Cabinet Questions - Barker, Cliq

mc87yanksApril 13, 2013

With demo right around the corner, it's almost time to make a cabinet decision. So far we have looked at Home Depot, All Wood Cabinets, Cliq Studios, Oxford Cabinet Shop, Barker, Scherrs, and a few local builder supply stores.

Mainly due to price and perceived quality, I think we have whittled down the options to Cliq and Barker. From what I can tell, painted Barker cabinets will run me approximately 10% more than the Cliq cabinets.

My questions are more related to Barker than Cliq. Cliq (6 Square) appear to be pretty solid cabinets that will work well in our house, which is basically a starter home that we've already put way too many high end finishes in. We anticipate moving within 5-7 years, and from the reviews I have read they appear to be cabinets I would not mind selling to the next buyer.

Barker seems to be a higher quality product, albeit one that has to be assembled. Their screw assembly looks to be extremely simple and I can't imagine spending more than 8 hours building the cabinets. Where I get hesitant is their paint finish. Has anyone ordered an entire kitchen painted by Barker? Although I know I could probably save money painting them myself, I don't think I was to deal with spraying in this 1,000 sf home. But I saw another thread where someone receive paint samples and there looked to be some imperfections.

So the basic gist of my questions would be if Barker is worth an extra $1,000 plus the assembly time over Cliq?

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I too am in the process of process of choosing cabinets and found a couple options.
1) Cliq Studios (6square) - very helpful and responsive. Product line seems good but there is one major issue (at least with the painted cabinet line - I'll explain in a sec.
2) Conestoga seems really good with a TON of options but I am still finding out more (working with northergranteandcabinetry and they have a good testimonial and project timeline on their site and were very responsive so far).
3) An RTA cabinet painted white cabinet that i found local to me (needs assembly and fewer options but good quality).

So back to my issue with 6square. I ordered a door from Cliq Studios and got a sample door corner from my local RTA store (both in what they called painted white).
The RTA cabinet seemed to have a very bright white which had a shine to it. When I first looked at the 6Square cabinet, i thought I received the wrong color and had to double check. It definitely is what they call "painted white" because I had seen the same cabinet at a local 6square dealer and also receive two door corner samples (as well as a full door) all in "painted white". When I had first seen it I thought the white looked a bit "funny"... especially when compared to the white of the RTA I had a sample of.

The have a few problems with the 6square "painted white":
1) It looks not pure white but actually has a sort of linen look with a very slight greenish hue underneath. more of a linen than "white". Which is odd because I think 6square has another white which is called linen or something like that. But I know I received the right color so I was disappointed in their strange version of white.
2) The sheen of the paint is actually looks more like a flat paint and is not super smooth. I had to do a double take and still can't believe they would put an almost flat/satin looking paint on a cabinet in a kitchen setting. I compared it to the RTA cabinet (and I have seen alot of painted cabinets in the past few months while shopping around) and the 6square one looks unacceptably flat and almost like they primed it but forgot to actually put a finish coat on.
So I was willing to overlook maybe the odd shade of white but with the flatness it had me worried about durability. I have a house with 3 boys so things have been known to drip or spot or current light maple cabinets (spaghetti sauce, etc) but it has always been easy to wipedown with no ill effects. So I thought I would run a 'stain test" on my samples comparing the 6square to the RTA.
I had an inkling that the glossy paint on the RTA cabinet would clean up better and the flatter paint on the 6square might not so I put them to the test.

I dripped (all in about a quarter sized sections) grape juice, olive oil, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and a couple other items I can't remember. I let them dry for about 5 hours.
I then used a soft cloth and water only to clean each door sample. Everything came off the RTA glossy finish. Everything came off the 6Square door EXCEPT the spaghetti sauce mark! There was definitely a small round orange tint in the 2 areas i placed spag sauce.

I then tried dish soap and water on the remaining stain..did nothing to remove stain.
I tried more drastic measures...I tried krud kutter, windex, and even magic eraser sponge (note: NEVER use magic eraser on anything you don't want to ruin - basically sanded the areas i rubbed and left very noticeable swirl and dull marks - it is basically super fine sandpaper.).

