Primer on Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

With nearly 7.6 million homeowners remodeling their kitchens this year, the heart of the home garners plenty of attention. New cabinets can convert a dated, inefficient kitchen into a functional, organized, multitasking space. Nowadays they come with a dizzying array of finishes and options at many different price points.

Here are things we have learned about cabinets over the past 40 years. 

Ideas for Kitchen ImprovementsToday’s cabinets include user-friendly options such as full extension roll-out shelves so you won’t scrape your knuckles as you reach for items buried deep in back. Large drawers in base cabinets can hold pots, pans, and dry goods; they’re as popular as pull-out recycling bins. Built-in open-storage systems like wine racks and china displays look sharp even when empty.

Light-colored woods, oak and maple make your kitchen seem brighter and larger. Darker woods like cherry and mahogany create a more dramatic, furniture-like effect. To give the cabinets less visual heft, most manufacturers offer turned leg pieces that mimic the look of furniture. Door trim kits for appliances can help tie a kitchen together visually, but check with the manufacturer first for compatibility

Cabinet AssemblyThe box is the cabinet’s backbone: the stronger the better. I like heavy boxes with at least ½-inch-thick walls or structural rails that can be attached with screws to the wall studs. Box materials include medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and oriented strand board (OSB), but my favorite is plywood with dado or mortise joints and metal or wood corner braces for rigidity. High-quality cabinets have dovetail joints in the drawer boxes, and you’ll also have the option to match the interior finish to that of the exterior

All kitchen cabinets need replacing, eventually. Whether they’re falling apart after years of hard use or standing in the way of that work-triangle overhaul you’ve been planning, a coat of paint or new wood veneers simply won’t save them.

With so many door styles, finishes, and bells and whistles, such as built-in spice racks and pull-out pantries, to choose from, investing in new cabinets can be exciting. But with a lot of money at stake—cabinets account for about half the cost of a typical kitchen renovation—it can also be nerve-wracking. To get the most bang for the buck, it’s important to focus not just on good looks but also on the quality of materials, the type of hinges and other hardware, and the joinery that holds the cabinets together. Those factors determine whether your cabinets will hold your affections for the long haul or soon force you to start shopping again.

New, custom-built cherry cabinets echo the expertly fitted and handmade look of millwork in the rest of this 1904 Craftsman-style home. Flat-panel door with beaded detailing in varnished cherry.

Continue reading Part 2 – Cabinets Elements and Costs

Contact us now discuss your project.

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