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Kitchen Cabinets Buying Guide

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Because cabinetry is the predominant element in most kitchens (and oftentimes the priciest), understanding your options is important when considering new cabinets. Getting a handle on the world of cabinets, however, can be daunting given the vast array of styles, materials, sizes, and configurations on the market.

kitchen cabinet types diagramThe first question to ask yourself is whether or not you really need new cabinetry. If your cabinets are in good shape and provide ample storage, you may only need to reface them and perhaps add a few storage accessory features such as rollout bins or lazy Susans to make them more user- friendly.

But if one of your main goals in remodeling your kitchen is to completely ditch your old cabinetry for a new system, here are the features to consider:

frameless cabinet diagramFaceframe vs. frameless. Cabinets are constructed in one of two ways. Faceframe cabinets (shown below left), can incorporate less expensive materials for the cabinet sides because the frame covers them. However, because cabinet face framethe frame narrows the opening to the box, it reduces the amount of available storage. Frameless cabinets (shown above right) offer maximum storage space but require a higher grade of material for the cabinet sides because a frame does not cover them. When comparing faceframe and frameless cabinets of equal quality, frameless tend to be the more expensive.

Stock vs. custom. Manufacturers today produce a vast array of stock cabinets with special features, but, if your kitchen remodel involves an innovative floor plan or unusual dimensions, you may not have a choice but to opt for custom cabinetry. The downside is that custom cabinets can cost many times what stock cabinets go for. The upside is that you will be able to get exactly what you want. In many cases, semi-custom cabinets are a good solution. Though they are mass manufactured, you can request a wide range of modifications that make them almost custom.

Wood vs. laminate. Wood is the most popular choice for kitchen cabinetry due to its natural warmth, but the type of wood will dramatically affect your budget. At the solid hardwood high end are cherry and hickory, with maple and oak more-affordable options. Most affordable of all in the realm of wood are wood veneers. Plastic laminates are generally more affordable than any wood option but may not be right for every home style as they lend a sleek, modern appearance to a kitchen. Laminates are extremely durable—they won’t warp the way wood can—and are easy to clean and maintain.

A last word to the wise: Deciding on your choice of cabinetry early in the remodeling process is crucial to a smooth and relatively easy kitchen remodel. In fact, your cabinetry probably should be the first decision you make, because, depending on your choice, it can take from weeks to several months to get cabinets made and delivered. Until they are in place, no flooring, appliances, or countertops can be installed. Also, as cabinets are likely to be the biggest ticket item in your remodel, they will also inform your budget for other items.

To get free recommendations for top-rated local contractors, call the most reliable and comprehensive referral service, HomeAdvisor, at 866-350-2983 (toll free).

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