NOTHING WORKED and the spaghetti stain still remains on the 6square painted white door. This was really disappointing and essentially removed 6square form consideration. It was too bad as we had pretty much chosen to go with 6square as we were pleased with the price, the service by Cliq Studios and the selection was workable. But the odd paint they used on their cabinets killed the whole thing.
I really wanted to like them and tried hard to but i can't imagine spending over $8000 on cabinets + a couple more thousand on install only to have a cabinet with inferior paint from which you could never remove a simple tomato sauce stain.

So it looks like Conestoga or the local RTA place. The RTA has fewer options but is priced much less.

I am really bummed that one thing blew 6square and Cliq out of the running.

I would suggest getting a door sample from whoever you are considering and do a test for yourself. Obviously not a major thing is you are getting a woodgrain but I am bummed at 6square for having such a terrible paint on their painted doors as i really wanted to like them.

I would hate for someone else to buy a whole "white' kitchen and end up without this information. Also, this staining issue may be a problem for other paint colors - i only tested white.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 12:54AM
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I just received a sample cabinet and 3 sample doors from Barker - clearcoat walnut plus both whites. I haven't tried to damage them yet, but both whites are really nice. One is just slightly brighter, as it is a true white. I'm leaning heavily towards the dover white, which is my trim color, conveniently enough.

I'll have to try the spaghetti test, though. And other tests and trials to see how the finish cleans up.

I can also take pics, if that would help. Though color is so tricky to capture in a camera and then the net.

One of the many things to like about Barker is that they also just sell doors. So, if down the road one is damaged or stained beyond repair, seems simple enough to buy a new one.

I've missed the thread about misperfections in Barker somehow. That's making my twitchy...

Another big difference between Barker and Cliq, I think, is whether you want framed or frameless. We are really dedicated to frameless, which is limiting our choices and providing another arrow pointing in the Barker direction.

On one thread on this topic, though, it seems Cliq is a Chinese company - or their product is? Barker is a family company here in the US, if that matters.

Personally, I am pretty dedicated to buying a factory finish myself. When we moved into this house, we had the cabinets painted. They held up fine for a good while, but this time I'd like them to come finished.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 2:10AM
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The link below is to the thread where the quality was questioned. There's clearly separation at that miter, and it also looks like the paint line on the edge of the trim is a little shaky.

Thanks for the thoughts on Cliq, I have a sample here and will perform the spaghetti test today. I hadn't noticed it until you mentioned it, but the paint on the samples I have is very flat as well. Great catch.

Here is a link that might be useful: Painted Barker Thread

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 9:24AM
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I really wanted to like Cliq. They looked great online and the price was right. But I agree with everything goodguy posted above. I will also add that where the "seams" of wood joined together, the paint was cracking. And this was on the brand new fresh sample. Imagine how those cabs will look in a couple of years.

Cliq is definitely not for me.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Hi. I was the one that posted the pictures of the Barker doors in the above link. The quality of the paint finish seems great. In our lighting [we get a ton of natural light] the pure white and the dover white were very close in color. I haven't done a stain test on them, but that's a great idea!!! I did it on our granite, but not the doors.

The picture was a closeup of the seams, which on the door style I chose had an applied molding. I did call them and they said it's very hard to not get some separation and it's more noticeable on the painted finish doors.

We didn't end up using them only b/c I wanted to get a maple frame with mdf panel for better expansion/contraction properties and the maple instead of alder since it's a harder wood. Not sure if all of that makes a huge difference, but we found someone local to work with and that decided it for us.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:20AM
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Thanks for clarifying on the Barker paint job, that makes me feel a whole lot better. For me, having Barker paint the cabinets only adds $1,100 because I would get 5% off for going over $7,500. That's a no-brainer to me, as I'm sure their finish is better than anything I could do myself and I doubt I could find a quality painter to do it any cheaper.

The concern I have with Barker is that it doesn't seem like anyone has purchased a full set of painted cabinets from them. It would be nice to hear from someone who has to be sure that the quality is consistent across all of the cabinets. As they've only started offering the painted cabinets recently, it's definitely somewhat concerning.

