Cabinets have infinite options and design possibilities and are the most expensive part of your new kitchen. Here are some definitions to help you out when talking with your cabinet builder.
Box – The actual carcass of your cabinets. It can vary in quality and finish and can be easily overlooked. Having a UV Cured finish inside is important for easy cleaning of spills.
Face Frames – Face frames attach to the front of boxes. The cabinet doors attach to these face frames. Frameless cabinets will have nothing more than edge banding (a thin veneer) on the front of your boxes.
Doors & Drawer Fronts – Covering all or most of the openings in your cabinetry, these are the main visible aspect of the cabinets.
Toe Kicks – The space under the cabinet that allows room for your toes as you stand at the cabinets. There are different styles. A toe sweep for example gives angled corners to the toe kick to allow you to easily sweep underneath them.
Hinges & Slides – The necessary hardware used to operate your doors and drawers. These can greatly affect the quality of your cabinets. Drawers that stick or eventually sag from low budget slides will cost you more in the end.
Knobs & Pulls – Door knobs and drawer pulls can be vastly important not only to the look of the cabinet but to their functionality. They may be an extra cost or included in the cabinet bid.
Finish – The coatings that protect your investment. Much like the paint on your car, finishes give style and protection. Stain, paint, and top coats should all be considered.
10 Questions to Ask Your Cabinet Maker
1. What materials will you use in making the cabinets? Solid wood core plywood for the boxes and solid hardwood for the face frames are a must for longevity. Never settle for particle board boxes.
2. How are the cabinets being assembled? Glued and pocket screwed for strength and pocket screws for face frames. Cheaply stapled cases without glue will fall apart in time. Ask if face nails will be used on your face frames creating lots of small unsightly pock marks.
3. What are the finishes and will they be finished on site or in shop? Shop-finished cabinets are preferred. Having someone in your home to spray finishes with VOCs and chemicals is not recommended at all. A shop sprayed pre-catalyzed lacquer is the best finish. Cabinets with glass doors or no doors should be stained and finished inside to match the outsides. These cabinets should have shelves stained to match as well. Ask if nail holes made in installation of crown molding will be puttied and stained? Ask if the cabinet installation included caulking also.
4. How are the drawers and slide-out shelves made? Dovetailed drawers are the standard of strength. Solid wood sides are best. Don’t accept stapled MDF. In fact, no MDF at all should be in cabinets. MDF is not a structural material.
5. What Hardware will you use? Under mount soft-close are the best.With good hardware you will find that doors and drawers open and close with ease every time. For the doors, there are soft close features that will keep them from banging. Quality hardware will last much longer. Also ask if the hardware products are cheaply made of cast pewter or if they are cold rolled steel?
6. What are my doors made of and what will the style be? Raised panel and Shaker doors? Inset or overlay frames? As for material, solid wood will lend itself to a long life. Many cabinet manufacturers use MDF for the center panels and then veneer over for the wood grain.
7. Will you provide the design and shop drawings and in how much detail? This is a super important question. Be sure you completely understand every aspect of the drawings; ask, ask, and ask for more details if needed. Don’t leave anything to chance. Get as detailed as you want.
8. What accessories are behind the doors? This is a tricky one because when you approve drawings, many times the number of shelves, slide out drawers, trash bins, and many other items can be left out. Be sure to ask what is included (and in comparing bids, this is an essential component).
9. How long will the cabinets take to make and install? This simple question can change everything.
10. Is the installation included? Installation is a big factor, and it is by far better if the cabinet maker installs as opposed to someone who has never even seen your kitchen layout. When the cabinet builder installs, any needed adjustments can be taken care of immediately. Also, ask if the knobs and pulls will be installed as well.
11. (BONUS) Can I visit the production facilities to become familiar with the process? Look for cleanliness and tidiness. You should find evidence of their skills and expertise. You should feel welcome to come see how they work. So, on your next cabinet purchase, relax and enjoy the process. The work will be well worth the usefulness and beauty of you new cabinets.