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  • Jeff Russell

Cabinets: why are they important?

What is the most used item in your kitchen?

If you guessed cabinets, you would be correct. Cabinets are one of the components that often go unnoticed when first stepping into a room, but they do much to create the style and atmosphere of your kitchen. Not all cabinets, however, are created equal. It’s important to understand the specifications that make them great!

If you are looking for a full kitchen remodel, your choice of cabinets, and their installation costs, will make up approximately one third of your budget. This is important because changing your cabinets after they are installed is both complicated and expensive, so making the correct choice is really important. In short: you want to get your cabinets right because it’s difficult to change them in the future.

As you consider which cabinet you would like, remember that it is somewhat like choosing the right house for you: there are a lot of parameters to consider.

Some key components to consider during your decision are:

  • The construction style you prefer

  • The quality and durability of the cabinet

  • The finish and the hardware

  • The size and storage needs for your space (stock or custom?)

Side note: People are often surprised by the amount of customization available

when they choose their cabinets, and the variety of options.

In order to break down these parameters even further, we recommend thinking through the four elements listed below:

The Construction Style

There are three main styles of construction for cabinets: framed, frameless, and inset. We’ve included photos and descriptions below.

Inset cabinets tend to be chosen specifically for the style. They have a beautiful, sleek look that can be designed to replicate an old, authentic, traditional, early 20th century or modern look. Either way, inset is a style that makes the cabinet stand out. Doors and drawers of inset cabinets sit directly within the cabinet face frame. The doors sit flat with the cabinet, so handles or knobs are required.

Example of inset cabinets. Photo credit to Pinterest.

Framed cabinets are more of a classic style. These cabinets are built with a wooden frame on the front face, and have the door attached to that frame. These cabinets are popular among homeowners who prefer a more traditional look to their cabinet. The face frame makes the cabinet ‘box’ very sturdy, helping to keep the cabinet square and strong. Face frame cabinets can be modified and customized easily, so framed cabinets tend to be the choice if you need specific sizes, modifications, or a seamless custom look. It is easier to install crown moldings and undercabinet lights because of the recessed space on the top and bottom of the cabinets – the frame gives you something to attach the trim to.

Example of framed cabinets.

Frameless cabinets include doors that cover the entire cabinet, and the front has no frame. The ‘box’ of the cabinet consists of the back, sides, top, and bottom. The doors are attached to the side without a face frame. Frameless cabinets are sometimes referred to as full-access or European style cabinets. Frameless cabinets offer more space because they don’t include a frame. There are some limitations to size because there is no frame, but careful design can usually avoid any problems here. Frameless cabinets have a smooth, flat bottom, that will require additional trim if you desire to hide any under-cabinet lighting, and it may also require more trim pieces if you add a crown molding.

Example of framed cabinets. Photo credit to Bellmont cabinets.

Note: it's nearly impossible in most cases to tell the difference with framed and frameless cabinets from the outside. You will, however, be able to see it clearly from the inside. Below is an example of that.

The materials:

There are several materials used for building the ‘box’ of a cabinet. These include particleboard, cabinet-grade fiber-board, and plywood. Plywood is the most durable and stable of the bunch. When choosing a cabinet, it’s important to keep in mind that the materials are the “meat and potatoes” of the whole decision. If you buy something more durable, you’ll pay more now for a longer lasting material. If you buy something cheaper, you will pay less, but risk having to replace the cabinets sooner. The doors and drawers on the front will have a WIDE range of options. You can choose from many varieties of wood, acrylics, laminates, various painted woods, textures, metal, resins, and many more. This is fun part of cabinet construction!

The hardware:

The hardware on, and accessories in, the drawers and cabinet doors can be customized for what you need depending on the quality of the cabinet. There are endless possibilities here, some are listed below:

  • Drawer guides - the range includes cheaper epoxy coated with partial extension, under-mount glides with ⅞” extension, and full-extension with soft-close. Full extension allows you to access the full depth of drawer easily and efficiently.

  • Hinges – come in a variety of different qualities and styles. These range from hinges that bang upon closing, to a soft-close that protects the cabinet. They can be hidden or show as part of the hardware. And like cabinet construction, better quality cabinets will have higher quality hinges.

  • Accessories – these are items that can be added to almost any cabinet. Popular options are roll-out shelves, organizers, tilt-outs, spice racks, lazy-susans, magic corners, etc. For more accessory possibilities, click here.

  • The higher quality cabinet you choose, the more you can add on completely customized areas, such as bookshelves, corbels, posts, or other decorator pieces.

The finish:

Painted or stained cabinets have traditionally been the most popular finishes. But there are a myriad of other options to make your project distinctly yours. You can add a glaze, wash, brushed-glaze, or consider distressed and aged treatments.

Choosing between a paint or a stain depends on whether you want the wood, and its unique grain, to show. Painted finishes (especially white) have remained a strong trend for years, but stains have been slowly gaining popularity the last few years.

Whether painted or stained, you may want to add a wash or glaze to your cabinets. This finishing technique is defined by a color that is applied over the initial paint or stain. It changes the original color, and depending on the amount and the technique, the change can vary from a slight tone/color to heavy/dramatic variation. It gives you a more customized look. With a brushed glaze, the glaze is applied and then hand brushed to leave a ‘grain’ or pattern to the glaze and add an element of texture.

The type of finish you choose does not affect the quality of your cabinets, but it is a decision that can reflect your personal style and may affect budget. If you choose to remodel your home with us, we walk you through the design process as part of the initial phases to help you choose the right color and style for your home.

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