Has anyone who purchase Barker cabinets purchased their moldings from a separate lumber yard? It seems to me that their molding prices are extremely high, and being that they will have to be touched-up after installation anyway, I'm thinking I can probably get away with painting the crown and the kick board myself.

One last question for everyone, and it really doesn't have to do with a set manufacturer. I am looking at the Kitchenaid Mixer cabinet from Barker, which allows for the mixer to be brought up to counter height without having to lift the appliance. Does anyone have this feature in their kitchen, and if so is it worthwhile? I'd be losing cabinet space, but it seems like a very handy tool if you do a lot of baking.

Thanks for all of the input everyone, apparently Cliq isn't as economical or as solidly manufactured as I had thought.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 12:03PM
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RE the "funny color" of Cliq white: it is Sherwin-Williams "Pure White".(I know because I asked them.) So, it is not a bright white. I also asked Kitchen Resource Direct what their "white" was: it is Sherwin-Williams "Extra White" which is also not a bright white. And, Barker's "Dover White" is S-W "Dover White". They all seem to be using S-W colors, can we assume it is S-W paint?

I think that some are truly paint, which can stain, but some are the catalyzed varnish which looks more "plastic-y" according to some here (I 've not seen it yet) but will resists stains better.

BTW, I have home painted cabinets (Behr Cottage White) and have always found that a little diluted bleach has removed any stains without harming the paint.

You need to know that any painted cabinet will have cracking or splitting of the paint at the joints as the wood expands and contracts. Almost all of the cabinet companies that I looked at (a lot, and even the high end ones) had a statement to this effect on their websites. so don't judge the quality of the product by this phenomenon. The question would be, how tight is the joint to begin with?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Thanks for chiming in, rkb21. Somehow, I missed your update on the other thread, though I am trying to follow Barker threads... I'm definitely going to try the spaghetti sauce trial...

I'm updating today because I'm a bit twitchy. Last night my partner and I were at the kitchen table researching kitchen stuff (which is another thing I find difficult about Barkers, having to know your own details like what size you need for corner cabinets if you want a pull out, etc) and while I am at it, there are going to be some additional costs if we go that route as I am dedicated to having drawers function with add-ons they don't offer).

Anyway, one of the sample doors was leaning against the table leg. My partner knocked it and it hit the ground. I really didn't think anything of it. But, today when I went to go look at the doors, guess what? There are 2 impressive gouges. One is a deep divet that didn't take off the paint, but is probably a quarter inch dimple. The other is smaller, but you can see raw wood...

I chose the recommended alder with MDF insert for the 2 painted doors. I'm beginning to see what people mean by "soft wood". By the time I upgrade to hard maple, assuming that is hard enough, I'm not even sure where the price point is any more...

Ugh. I really have been wanting Barker to work. I've been telling myself it is fine to do this legwork myself, to be my own KD if I need to, to pay the shipping (I am in Alaska), to assemble ourselves, to research what we need to in order to make sure we don't screw up the order (this is our first kitchen remodel and there is really so much to know, most of which I don't particularly care to learn). But, ultimately, the trade off there has been wanting to keep the price point down.

And, you know, any savings are not worth much if the kitchen doesn't hold up. Even if we can order the occasional new door, assuming it would blendswith the existing ones down the road...

Bleh. Sorry for the rant. My agitation and anxiety is liking showing.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 3:12PM
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steph2000: I had mistakenly ordered my Barker sample doors in all maple instead of alder with mdf panels so I can't comment on the alder and how it holds up. The only down side to ordering all wood is the expansion/contraction that happens as compared to getting maple frame with an mdf panel. I think it's more visible when it's a painted door as compared to a wood stained door.

I have to say that our all maple door samples have fallen down when leaning against the wall, had toys piled on top of them when flat, etc and doesn't have a single dent in it.

