Choosing the Right Kitchen Cabinets

selecting kitchen cabinets

Are you trying to figure out how to choose the right kitchen cabinets? Are you planning a kitchen remodeling project? Then you need a quick, informative kitchen cabinet guide that can help answer questions like what’s available? Where to buy? And, who will install them?

Like any home or DIY project, kitchen cabinets can add style and value to your home. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, mistakes can be made. For instance, selecting inexpensive cabinets from the big box stores may look like a good idea, but what may look good on the outside, isn’t always good on the inside.

Inexpensive Now, Expensive Later

Selecting inexpensive cabinets from the big box stores or local cabinet shops may sound like a good idea, but like anything else, you get what you pay for. In the long run, using cheaply made and finished cabinetry will end up costing you more in repair, replacement and refinishing costs when the cabinets start falling apart and the finish starts to yellow or wear off. Many inexpensive cabinet lines find creative ways to cut corners and lessen the quality of their cabinetry while still appearing to be of quality when viewed from the outside. Typical ways that cabinet companies can reduce costs include:

  • Using particle board for the cabinet sides and backs
  • Using side-mount drawer tracks
  • Using single-step cabinet finishes
  • Using vinyl printed finished ends
  • Using thinner particle board material for drawer boxes
  • Using simplified construction methods for drawer boxes

In contrast, quality cabinet construction includes features like:

  • Using ¾” thick plywood for the cabinet sides
  • Using ½” thick plywood for the cabinet backs
  • Using full extension undermount drawer tracks
  • Using multi-step finishes that are baked on using infrared ovens
  • Using real wood veneer on finished ends
  • Using ⅝ – ¾” solid wood material for drawer boxes
  • Using tongue and groove corner construction for drawer boxes

When choosing your cabinetry, you’ll want to look well past the exterior door style and finish. You’ll want to make sure the rest of the cabinet is well made, using quality materials that will stand up to your day to day use and abuse.

Setting Your Budget

As mentioned previously in our post “Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips”, setting a budget for any home improvement project is the most important step. Cabinetry is but one cost, albeit typically one of the largest costs, to any kitchen remodeling project. Budgeting is all about give and take. You may have to sacrifice in one area, like selecting laminate vs. quartz countertops, in order to afford better quality cabinets to meet your overall budget. Incidentally, if you actually had to choose the less expensive countertop option to afford a better quality of cabinet, that’s OK. It’s far easier to replace your countertop in a few years once you finally have the funds for quartz or granite than it would be to repair or replace a lesser quality cabinet with a better one.

Types of Cabinet Construction

There are two main types of cabinet construction today. Frameless and face frame. Frameless cabinets boxes typically consist of ¾” thick particle board or plywood sides tops and backs. The doors on frameless cabinets are full overlay, meaning nearly all of the cabinet box is covered by the cabinet door. This type of construction is very clean and sleek looking. Some would consider frameless cabinetry to look more modern than face frame cabinets.

Partial Overlay Cabinet Door Style
Partial Overlay Door Style. Photo

Face frame cabinet construction typically consists of ½-¾” thick particle board or plywood cabinet sides and tops. Cabinet backs are usually ½” thick particleboard or plywood. What makes them the most different from frameless cabinetry is that face frame cabinets also include a ¾” thick hardwood frame that is applied on the front of the cabinet. The doors of the face frame cabinets are then attached to this frame in either a full overlay or partial overlay style. While the full overlay door style looks very much like the frameless construction, the partial overlay style allows more of the face frame to be seen between and around the doors. Which style to choose is one of personal preference and budget. Partial overlay door styles are typically a bit less costly than full overlay styles.

Slab Cabinet Door Style
Slab Door Style. Photo: Designer: Nicolette Design + Build. Photographer: Beth Singer.

A third door style that is used in face frame cabinet construction is called inset. Inset door styles consist of a door that is set inside and flush with the face frame of the cabinetry. This particular style would generally be considered to be a more traditional look. Inset construction can be more expensive than the other styles, as the time and precision it takes to manufacturer is greater.

Inset Door Kitchen Cabinets. Photo: Designer: TruKitchens. Photographer: Ashley Avila Photography.

Door Styles and Finishes

When it comes to selecting your door style and finish, the sky’s the limit. There are literally hundreds of combinations. Here are some of the most common door styles:

  • Raised panel – framed doors with a raised center panel
  • Recessed panel – framed doors with a flat center panel
  • Slab doors – a flat slab of hardwood or engineered wood with hardwood veneer and edge-banded sides
  • Mullion doors – framed doors with vertical and horizontal wood bars that devides the center into panes. Typically used in combination with glass panels.
  • Open framed doors – framed doors with no center panel at all. Glass panels are usually inserted in the panel area.

