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Feb 6, 2010 09:15 AM

Kitchen cabinet help, PLEASE

I am shopping for kitchen cabinets and need to place an order t his week.. Have been reading a lot of threads on boards; Chowhound and others, and I am seeing so many names appearing, Plain and Fancy, Merrillat, Wood Mode, Rich Maid, as well as the Kraft-Maid and Medallion I mentioned. Please, can someone enlighten me: what exactly IS the difference? The thickness of the cabinet box? I am talking comparing relatively plain all-wood cabinets here (I am looking at flat-front Shaker-Style) , not ones with a lot of extra molding and finials. I have a quote of about 7100. for I believe 9 cabinets, a few with drawers, some the full 48" tall, in maple. I do prefer to go the independent small retailer route as well.

I GREATLY appreciate all the help, in advance.

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  1. lichow, there are several points of difference among cabinety. From a cost standpoint, the largest one is whether the cabinets are made entirely of wood or are made primarily of particle board with a veneer on the parts that show. The manner of attaching joints together is a second big factor: the better cabinets have a form of tongue and groove joinery (some have a mortise & tenon joinery); cheaper cabinets use screws, nails, or even staples. A third factor is the quality of the hardware on the drawer guides, etc.

    FWIW, when we remodeled our kitchen, after a lot of looking, we ended up with Canyon Creek Cornerstone cabinets, but there are many other excellent options available.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Politeness

      Thanks, Politeness, for clarification--what I was looking at were all-wood boxes (plywood I guess), no particle board or composite, and stained maple flat-front doors, one with some glass. There are just so many companies, some carried by some dealers and other by others, and I am trying to see a standard or heirarchy or what is the best value for money within this category. I understand the custom, semi-, stock etc. part.

      1. re: Politeness

        I ended up with Canyon Creek too, after consulting with a local kitchen designer. They do "custom modular" so you basically specify what you want (including quality levels) and they build it for you. I'm not far from the factory so the shipping was reasonable.

        My cabinets are also Shaker and quite plain. I love them. I also love some of the gadgets I chose, especially a 3 level rack that spins around inside a narrow cabinet. I keep spices in it, and if I stand on a stool in front of it, (I'm vertically challenged) I can quickly search through the whole cabinet. I also opted for heavy duty pull out shelves in my lower cabinets that let me nest heavy pots and pans and get to them easily.

      2. If I can offer one bit of advice, look carefully in the back of the cabinets to see what "hardware" supports your fixed and pull out shelves, and your drawers.

        I lived in a house that came with the higher end of the Merillat cabinet line, which looked great on the outside. These are usually builder grade, and you can upgrade them when you build your house. After a few years I noticed that the plastic "hardware" that supported all shelves and drawers tended to twist under the strain of heavy weight and break. I am referring to plastic mounts that would hold drawer slides, and they were screwed into the back of each cabinet to support whatever it is that it was designed to support, usually a drawer. This would result in the drawer or shelf falling down while inside the closed cabinet. This particular tendency drove me crazy for years. It took a while to locate the correct replacement holders, and then it was always a project to get on the floor, pull out the shelf, empty the cabinet and fix the darned things. Needless to say that the support hardware is the first thing I looked at when I was checking out the cabinets in the current house I live in.

        3 Replies
        1. re: RGC1982

          You need to find a good contractor who you trust. The fact that you are asking complete strangers in cyber-space for advise on a subject they likely know nothing about is a bad sign. You do need help in a bad way, and as a cabinet maker and kitchen designer/builder I can say you shouldn't be looking for advise from anyone you can't see.

          1. re: Meatgarden

            I think you meant this answer for the op, not me. I am not looking at buying new kitchen cabinets.

          2. random thoughts for you:
            My cabinet salesman told me that if you don't buy stupidly cheap cabinets, really, no matter what, your cabinets will last longer than you will want them. He told me that he would sell me any cabinets I wanted, of course, but in his opinion, the ultra expensive full on custom made ones were kind of silly unless you have too much money and you have no idea what to do with it.

            If you are getting cabinets with doors (as opposed to drawers,) I'd consider spending the 5.00 for the soft close mechanism on each door. I will never have cabinet doors without them again. As a matter of fact, the one thing I found that easily distinguishes solid wood cab doors from others was the way the cab doors closed. Solid wood feels, well, solid. Whereas non solid doorsfelt kind of cheap - you definitely notice this when you close the cabinet doors. 5.00 solution? Soft close mechanism. Since the door auto closes, you don't feel that "cheap" closing feeling.

            If you have questions about what you can compromise on, and what you cannot, PLEASE talk about it with your contractor, or some family member you trust for their opinions. After our reasearch, we went mid grade cabinet, mid grade doors, mid grade insides (shelves, and drawer contrustction) but top of the line hardware to hold it all together - self closing drawers, and sliding mechanisms. Our cabinet guy said that the new composites used for the shelving and drawer construction is vastly superior to older versions, and we should expect no issues for 50 years - like bowing, rotting, etc. Again, he said he would happily sell us any dollar amt cab we'd care for, and he had some that would have cost a fortune. They all looked really nice, and were solid as heck, but he said, they are no going to last any longer thant the mid grade ones. Whatever we chose, we would want new cabinets well before the cabinets themselves would be worn out.

            1. No matter what any salesperson tells you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cabinet boxes made of particle board and/or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Yes, they're a bit heavier than plywood, but if they're installed properly, that is not an issue you need to worry about in the slightest. And it really is true that the particle board and other composites of today are light years beyond the junk from decades past.

              gordeaux has it right: Almost any new cabinetry will outlast your needs for it. However, make sure it doesn't have the cheapest hinges and glides. People who have Blumotion-type slow-close drawers love them, though I didn't decide to redo all my mechanisms to include them in my recent redo.

              Here's a lesson I learned: The kitchen I just 75% gutted and redid was two thirds custom built-in-place with "builders' grade" hardware, including the plastic receptacles holding the drawer glides in place. The other third was the cheapest off-the-shelf units.

              Both the custom and the ready-made were well-nigh impossible to dismantle. I can't tell you how hard it was getting the upper cabinets out.

              The moral: Don't waste money on the boxes. But pay for the doors, hinges, glides and handles you really love.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dmd_kc

                Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I do have a wonderful contractor and he has left the choice to me (but has educated me). I was trying to get across on this board that I was having trouble with BRAND choices; i.e. Merillat, Medallion (what I am looking at ), Thomasville, Kraft-Maid, Plain and's a lot to learn and I was hoping for feedback.
                The wood/hinges/drawer choices were not the issue. But very enlightening posts!