Kitchen Cabinet Buying Tips

A Guide to Buying Kitchen Cabinets

By Mark J. Donovan

Kitchen cabinets represent the largest expenditure in a kitchen remodeling project. Kitchen cabinets are also the centerpiece of your kitchen. Consequently all other kitchen remodeling decisions, such as countertop and appliance selections, depend on your selection of kitchen cabinets.

Lead times on kitchen cabinets are also notoriously long, sometimes taking up to eight weeks or more. Therefore it is important you select, order and buy your kitchen cabinets before making any other kitchen remodeling decisions.

Kitchen cabinet selection begins with a floorplan and a target budget.

From these two key starting points, along with your specified functional kitchen requirements, a kitchen designer can begin to formulate a kitchen design.

As you and your kitchen designer develop a kitchen design you will need to make numerous decisions on kitchen cabinets. Decisions will include cabinet brands, styles, wood-types, construction, sizes, finishes, and even handle and knob choices. Kitchen cabinet costs vary widely depending on all of these factors, so it is important you understand the costs associated with each option before making a decision. To do this it is best to first spend some time at kitchen cabinet stores looking at and reading about the various options and associated costs.

There are however, a few general kitchen cabinet buying tips that may help you in your kitchen cabinet research.

Kitchen Cabinet Wood Choices

Solid hardwood cabinets, such as Cherry, Maple, Birch, Hickory and Oak typically cost much more than laminate or veneer finished cabinets.

Kitchen Cabinet Construction

Face Framed Kitchen Cabinets

Face framed kitchen cabinet construction is the most prevalent kitchen cabinet construction type in the United States and usually it is lower cost. This construction technique involves the building of a kitchen cabinet face out of hardwood pieces. Typically the cabinet face is constructed using several 1”x 2” vertical and horizontal hardwood pieces. The face frame is then married to the front of a particleboard kitchen cabinet box.

Applying granite sealers

Hardwood or veneered/laminated cabinet doors and drawer faces, are then attached via hinges and roller mechanisms to the face frame and cabinet box. Thin hardwood veneered plywood sheets of material are then attached to the exposed ends of the particleboard cabinet boxes to provide a finished cabinet look.

Frameless (European-Style) Kitchen Cabinets

Frameless kitchen cabinet construction is becoming increasingly popular today as frameless kitchen cabinets are considered to be more contemporary. With frameless cabinets there is no face frame. The kitchen cabinet doors attach directly to the sides of the cabinet and are secured with pins and dowels. The advantages of this type of construction, is that there is wider access into the cabinet space and the hinges are completely hidden. Typically “ready-to-install” kitchen cabinets are constructed in this manner.

Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

There are many Kitchen cabinet finishes to choose from when using natural woods. Cabinet finishes include stain, paint and glazing options. In addition there are my types of distressing techniques that can also be employed on kitchen cabinet surfaces. Some options include Rasping, Antiquing and Rub-thru.

Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet

There are also many types of laminates that you can choose from.

Kitchen Cabinet Sizes

Kitchen cabinets come in a variety of standard shapes and sizes, however custom sizes can also be easily specified and manufactured – at a price. Standards kitchen cabinet sizes, known as stock cabinets, are usually much more affordable then custom or semi-custom cabinets and usually have shorter lead times.

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

Choose kitchen cabinets that have high-end hinges and mechanical hardware, as lower quality ones fail in short order.

When deciding on kitchen cabinet door handles and doorknobs, match their finish with the finish of the kitchen appliances.

Kitchen Cabinet Quality

If you plan on living in your home for many years, do not skimp on your kitchen cabinets. They are constantly used and abused, and only the sturdiest will stand the test of time.

The best kitchen cabinets employ solid frames, doors and drawers and are fully self-contained (closed backs), with reinforced corners. They also have higher end mechanical hardware to ensure the doors and drawers stand up to the everyday pounding of opening and closing.

For help on your kitchen remodeling project, see my Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective kitchen remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive kitchen remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

Related Information

Additional Kitchen Remodeling Design Resources


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