Basic Cabinet Education -- FAQs

beantownrenovatorMay 27, 2013

Hi All -- We are just starting to plan out our new kitchen. It will be mid to high end. We are debating higher end semi-custom and custom cabinets but are looking for best bang for the buck. I couldn't find a thread with all the cabinet terminology. Is there a place to get all the terms in one place? All wood? Recessed? Etc. etc. IE everything you would want to know ahead of time about cabinets. Just want to be a bit informed while trying to get quotes. THANK YOU.

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No doubt you'll get a few post with links to threads they like but a suggestion.
A large part of a KDs joob is education, take advantage of it.
Pick 6 places that look promising. Call each one and ask to speak with a designer. Tell them the first 2 sentences of your post and that your shopping around, when you plan on being done and the type of things your going to want to know. Your not looking for the info on the phone, rather for who you'll go see.
Make appointments with 3 of them. Having an appt. Will make you stand out should ensure the right person has set time aside for you.
Go in with - a floor plan even if rough, a list of amenities, a budget number you are comfortable with (make it up) and a list of priorities. Now go on a field trip. Each appt should be 1-2 hrs.
Tell them your end-budget, priorities etc-IOW what it takes for them to get the job.

Spend most of the time having them show the things you want to learn, what you get for this much $ and what you get for that. Leave them the plan and list to price. Tell them NOT to design anymore than they need, just to price as you want a clear relative baseline. Ask when you can expect to hear from them with the info. Tell them when you expect to make a decision by.

If any turn out unsatisfactory go to the next one on your list-started with 6 , only used 3.

You will now know a lot about cabinets, have seen finishes and details, and most important have begun to get a good idea of who you might like to work with and relative pricing . With a little luck have found one. Again if you have not found a good fit go back to the list.

You will get more value from the right person than the right brand.
As with most things reading is nice, experiencing better.
If you found someone you now have an asset as you move forward.

One caveat- it is human nature to look for reasons NOT to buy. It is easier to find reason to elimate- Try to keep that instinct in check until you know who is right for you.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 9:26AM
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I just found this article on the internet. It may be useful. In fact, the site provides numerous amount of information. Very informative and interesting.

We have been planning for kitchen remodeling off and on for 6 months, what we have learned is it is imperative to read and understand as much of every aspect of kitchen remodeling. In fact, in MHO, there are tons of work needs to do prior to making the decision of ordering cabinets, such as work scope, functions of floor plan, appliances locations, plumbing changes...etc.

There are many competent and experienced kitchen designers on this site who have been offering assistances to folks on this forum, jakuvall, Hollysprings are two examples. Based on our experience, they are 10 times better than any one of the KDs we have ever encountered in our area.

There are also many fellow posters on the garden web forums who are very generous in sharing their experience and knowledge. I cannot imagine working on our remodeling without the help from this site.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cabinet Basics

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 11:53AM
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Thanks so much for the link azmom. Really helpful.

Thanks for the info jakuvall.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Just to follow up -- from the kitchen designers / experts opinions what qualities are important to you when looking at mid-high end cabinets? Trying to get a check-list when speaking with custom places and pricing them against Omega, etc. We are in a bit of a time crunch as well as this is a new home that we need to get into quickly!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 1:16PM
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From semi custom on your getting a good cabinet that will hold up. Important differences revolve around finish and wood grading.

In my business when selecting a brand for a price point-
I will only carry brands that: use Blum or Grass drawer glides, and have no Chinese ply at any price.

-Basic semi custom will have pocket hole frames
-Mid will have doweled frames (frames not the doors) better grading and finish (though my semi has a great finish and unusually good grading for the price)
-At the hi end custom, I expect mortise and tenon frames, superior finish, grading and some very nice details and absolute flexibility to design doors get any wood or finish and impeccable delivery.

-In all I expect as much flexibility as I need to design, even my basic semi brand will do sizing to 1/8". (like all designers I'm a spoiled child ;->

-For frameless I expect doweled boxes at every price, melamine is fine. I don't think ply is a big deal on frameless but clients want it at some point. Personally I think it is a waste of money.
(I have yet to find a basic" price frameless I consider suitable but just added a line and discovering more about it's pricing now so will see. One can hope)
- At some point I start to look for NAUF- no added urea formaldehyde as an option.

All that said- who you work with, both designer and installer, is far more important than the details of construction. Hollysprings will often point out that a good designer can take a soso line and make it look and work like a million bucks. A bad installer can butcher a kitchen even with the best cabinets made.

