Hopefully, this section should give you a good place to start.
You may also want to consider the option of having your cabinets refaced. You will be surprised at the results you can achieve by doing this, and also how inexpensive it is, especially if you can find a good deal with a reputable company.
Definitely check it out first, get some quotes and see if makes sense for you. There are plenty of good cabinet refacing advice sites out there, for example, this one.
Cabinet Manufacturing Classifications
The first decision when selecting cabinets is whether to go for stock cabinets, semi-custom, custom units or frameless cabinets. All have their own advantages and disadvantages.
There are the three basic classifications of cabinet manufacturing: Stock, Semi-Custom & Custom, and this can be further subdivided into Framed and Frameless. Pricing will vary depending on your layout, the manufacturer, wood, finish, door style and the interior accessories you select.
Lowest price range.
Limited selection of door styles, woods and stain colors. Solid woods and veneers are both used. Wood selection is usually oak, hickory, maple, cherry and MDF doors in white or off-white thermal-foils (see ‘Kitchen Cabinet Terminology’ below).
Usually offers three different grades of construction. Standard consists of particleboard sides and a 4-sided drawer box that is dadoed, stapled and glued. Mid-range upgrades the drawer box to wood with dovetailed joints and usually thicker shelves in the wall cabinets. Best offers all this plus plywood sides instead of particleboard. Hinges used are concealed, drawer glides are an epoxy side-mount. The finish is machine sprayed and sanded (finish quality will vary between various stock lines).
Cabinets are pre-made in standard sizes that increase in 3″ increments from 9″-48″ and cannot be modified. Basic accessories are available such as, open shelving, glass mullion doors, wine racks, roll trays, garbage bins, lazy susans and breadboards are available and most are installed on the job.
Short order time.
Offers a large variety of door styles, woods, stains, colors and glazes. Fronts are all solid woods and white or colors such as green, red and blue, finishes are offered as a stain over a MDF door or on solid birch wood.
Standard construction is wood dovetailed drawer boxes and plywood sides. Hinges used are usually a knife, which opens all the way or concealed, drawer glides are either epoxy side-mounted or metal undermount. The finish is hand wiped with 2 sanding processes for a furniture finish.
Cabinets are offered in a wider range of heights and depths with some modifications possible. There are many accessories available and they are factory installed.
Ordering time is about 4-6 weeks (made-to-order).
Offers an unlimited selection of styles, woods, stains and colors. Design possibilities are endless.
Standard construction is a thicker wood dovetailed drawer box and plywood sides. Numerous hinge choices are available such as; concealed, knife & inset, which are available in different finishes. Drawer glides are usually a full-extension ball bearing as a side mount or under mount. The finish is sprayed and sanded once, hand wiped and sanded three times and then waxed for a flawless clear satin finish.
Some custom high-end frameless lines, such as Poggenpohl, use a laminate box construction, laminate doors or stainless steel to build high quality contemporary cabinets.
All size modifications are available. If it is possible to build and it is structurally sound the manufacture will build it. All accessories are factory installed.
Order time is about 6-12 weeks.
Framed and Frameless
The frame is the front of the cabinet box where the door attaches. Framed cabinets are available as a standard-overlay or as a full-overlay (see ‘Kitchen Cabinet Terminology’ below). Frameless cabinets have no front frame, the door attaches directly to the box itself.
The advantage to frameless cabinets is you end up with a little more interior space and larger drawer boxes. The disadvantage is that they have zero tolerance if any adjustments need to be made. Framed cabinets are more forgiving and much easier to install.
Because cabinet doors are the face of the kitchen, it will be very important that you choose a finish you want to look at for quite a number of years. Keep in mind that, whichever material you choose to use for your cabinets, durability and low maintenance have to be the key to your choice.
As most of the cabinet carcasses nowadays are made of particleboard or chipboard, the only thing you have to worry about is the finish of the cabinet doors. First of all it is important to choose which material you want to use. In this section, the different finishes and their possibilities will be explained.
There are a number of door styles, such as the following:
- Square Raised Panel
- Cathedral Arch
- Roman Arch
- Solid Panel
- Traditional Mullion Glass Door
- Country Mullion Glass Door
- Beaded Panel
- Shaker or Mission Style Door
- Shaker Door with Center Stile
Raised panel doors are available in a square, roman arch or cathedral arch style. The drawer fronts are offered flat or also with a raised panel. Styles range from simple to beveled, or grooved with added details. The arch or square style works well with traditional decor. The square door works well with contemporary decor.
Recessed panel doors are usually available in a square design or possibly with a cathedral arch. They look like a picture frame with a wood center panel. This style works well with country or contemporary decor.
Flat panel doors are either made as a solid wood with batten strips applied on the back to prevent warping, or as a veneer with solid wood edging. This style lends itself well to contemporary decor.
Beaded or slatted panel doors are available as either a raised panel or a recessed panel. The raised panel version tends to look more country where the recessed panel can work in either country or contemporary decor.
