Tuesday, November 13

All Cabinets Aren't Created Equal

When shopping for a new cabinetry, be it for a Kitchen, Bath, Wine Cellar, Entertainment Center, or anything else, it is important to know, that not all cabinets are created equal.  There are not only different construction types, but qualities, materials, and so much more.  It is important to know, that in the end, you get what you pay for.  Some lines may offer better materials but have a more limited catalog, where another line has less than desirable materials with more door styles and more cabinet sizes.  Here are some pointers when looking at new cabinetry, for your entire home.

Many cabinet dealers sell multiple lines of cabinetry.  Be sure you understand the differences in materials and product offerings as well as pricing.  The dealer knows their lines a lot better than anyone else.  Most cabinet dealers will have a line of cabinetry that will work within your budget, whatever that may be, however like I said, it is important to understand the differences.

IKEA NEXXUS Kitchen in Brown Black
For example.  Let's say you want to compare IKEA's line of in stock cabinetry with a line in stock at Home Depot or Lowes.  While the materials are all similar, the IKEA price may be lower.  The big difference would be in your installation whether it is costs, or headache.  IKEA's cabinets, much like the rest of their products, require assembly.  They come broken down in a box and someone will have to put them together. This will take a longer installation, and require more labor and charges if you are hiring someone, or require you to take more weekends to put them together before installing.

Cabinet Materials
The materials that go into making the box of a cabinet can vary.  The most standard material seen in lower and middle grade lines typically starts out as a Furniture Board, or a particle board. While many consumers find this material undesirable, many consumers also don't mind cutting the costs.  Typically, there is a 20% upgrade to get cabinets constructed of all plywood, which is more durable.  Cabinet interiors can be the raw wood, being the cheapest material, a viraguard type material, or melamine, being the most expensive.  Keep in mind, that the interior of the cabinet almost never actually matches the outside of the cabinet, which will save the end consumer.  Typically, the interior is either white, or a natural birch or maple.  This ensures that the interior of the cabinet matches additional accessories like roll out trays.

Cabinet Construction
Like the materials that go into a cabinet, the construction is also important.  Some cabinets are glued and stapled together, and some are screwed together. Again, not all cabinets are constructed equal, so it is sure to make sure that for your budget, you are getting the best construction quality available.  Sure, the look and design of the cabinetry is important, but not as important as a cabinet that is going to last.  A cabinet isn't good if it only looks good, but is falling off the wall when you load it with dishes.

Martha Stewart Seal Harbor Kitchen Cabinetry
PureStyle Door Style - 5pc. Bead Board Door
Door Construction
Sure, the wood species is important, but there is more that goes into a cabinet door.  There are laminates, thermofoils, veneers, solid woods, and newer technologies, like Purestyle available from select manufacturers.  When looking for a specific design style, it is good to research and see which construction of doors will best fit your budget, and your family.  No matter what your budget, design style, and family needs, you still have options.  It is up to you to shop around your area and finding what is available.

It isn't as simple as going into your big box retailer and selecting from four or five door styles.  Even Home Depot and Lowes has five to six cabinet lines to choose from, and prices ranging from $90/linear foot all the way to $300/linear foot.  Private dealers also typically have multiple cabinet lines providing flexible pricing options.  One of my favorite lines, for example, is Crystal Cabinetry, which has both fully custom lines in framed and frameless (European style), as well as semi, more moderately priced lines and a fully custom line.

Transitional Kitchen by Innermost Cabinets by Elkay
A Custom European Style Line available at The Home Depot

Custom has to be better, right? 
Just because the cabinets were built on site, doesn't mean they are better, especially in states like California, where I live.  Cabinets are tricky, and the local government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is even trickier.  I couldn't tell you how many consumers I have calling me saying that they bought local custom cabinets, and after a few years they look like garbage.  Sure you bought custom, but the state regulates what they can put on them to finish, and in California, these finishes are not nearly as durable as some of the "Semi-Custom" brands you can get at the local box store for the same price.  Custom cabinets aren't like custom cars.  Custom cabinets can be built in someones garage, do your homework.  Check out the finishes, warranties, and the quality.  In my experience, you get what you pay for.  If you are that $90/linear foot budget and find a guy to get you custom cabinets installed, where as you can go to Home Depot, get something from American Woodmark or Thomasville Value for the same price, but you have to install it yourself, I am sorry to say, I would be installing it myself to get the better cabinet.  Custom just means they weren't built on an assembly line.  They can be made with inferior woods and materials, can have watered down finishes that are going to peel of in five years, etc.  When getting cabinets, price is going to tell you what you are getting.  You get what you pay for!  I can't stress that enough.

All cabinets aren't created equal, like with appliances, you are getting what you pay for.  Don't just listen to the sales person, listen to your designer, look at the quality, read the websites and reviews.  Your cabinets are going to be with you for a long time, and you want to make sure that you are investing, not settling!