If this is new construction you want to order your cabinets when they start to sheet rock. You want to have your design finalized well before, preferably before framing (if you can find a designer who will work that way) but definitely before electric.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 1:46PM
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While looking at cabinet specs is, eventually, a good idea. Of more importance is the Kitchen Designer (KD) her/himself.

  1. Does the KD actually listen to you when you tell her/him your needs/wants/etc.?

    Is s/he paying attention, taking notes, and, ultimately when s/he gives you a rough design has s/he taken your desires into account (i.e., didn't just throw a generic plan together to get a quote)?

    If the KD is not paying attention and taking your needs/want into account (after all, it's your kitchen and you are paying the KD) when the KD is trying to get the sale, it will not get better later!

    I know Jakuvall says you don't need the detailed plan yet, but you need something to indicate whether the KD is someone who will listen to you and not just do what s/he wants. We ran into that when we planned our remodel. Needless to say, those KDs were quickly eliminated from our short list.

  2. Does the KD respect your budget? There have been numerous posts here about KDs going over budget (often by 100% or more) with the estimate! When giving them your budget, reduce it by 15% to 20% b/c you will most likely need that for surprises (even a new build may have surprises), appliances/fixtures/hardware more expensive than anticipated or b/c you wanted to upgrade, and things just costing more than the estimate indicated.

Do you and the KD "click" - i.e., do you appear to work together well? Even the best KDs may not work with everyone well - it's more a matter of personalities and, in some cases, "taste" in color/designs.

When you get that estimate, btw, be sure you're comparing apples-to-apples and not apples-to-bananas. Some lines that may appear more expensive may not be b/c they have standard items (like soft-close drawers) that other lines charge extra for. So, be sure you know what the estimates include. If one is missing something or another has something extra b/c it's standard & you want it, you need to take that into account. (If the latter has something extra as standard that's something you don't want or don't care about, then let the estimate stand as-is; if something you want is not in another estimate, then you need to find out what it will add to that estimate.)

Most KDs have a variety of cabinet lines - ranging from budget/builder-grade through semi-custom and custom, so you will probably find what you're looking for with most KDs. However, to ensure you do, after you've winnowed down your list to the top 2 or 3 KDs, look at what they offer - does one have a door style or finish that you like that the other does not? Does one have more options? etc...

I understand that you're in a hurry, but taking the time needed up-front will save you possible issues, problems, and angst later on. The earlier in the process that you find problems, the less costly and time-consuming it is to fix them.

Good luck!

This post was edited by buehl on Mon, May 27, 13...

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 2:04PM
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I agree with everything Buehl said, (except how much to hold back on the budget but that is minor)

I should have been clearer as to what I mean by a "detailed plan" . I mean that literally, with full details, I've yet to see one posted on this site.

It is a final plan suitable for ordering, listing every item, exploded details of moldings, counters, all dimensions, extended ears, combined cabinets, wide rails, relocated rails....and on and on. It comes at the end, not the beginning. Getting it done properly is why you want a KD in the first place.

You do need a "good" plan and a list. And as Buehl points out you do need to find out if they are awake and play nice :) You just don't need the final.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 3:09PM
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Thanks for the clarification Jakuvall....I understand what you mean now and I agree! The final plan may take a bit of time, so it needs to wait until you've decided on a KD. It's not fair, IMHO, to ask a KD to put the hours in for a final plan until you've committed to that KD - unless you're paying the KD for the design work, regardless of whether you finally sign with that KD. Many, if not most KDs, though, will do the final design work as part of the project once you've committed to them. Or, they charge you and then credit it back to you when you place an order.

Out of curiosity Jakuvall - what do you think is a better # for the hold back? I'm interested to know b/c it may have changed since I redid my kitchen or since it was last discussed on this site. I think you do have to hold back some b/c otherwise the KD is most likely going to plan right to the budget with none left over for emergencies.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:27PM
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I kinda went crazy long on my post in this thread ...
Everything I wanted to know about drawers

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:29PM
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If I could ask a question related to this topic about cabinetry please....

the home builder that we are thinking of going with (Custom builder, 18-20 homes per year) also generally uses their own custom cabinetry in the homes (although we haven't broached the subject of using other manufacturers). But the up front pricing includes their own cabinetry. We are early in our build process so we have lots of details to still understand however they have told us their pricing is equivalent to semi-custom lines and they do have a 10000 sq foot facility where they make the cabinets (I haven't asked them yet if it's temperature/humidity controlled).

