Choosing Cabinets for Your New Kitchen or Bath

Cabinets form the backbone of the kitchen or bath and usually make up the bulk of a budget. Because they are a major investment (and one that’s not likely to be made again anytime soon), you’ll need to sort through the available options and make choices with confidence.

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What makes one cabinet different from another?

Construction – the box itself. Many are made out of plywood, particle board or MDO board. Each has its own advantages, but the key her is, if it’s well-constructed, the box has very little to do with the appearance or function of your cabinets. Mainly the affect price. We recommend you choose recycled particle board over plywood — it’s a great way to save money without compromising performance.

Cabinet fronts and doors. Most cabinet fronts and doors are all wood construction. The exception is laminate or foil-faced materials. The latter are less expensive, but have some drawbacks as far as appearance and longevity. All wood-faced are generally preferred, and some in a variety of price points.

*A note on doors: the more complicated the door construction, the higher the price for the consumer. Simpler doors are simply less expensive. Basic flat panels and shakers usually cost about 30% less than something like a colonial raised panel design.

Wood choices. Whether you prefer oak, maple, cherry, hickory, or another type of wood, the species of the wood has an impact on your final cost. Oak, the most plentiful and economical species, is the lease expensive wood-choice. Maples, cherries, hickories and exotics are less common, and therefore, come at a higher cost to consumers. Price delineation as follows:

Oak – least expensive      
Maple – 15-25% increase over Oak 
Cherry – 10-15% increase over Maple

Finishes. The lease expensive finishes are the laminate and foil-faced varieties. While they have some drawbacks in longevity, their price point is excellent. Most commonly chosen are stained finishes and these can be quite beautiful. At the top of the line come painted and faux finishes that can be stunning, however they carry a higher price tag. Remember, cabinets are furniture attached to your wall. Some considerations for purchasing.

Tight budget: Laminate, including foil-faced varieties
Middle-range: Stained finishes (20% higher cost than laminate)
Top of the line: Painted and faux finishes (another 10-20% more than stained)

Accessories and upgrades. These cover a large area, including specialty drawers, pull-out shelves, pantry organizers, light and crown rail moldings, support brackets, and decorative legs. All the accessories add texture and user-friendliness to your kitchen and should be considered wisely because the manufacturers tend to place a higher mark-up on them. Most find a kitchen lacking some features like pull-out shelves for large pots and pans, or lazy-susan units uncomfortable to work with. Accessories and upgrades are not a necessity, but thoughtfully chosen, greatly enhance the kitchen experience.

Hardware. Lastly, don’t forget about hardware. It’s the jewelry of your kitchen or bath.

A lot to consider, isn’t it? Take a deep breath, relax, and take your time. The first step is to establish a realistic budget for your improvement project, and then work back from there. As you become a more-educated consumer, these choices will become easier to make.

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