How to Choose the Right Kitchen Cabinets for You

If you’ve decided your kitchen needs a minor facelift or a complete remodel, choosing the right cabinets should be a top priority.  After all, the cabinets account for a huge part of your kitchen’s appearance, and no feature serves a greater function.  The most beautiful cabinets may cost more but be far less valuable than cabinets that offer the best and most efficient storage.  The good news is that more manufacturers are offering the kind of high quality cabinetry that was once reserved for high-end budgets.  Given that new cabinets can account for nearly half of your reno budget, they should definitely be seen as an investment worthy of serious consideration.  Well-chosen cabinets can even be timeless enough to survive future kitchen updates.

The first thing to think about is whether you actually need a whole new set of cabinets or if you could refinish or reface your existing ones.  Refinishing or refacing can cut your project cost by half, even more.  If you like the current configuration, storage capacity, and overall organization of your current cabinets, but don’t like the way they look, redoing them can be a moneysaving way to get the updated look you want without having to worry about finding cabinets that work as well your current ones.  Refinishing cabinets can be as simple as giving them a good cleaning, light sanding, and a couple coats of paint or stain.  Remove doors, drawers, and hardware to ensure the most thorough cleaning and coverage.  Refacing involves actually replacing doors and drawer fronts and, if painting or staining won’t work, adding a new veneer to cabinet framework.  Consider replacing old hardware and cabinet and drawer pulls, too, to further elevate your new look.

If you decide that replacing is preferable to refinishing, you’ll have three basic options for new cabinets:  stock, custom, or semi-custom.  Stock models are generally the least expensive.  They’re available in the most commonly found sizes and configurations and usually offer more limited color and finish options.  Some arrive ready to hang; others will require some assembly.  If your kitchen was custom built, or if your remodel involves completely reconfiguring your kitchen, you could have a hard time finding appropriate stock cabinets to fit your space.  Custom cabinets, as the name suggests, are specifically built for your kitchen.  You’ll want to have the kitchen professionally measured and work with the designer to achieve your desired look and functionality.  Naturally, custom cabinets are the most expensive option, though simpler constructs could come in at a cost comparable to higher-end “off the shelf” versions.  Lastly, semi-custom cabinets are a blend of stock and custom.  The cabinets are pre-built, but available in customizable configurations.  Semi-custom cabinets don’t offer the endless range of finishes that custom systems do, but generally do offer more options than stock cabinets.

When considering the look of your new cabinet doors, you can choose a raised framed or more streamlined inset frame.  The raised frame offers a more textured look, but remember that these frames also offer additional places for greasy kitchen smoke and dust to collect. With quality cabinets, the facings are strictly a cosmetic consideration that depends on your personal taste and the overall look you’re aiming to achieve.  

Since you want your new investment to stand the test of time, make sure you only consider well-constructed cabinets made of high-quality materials.  Solid wood cabinets aren’t always the least expensive, but they are almost always the sturdiest.  If you opt for particleboard or MDF construction, make sure you know what warranties are included and what, if any, restrictions on use or weight are listed by the manufacturer.

When it comes to special features, an increasing number of manufacturers are including more slide-out shelves and lazy Susans to help maximize storage space and ease of access.  You can even find models, usually on the higher end of the budget spectrum, that feature “quiet close” drawers and doors.  You’ll usually pay more for added bells and whistles, but given the importance of cabinetry to the overall look and function of your kitchen, it’s worth doing the homework to make sure you’re happy with your investment.