So, my question is about what questions I need to ask of them to get an understanding of whether their process on construction and finishes will or should yield a good quality product.

Do I want a catalyzed lacquer finish? What else?

Here is a link that might be useful: our possible builder in West Michigan

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 6:19PM
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Buehl- will start a thred to answer percenT later today
Illingirl- EZ first- a catalyzed varnish is ideal
There is a good chance the builder uses a private label brand. That is a mfg who supplies cabinets either with labeling of your choice or none. There are a few dealers and "custom" shops around here who offer those and often say they have a factory. Just kinda hard to justify a 10,000 ft facility for 20 kitchens a year.

It is likely a decent cabinet. In your case I would talk with whoever they have to design for you, find out what you can about what they offer, get the amount of the "allowance" for the kitchen. Then go to a few dealers just to get an idea of how it relates. It is likely that your better off with what they have unless they are pulling your leg and offering something like Homecrest,popular with builders.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 7:51AM
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Could you please help with these two questions?

1. I heard/read that over a period of time, clear varnish/finishing used on Maple wood cabinet will change color and turn the wood to reddish color. Is it true?

If it is true, does the changing color applicable to other wood species such as Cherry, Alder as well?

2. We plan to use natural stains on cabinets. Which cabinet lines have the best natural stain finish among price bracket of Omega/Dynasty, Shiloh and Woodharbor?

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 11:39AM
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i just got some more details on the locally made cabinets....well they are finished with a pre-cat lacquer. Framed typically finished on site while frameless off site. They did confirm that they do make their own cabinets, faces, boxes (full ply), everything except the crown. Blum full extension glides, soft close hinges. The only thing I did not like is that on painted cabs that have recessed panels the core is mdf with maple veneer (the rest of the cab is solid maple). Of course any natural or stained wood cabs would be solid throughout. Is the mdf/veneer core common? They said it was because of the expansion/contraction of the wood.

So.....precat lacquer is second fiddle to the conversion varnish, correct? I toured a couple of their homes built about a year ago and the wear on the painted kitchen cabs does look minimal to none from what I could see.

They did say their painters were excellent and spend a lot of time on prepwork. I think he said the cabinets were primed and had 3 coats of paint, sanded in between, and then 2 coats of the lacquer. On a glazed cabinet even more steps.

We are welcome to get bids from any other kitchen showroom/suppy though. I'm sure we will.

Any thoguhts though on this? ty.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 3:08PM
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Azmon, all woods change, the finishes used by mfg have UV inhibitors which help slow the process.
Maple warms up- natural gets a buttery golden sot of color not red. Oak warms. Cherry darkens more than any other, gets redder, really sort of orange. Walnut is the only wood that gets lighter, it also gets warmer.
Ask if dealer can show you an aged sample, they usually have some around.

The biggest variations in finish from brand to brand are: prep, sanding between coats, final finish (buffing or the like IF they do that) and "wet build" (how much is applied)
To determine these look at all sides and edges, and feel them. You can tell if they are side by side. Even if not you should get the idea.

For NATURAL- the big variable is wood grading. Read the disclaimer if there is one, llok at samples. There can be big differences brand to brand even at the same price point. Better brands will offer "select" at an upcharge. Really good brands will automatically use select on natural and the lightest stains, still at an upcharge but not as much. Samples and or photos of kitchens, and the KDs advice all help.

With Maple specifically the concern is how much mineral streaks they allow, and how large. Mineral streaks are dark to black.

Illinigirl- yes precat is second - still not bad though. Your going to have to evaluate what you see. I can't responsibly tell you more.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:30PM
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Hello jakuvall,

Your explanation is so informative. I sincerely appreciate that.

I heard over and over the factory made cabinets have better finishing and is more durable, similar to the difference between a car painted in an auto factory vs a small repair garage. Is it true?

Tomorrow we will meet a different cabinet dealer, what budget should we provide, the entire kitchen or just cabinets?

The cabinet dealer also works as GC. Using a different GC should provide "check and balance", but using one cabinet dealer/GC may have the benefit of one stop shopping. Based on your experience, which choice is better?

Thank you in advance for the reply.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:47PM
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2-budget-total is more relevant to you. If they work with total and accurately estimate ALL the rest than that. If not, then cabinets so long as You know all the rest
3-depends. No matter who is doing the work find out how involved the designer is with the installer and the installation.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 5:40AM
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Good to know your opinion on finish. We decided to go with factory made cabinets.

I will make sure to find out how involved the designer will be.

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 9:50AM
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