I did try the spaghetti test on the finish but I couldn't wait the 5hrs to let it dry. That worked out fine. However, I tried tumeric [yellow spice], that was more difficult to remove, but I think it's hard to come off anything :) I used some barkeepers friend and a soft cloth and it mostly came off. I reapplied and it was barely visible. The finish remained intact. I think if tumeric can be removed, then I would think almost any food item would be able to be cleaned off.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 4:17PM
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Thanks for the update, rkb. I left sauce on the Cliq cabinet for only 3 hours and those stains are not coming off, so it's a good sign that the Barker finish held up pretty well!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 7:08PM
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We're about to order our Barker cabinets in a mix of white and unfinished cherry. The sample pure white door has held up pretty well despite being tossed into the back of an SUV with some Amendoim samples and hauled around to granite yards and home stores.
Steph2000 - I'm not sure how your door fell, but based on my own experience with a standard alder / mdf sample door, your damage probably didn't happen from a simple drop.
For anyone that's interested, I'll be posting the saga of my kitchen project shortly with pictures and "color" commentary.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 7:39PM
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One question: when in real life would someone leave something stain-able on the cabinets? When I spill something I clean it up right away. I can't think of a single instance when I would look at a spill and think, "I'll come back in a few hours to clean that up."

I understand the need for testing of quality, but leaving a spill on for 3-5 hours seems like overkill to me. But that's just me.

Having said that, we installed Cliq cabinets in our kitchen remodel about 8 months ago and have been REALLY happy with them. We got the painted white cabinets, and they look great. We HAVE splashed things on them, and they clean up easily (albeit we clean them immediately, not hours later). We have young kids who like to slam doors and bang around the kitchen when they play, and we have nary a ding or loose hinge in the room.

As for the color, we consider our cabinets a true white. Not a bright white, but white for sure. And they are lovely against our black appliances and black bamboo flooring.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 8:16PM
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My concern with the spaghetti sauce staining is if we were to splatter sauce on the cabinets and not realize it. Even small splatter marks would drive me crazy if I couldn't remove them. But I agree, it's not an issue you would come across very often.

However, if I can get cabinets that are custom and seemingly better quality for within 10% of the Cliq cost, I want to compare the finish as best as possible. With children on the way within the next few years, I don't want to be worried about touching up our cabinets when we go to sell the house in 5 or 6 years.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 9:03PM
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Thanks, rkb21. It's good to hear that your maple doors are holding up well. I found several other small nicks in mine, when I could make myself inspect them closer after my initial nausea wore off. I have the MDF inserts, too. All the damage is on the wood, which makes sense even if it is stronger given the MDF is recessed...

I'm not sure what to tell you, bosdiyer, except that the doors were in pristine condition until my partner knocked it with his socked foot from the floor leg and it fell to the ground.

Clearly, we are not going to be throwing our doors around. But, things do get bumped.

This is giving me pause. I'd like to try the maple doors before ordering, but it took me a good while to get these in the mail. It also cost a lot of money, given they only offer 2 day UPS to Alaska for these small orders. I also need to calculate what upgrading to maple actually will cost.

Bleh again.

I'll be eagerly watching the Barker updates!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 11:53PM
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Steph2000, I am in a similar situation (minus the Alaska shipping!). I, too, am concerned about the slight dents in our alder/mdf painted Barker sample door. Kids and such around our house, and we are not the most careful in the kitchen. The all-maple upcharge is not too much, approx $30 per door (a bit more for larger ones), so that's my plan.

Chad Barker is very responsive to questions.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 8:39AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I'm not sure why Barker uses alder for painted doors other than to keep costs under control. And that is all together peculiar in itself, as the two woods aren't that far apart in price, but miles apart in hardness. Poplar is what is traditionally used for budget painted cabinetry, not alder. They must have a special deal with some wood supplier to offer alder as their standard on paint.

Maple is what is traditionally chosen for painted doors in hard use environments like kitchens, and that's what most of your higher quality cabinet lines offer as a given. It's not an upgrade, because they don't use anything cheaper to begin with.

Obviously, focusing on the RTA and DIY market leads to the inclusion of budget choices that target those who are focusing on price alone rather than quality. Which is fine for those who are OK with stepped down quality in exchange for meeting a certain price point. However, when it's offered as a "standard" I find it misleading to not clearly indicate that most of the cabinet world does not consider it to be a standard and instead uses what they term an upgrade.

