G U I D E T O K I T C H E N C A B I
N E T S:
If you are in
the planning stages of a kitchen project, you already know that
the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the home, and
that the cabinets are the most important part of the kitchen.
Given the importance
of cabinetry and the starring role it will play in your finished
room, you no doubt feel under pressure to make the right choice.
However, when confronted with the seemingly infinite number of selections
in cabinet brands, lines, styles, materials and finish options,
it’s not uncommon for homeowners to feel overwhelmed and panicked.
as with most things, a little information will go a long way toward
helping you make your decisions.
This must be
the most overused and least meaningful word in the English language.
Everyone will tell you that their cabinets
have "quality," but few will offer an objective, concrete
description of what that really means. Quality, as relates to cabinets,
should be defined in terms of both the materials and the workmanship.
that is, the body of the cabinet excluding the doors and drawers,
are commonly made from either plywood or composition board (particle
board or fiberboard). The selected veneer (cherry, oak, maple, etc.)
or laminate (such as Formica®
is then applied over this material to produce a finished look.
board has some advantages, the most notable of which is its resistance
to warping, it is generally considered to be inferior to plywood
when it comes to building cabinets.
cabinets made of particle board or fiberboard will not hold up as
well over time as those made from plywood. The hinges are more likely
to pull out and the effects of water on this material are disastrous.
Cabinets made with plywood boxes are slightly more expensive but
a much better investment.
The right material
for the cabinet doors depends upon the type of door. Doors with
raised or recessed panels should be made from solid wood, while
one-piece doors may be solid wood or plywood. Laminated doors may
be made from plywood or composition board, and thermofoil doors
must be from composition board.
Where a choice
of two materials is available, the size of the doors and the conditions
under which they will be used may play a role in determining which
material is most suitable. Drawer fronts (also called drawer heads)
generally are made from the same material as the doors.
be plywood or solid wood. Drawer boxes can be made from plywood,
solid wood or metal. Composition board is a poor choice for these
of the material should also be considered. As a general rule of
thumb, the sides, top, bottom and face frame of the cabinet should
be a minimum of 1 1/2" thick, preferably 3/4". The back
should be a minimum of 1/4". Shelves should be a minimum of
1/2" thick, again 3/4" is better. Drawer boxes should
have minimum 1/2" sides and a 1/4" bottom.
and drawer glides should be from a reputable manufacturer, such
as Grass or Blum. There are different types of hinges and drawer
glides available. The right selection here will depend upon the
cabinet construction (framed or frameless), the type of doors (full
overlay, inset, etc.) and the application, as well as your needs
Well made cabinets
use accepted, time honored methods of construction. The joints should
be mortised and tenoned, dadoed or dovetailed, never just nailed,
stapled and/or glued.
should be glued and doweled or dovetailed, not stapled or nailed.
Aside from producing a strong mechanical joint, dovetailing is also
a furniture-type detail and, therefore, preferable for certain applications.
or recessed panel doors should be made of five separate pieces,
with a floating center panel that is not nailed or glued to the
other parts, called rails and stiles.
It is difficult
to tell much about the quality of a cabinet’s material and
workmanship from viewing a showroom display. The best advice here
is to ask the designer or salesperson for a written copy of the
manufacturer’s specifications. Avoid purchasing from any dealer
who refuses to supply you with this information.
two basic types of cabinet construction are framed and frameless.
A framed, or
face frame, cabinet has six sides. The front face of the cabinet
box looks like a frame, hence the name. This type of construction
is the most common in the United States. Face frame cabinets may
be used with full overlay, semi overlay or inset doors.
cabinet has only five sides since, unlike the framed cabinet, there
is no front to the cabinet box. This type of construction is much
more common in European cabinets. These cabinets must be used with
full overlay doors.
The door overlay
refers to the relationship of the doors and drawer fronts to the
cabinet box. Full overlay doors cover the entire front face of the
cabinet, so that when you look at the fronts of these cabinets you
do not see the boxes, only the doors and drawer fronts. Semi overlay
doors only partially cover the front of the cabinet. Inset doors
are set into the opening in the face frame of the cabinet.
You now have
a basic understanding of cabinets. Armed with this knowledge, you
are ready to begin shopping and comparing kitchen cabinets as an
educated consumer. •