area to store cleaning supplies away from food?
How many sets of dishes and cutlery do you have? Where do you plan on storing them in your kitchen?
Will any drawers or cabinet doors conflict with the refrigerator or dishwasher doors when opened?
How much space do you need for storing un-refrigerated food items, such as dried or canned foods, spices, condiments, and coffee & teas?
Do you need for storing large items, such as cookie baking sheets, casserole dishes, display dishes, serving dishes?
Where will you store your small appliances, such as your toaster, blender, food processor, coffee maker, etc.?
Will you have any small appliances that permanently take up space on your countertops, such as toaster ovens, blenders, or coffee makers?
Where and how will you store your Tupperware?
Are your dishes & cutlery stored close enough to the dishwasher that you can unload your dishwasher with ease?
Where will you store your finer dish items, such as wine glasses, china, special display platters?
*** You will need to know this before designing your cabinetry.
There are many options for door styles and finishes. Each company will have their own variation of door styles and finishes. Here are some of the basics:
An arch style door features a rounded arch at the top of the door panel, which may be either raised or recessed. Compare with a square style.
A square style door features a straight perimeter frame around the center panel, which may be either raised or recessed. Compare with an arch style.
A slab style door is a flat door without a raised or recessed panel.
A recessed panel door has a flat panel recessed inside the perimeter of a door. Compare to a raised panel door.
A raised panel door features a more decorative center panel that rises in the center. Compare to a recessed panel door.
Commonly used for a rustic look with knotholes, burls and mineral streaks. Can also go with modern/industrial with a darker finish.
Medium-density hardwood with a distinct, moderate grain pattern. Versatile, useful for designs that are anywhere from casual to refined.
Cherry ranges from tan blonde to deep brown and darkens naturally as it ages, blending hues from golden yellow to deep red. Cherry adds elegance to any décor and can be taken back in history or forward in fashion.