I think that you will find by the time you add in all of the "upgrades" that are standard on a budget semi custom line that you will find that the price isn't really as competitive as you thought. One of those primary considerations would be the fact that most of your budget semi custom lines that are available come already assembled. That saves you hours of labor. And they are factory finished. All you need to do when they arrive is to install.

I'm NOT counting Chinese produced cabinets assembled in the USA as a budget semi custom line. They are being deliberately misleading on that front, and that would immediately disqualify them from consideration.

If I were doing a budget kitchen, the two leading companies that I would consider would be Aristokraft and American Woodmark/Shenendoah. Number one, they are widely available regardless of your locale. Number two, they are produced by large national companies with a reputation for quality and will have good warranty response should you ever need that. Three, they offer a lot of choices in both size and finish and you can work with lines like that much better than you can a limited size line like Ikea. Fourth, you won't have a lot of your own labor tied up in assembling and finishing.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Holly springs: I got the impression from barker doors that alder is more readily available to them and so they get it cheaper. I could be mistaken, though. Maple does seem to be the standard for paint grade doors so that was a bit puzzling to me as well.

In the end we found a local cabinet maker to work with so we went that route instead. I was glad to not have the responsibility of measuring and ordering :)

I do have to point out that barker doors has excellent customer service and always answers questions promptly.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Kallisto, thanks for chiming in. I'm sorry you are in the same spot, even if your post was validating to my reality. It was really shocking to me how MUCH damage that door sustained with one minor incident. It's on my list to call Chat - and to get back on the website and do a cost comparison to see how much more we are talking. I just felt too deflated and stressed to do it right away - and then I got sucked into the bomber event... my partner took to calling my perch on the couch with TV and computer the "command center". Oye, I know better than to do that!

Hollysprings - I also really appreciate your input here. I have an appointment with a designer on Friday and I, too, am no longer clear how much money can be saved by going Barker. It's not just about the "upgrade" to Maple doors, though. It's also about adding pullouts/lazy susans/et al given those things are not standard or even options through Barker. I don't mind, though, the home assembly aspect.

I'll look into Aristokraft and American Woodmark/Shenendoah although I've never heard of the first up here. I've been focused on Bellmont - and the KD is focused on Katana, which I am iffy about...

The thing that really has my partner sold on Barker is the plywood frames. He put the sample cabinet together and was really impressed.

It's really crazy how much basic cabinets cost. I'm also really learning how much relies on cabinet choice. It seems everything stalls until I get this figured out...