Here are some of the most common door finishes:

  • Paint – Any color in the rainbow. Most often applied in a spray booth and baked onto woods like maple and poplar.
  • Stain – Unlimited tints available. Applied to wood species such as cherry, ash, maple, oak, hickory and walnut.
  • Thermofoil – a thin layer of vinyl that is vacuum applied to a cabinet door. They come in many different colors and wood simulations.
  • Laminates – The same material they’ve been making countertops out of for years. Hundreds of color and styles are available. Applied to slabs of engineered wood.

Where to Buy Your Cabinets

You may be tempted to buy your cabinets from one of the big box stores since their prices are typically less than your local kitchen and bath specialist. However, there are many other factors to consider than just the cabinet price. For starters, your local kitchen and bath contractor has access to cabinetry that is much better built, with far more door style and better finish methods. The best kitchen and bath specialists also have extensive education in design from the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association.) Their CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer) courses ensure the highest level of professionalism in the industry. Working with a CKD will result in a kitchen that is more efficient and works with your family and lifestyle. Additionally, kitchen and bath contractors usually have their own craftsman on staff to simplify the installation of your new kitchen cabinets.


Today’s consumer have an overwhelming amount of choices to make when considering what types of cabinets to buy, where to buy them and who to have them installed by. If done incorrectly or with inferior materials, the costs of repair or replacement could easily outpace your original budget. Working with your local kitchen design specialist will help you determine the best type of cabinetry for your lifestyle and budget. And the peace of mind you’ll get knowing your new cabinetry will be installed properly and increase your home’s value is priceless.

Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips

Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips

Has the time come to finally get that new kitchen you’ve been promising yourself (or your better half) for years? Have saved up and are ready to invest in your home and create your dream kitchen?

Did you know that the average kitchen remodeling project in America costs an average of $50,000? That’s certainly not mear pocket change for most people. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help keep costs under control and ensure your remodeling project goes smoothly.

Set Your Budget

Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips - Set Your Budget
Set Your Budget. Photo:

Before you start on any remodeling work in your home, it is vitally important to set your budget. Kitchen remodeling costs can easily spiral out of control if you don’t have a good idea of how much you can spend. Once you’ve established your budget, you’ll have a good foundation to start from. Try to be as granular as you can, allocating a cost to different sections and stages of the work.

Tackle Some Tasks Yourself

Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips - Tackle Some Tasks Yourself
Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

There are countless choices to make when selecting products for your kitchen remodel. Accordingly, each item has a wide cost range. Kitchen faucets range from $60 to $1000. Kitchen sinks range from $100 – $1000. Kitchen countertops range from $500 to more than $5000. That’s why it’s so important to set your overall budget before you begin. It really helps to narrow down your options when selecting your products.

A kitchen renovation is a big undertaking and can take a fair bit of time. One great tip to help keep costs down and on budget is to roll up your sleeves and do some of the work yourself. Some tasks such as framing new walls, electrical, plumbing, cabinet and countertop installation are best suited for the professionals. However, tasks such as demolition, daily clean up, painting and hanging window treatments are things many homeowners can accomplish and enjoy. As an added bonus, getting your hands dirty in the project affords you a deeper understanding of the overall remodeling process.

Keep Upgrades and Growth in Mind

A remodel now is great, but what happens a few years from now? While you may not be able to predict the future, you can certainly plan for it. Maybe you don’t quite have enough money for that professional level gas range you’ve had your eye on for years. That’s OK. You could reuse your existing electric range for now, but go ahead and run a gas line to the range location for future use. Just make sure you check the specifications of your professional level gas range to make sure everything is ready when you are.

Essential Kitchen Remodeling Tips
Photo by Naomi Hébert on Unsplash

You might not have a house full of little ones at the moment, but what about a few years from now?. An eat-in kitchen countertop is great to keep the kiddos in view and participating in your meal preparation without them being directly underfoot. While it may not be something the single you needs right now, thinking ahead at how you may grow into your space will keep you from having to renovate again down the road.

Hire a Professional

Planning is just as important as execution, often times even more so. It’s imperative you don’t rush the planning stages of your kitchen renovation. The last thing you want is a kitchen that doesn’t match your expectations once completed or a remodeling project that takes two or three times as long as you expected and is over budget.

Hire A Professional. Photo:

Unless you are extremely handy and a fantastic planner, hiring a professional kitchen designer and specialized remodeling company could possibly be the most important decision you will make when you consider renovating your home. They will often be the difference between the kitchen of your dreams or a disaster.

A professional will not only help you make product selections that fit your budget, but they will also create both functional and aesthetically please work environments. They are skilled at assessing your needs and will create designs that meet and exceed your requirements. Additionally, their knowledge and experience will ensure your project stays on schedule.

Do your homework when selecting a contractor. Asking your friends and family for references will often lead you to one or two professionals – and is a good place to start. You could also seek the help of national organizations such as the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) for references. Their CKD (Certified Kitchen Designers) program will ensure you find the best of the best in your area.