Shaker style doors are a version of the recessed panel. The doors, as well as the drawer front, are recessed with a very square profile (edge). This style works well in a country mission or an arts and crafts style kitchen.
If you choose wood, you have the choice of solid wood or wood veneer. The latter is cheaper and is less influenced by weather conditions. The humidity and temperature outside have an effect on your solid wooden kitchen doors, but the biggest influence comes from the changes in temperature and humidity in the kitchen. Veneer can also give a more uniform look to the fronts (if this is what you want) as the pieces of wood used are cut from a larger piece in thin strips to cover all the doors.
Wood itself is available in all kinds of colors, but it can also be glossed, painted, colour washed or waxed to give it the finish you prefer. Look through the ‘Gallery’ for ideas and examples.
Has a casual, rustic look, some graining, color variation and knotholes. It is the softest of cabinet woods, so hinges may need to be tightened periodically as they tend to pull out of the wood after use.
Has a casual look, a lot of graining and an even color tone when stained. It is a very hard wood and looks great in many styles, especially a mission style.
Is very grainy and has a lot of color variation with a natural finish. Once a stain color is applied the variations tend to even out in color. Hickory also has a rustic feel to it.
Birch has a very fine rather swirly grain and is very even in tone without much color variation. It is very pretty when done in a natural finish and in a reddish stain it can have the look of cherry wood (without the higher price). Lighter brown or golden stains tend to look patchy. Birch wood looks good on any style door because of its fine grain.
Maple wood is most popular in a natural finish and is very similar in appearance to birch wood. Like birch, maple can also appear patchy in certain stain colors but has a very even tone and grain. It looks great in a variety of door styles. It is used most often on Shaker style doors.
Cherry wood has very distinctive graining and the color variation is great when used in a natural finish. In one door alone you can get color variations from blond to deep red. A stain helps to even this out, but cherry looks best in its natural state. If you don’t like wood variation then don’t select cherry as your cabinet wood.
These are the most widely used woods in cabinets although there are other choices such as ash, mahogany, red birch and walnut. These woods are more expensive, harder to find and are mainly used in furniture pieces.
Stains and Colors
There are endless effects you can achieve with stains, colors and glazes. Stains range from clear sealers, which allows the wood’s natural color and grain variations to show through, to a very dark walnut stain. You have your choice of blondes, browns and red-based stains. You can also use colored stains in green, country blue and red.
A cabinet frame can be finished in one color and the door in another. Some companies offer glazes, which come in white or browns. Doors can also be distressed to create an old, worn look. The options and color combinations are only limited by your imagination and budget.
Even more than wood, laminate cabinet doors have endless possibilities in color, texture and shine. You can go for a soft look with creamy colours and a matt finish, or, if you want to make a real statement, choose Italian-style with glossy fronts and bold colors.
A great advantage of laminate cabinets is that they are virtually maintenance-free. Wood is a natural product and prone to changes in temperature and humidity and needs a lot of care, but laminate only needs to be wiped clean occasionally. Laminate doors suffer from a lot less wear and tear than laminate countertops and should stay looking good for a long time.
Large expanses of wood or laminate in a kitchen can look good sometimes but if you want to break up the monotony, glass doors can be used every now and again. Transparent glass is used for displaying crockery etc., (or if you just want to see inside the cabinets) and frosted glass for a concealed, but still open look. Regular glass will look good in both traditional and contemporary kitchens, whereas frosted glass works best in contemporary kitchens.
Stainless steel is another material used for kitchen cabinets, although it is mostly used for worktop and appliances. It gives a very different and unique character to your kitchen and looks clean and professional. It is easy to keep clean and is very durable, but it is also very costly. If you want a clinical industrial feel to your kitcehn then choose stainless steel but for a less stark effect, combine it with wood or a warm paint colour on the walls.
Kitchen Cabinet Terminology
Listed below are some more terms used when buying cabinets.
The term overlay refers to how the door covers the frame of the cabinet. There are basically two different types of overlays. Standard-overlay means you see the frame around the door and full-overlay means that the door covers the frame. In essence the door is larger on a full overlay cabinet.
Thermal-foil is a vinyl that is applied over a MDF (medium density fiberboard) door using a heat process. It is used for white or off-white doors. It is very easy to clean and is durable.
MDF doors are made of medium density fiberboard, which can be routed into a raised panel design. They can be thermal-foiled, stained or painted in a solid color. The advantage of choosing a MDF door as opposed to a constructed wood door when selecting a solid color, is that there are no joints, as opposed to a wood door in a solid color where you will notice visible separation lines that show when the wood expands and contracts.
Kitchen Cabinet Refacing
When remodeling your kitchen you can replace the cabinet fronts with new doors and drawer fronts, which will bring your kitchen back to life with amazing results. You can even cover all exposed surfaces with matching veneer or laminate with a self-adhesive back.
Not only do you save money, but a typical job takes from 3-4 days to complete without the need to dismantle any cabinets, sinks, countertops or appliances, so there is less disruption.
There are plenty of deals out there and a lot of choices. Shop around first, and get some quotes. A few seconds work can save you a lot of money.