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 3:32PM
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Steph2000 - Don't know why I haven't had the damage issue with the alder sample - but in any case, if you really are concerned about impact damage, consider just using maple door and drawer fronts on the base cabinets - the wall cabinets are much less likely to whacked.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 6:19PM
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Since I'm in the process of ordering a kitchen from Barker I have been following this discussion with more than casual interest. It didn't occur to me to look up the janka rating on alder before reading the comments here, but now I have and it's pretty low on the scale - 590 (red oak is the benchmark at 1290). As far as poplar being miles apart - it's more like inches at 540 - SOFTER than alder. American cherry comes in at about 990 and maple can be anywhere from 700 - 1450 depending on the species. Since the site describes the maple as white (hard) maple, it may very well be in the 1400 range - but I would have to confirm that with Chad..
I hope you find this helpful.
For those of you, like me, that didn't know what the janka rating actually meant, here's the definition:
The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood to half the ball's diameter. This method leaves an indentation.
I'm waiting to hear back from Barker about the cost of upgrading from pg alder to pg maple with mdf inserts, but according to the site, it's $30 per cabinet. That's still thousands under a similarly spec'd kitchen with similar quality of construction and finish.
Just to be thorough, I looked at Aristoktft and their basic line is particle board and at that only 1/2 inch boxes - plus it's framed - and most people looking at Barker want frameless.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 1:25PM
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I spoke with someone at Barker when we were considering them and they told me you could do pg alder with mdf or all maple but NOT maple with mdf panels. Maybe it's different now.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 1:44PM
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rkb21 - you're correct. I just got an email from Barker confirming that. And the maple they use as a wood upgrade is hard maple.
As far as damage resistance, I decided to do a quick test.
I whacked the sample cabinet door with the corner of a metal tape measure. Yes, there's a ding. Did the same thing to a piece of the amendiom flooring I'm putting in (janka 1920) and that dinged too - albeit a smaller one.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 2:46PM
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Thanks to everyone on this thread for making me do more due diligence than I thought I had to. I have learned a lot about the Barker process and options and I hope it will be helpful for those of you agonizing over a purchase decision. I also want to offer the highest possible praise to Chad Barker for his patience, diligence, and helpfulness.
Finally got our order placed after extensive emails back and forth with Chad. We are getting the upgrade to hard white maple with the pure white (SW 7005) finish on the Westminster door style, and the following comments are only applicable to doors that DON'T have raised panel inserts. Painted, solid wood raised panel inserts or bead board are too prone to seasonal expansion and contraction and should be mdf.
Paint grade maple is only marginally harder than alder(see my previous post on the janka ratings) . Alder machines better for door fabrication and is less prone to warping.
The hard white maple is quite dense and doesn't make a good substrate for DIY paint application. You are likely to encounter chipping problems because of poor adhesion. However, with the factory applied paint, the commercial priming and CV finish are just as problem free as the painted alder.
The wood panel inserts for shaker style doors like the Westminster that don't have raised panels are fine for painted applications and don't have the expansion issue that leads to raw wood showing up around the edges.
With respect to stains and "cleanability" - the factory finish on the painted cabinets is conversion varnish, not just paint. As a result you have the most moisture and stain resistant finish you can get on a painted finish.
Because the factory finish is CV, the SW 7005 paint you buy at the store is very close, but not an exact match. Something to think about when considering crown moldings and light rails. You can always bring a door into the store and have the computer try to color match it, but I've found those results to be iffy when the new paint is adjacent to the original.
Regarding costs.
We wanted frameless cabinets. Not a value judgement just a personal preference. The pre-built options for frameless are pretty limited until you get up into the true semi and full custom lines. Home Depot does offer Innermost - but their style/color/size choices are limited and for what we have ordered, the price was over 30% higher than our hard maple Barker order.
In summary - if the painted Barker line give you all of the flexibility, quality, and style you want and your doors are the shaker style without raised panels, and you're concerned about dings to the doors and drawers - if there's some room in the budget upgrade to the hard maple.
Just bear in mind that no wood is damage proof. It's just that the denser/harder the wood the more damage resistant it is.
I hope this is helpful - and good luck with your projects.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 11:37AM
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I wanted to come back and comment on the staining of the Cliq cabinets. Do you know that the very day I asked how on earth a cabinet could remain stained for several hours without someone noticing, I found a spill I hadn't seen on my kitchen cabinets??!! I had just signed off the computer after making my last post, walked in the kitchen to get a drink and BOOM - I saw some sort of residue of something (don't know what it was) on the dish drawer cabinet that I hadn't noticed before. The stain was at least 3 hours old because that's when the kids and I had made dinner. No doubt when one of them went to grab a dish out the drawer, they did it with already-messy hands!

I grabbed my Mr. Clean sponge and very gently wiped the spill (whisper soft because I know how potent those sponges are) - it came off within a couple seconds with no visible stain left behind. I meant to come back and post but never got a chance. I can't say what the spill was - there's no recollection of what we had for dinner that evening - but the sponge took it off with no mark whatsoever.

I then used the sponge to gently swipe at the many pencil and ballpoint pen marks on the lower cabinets (the kids tend to wander in and out of the kitchen while they do their homework), and those came up immediately as well.

I don't know what to say. Am I willing to do a pasta sauce test to see if they stain? But I do know whatever red spill was on my Cliq dish drawer for 3 hours came up with no problem.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 5:58PM
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bosdiyer, thank you for your post! I'm likely going to go with Barker, and this information is really helpful.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 6:06PM
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