Help with basics of construction of White Cabinets

CT_NewbieJune 9, 2013

DH and I would like to renovate the kitchen of our new house. Would someone help me with the basics of construction of the cabinets? We are getting bits and pieces of understanding. We are considering (thus far), Plain and Fancy, Rutt Regency and a local cabinet maker. We want high quality maple cabinets that would be painted or finished white:

I read in a previous thread that "P&F comes in two ways:
1. (standard) furniture board sides and vinyl interiors
2. (upgrade) plywood construction with birch wood interior. This costs about 10-15% more."

Is this the case for Rutt Regency and a local manufacturer too? I thought that the entire cabinet would be made of maple. I don't want to pay a ton of money for MDF or anything that might have harmful gases (to boot!) :)

Also, all say they have dovetail construction. Are their differences in "dovetail"? I thought I read that Rutt Regency only has two corners of dovetail? Some mention gluing - are all dovetail drawers glued?

What are other important differences in the construction of the cabinets? 5/8" vs. 3/4"?

Lastly, since we want white, is there a difference between hand painted and the factory finish in terms of cost? Is factory finish the most durable, therefore making it difficult for the local cabinet manufacturer to compete? We have toddlers who abuse everything. We understand how any sort of painted cabinet will have little hairline cracks that don't show up on plain wood

Any light you can shed comparing cabinet construction would be appreciated.

Thank you!

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I can only speak of my experience ordering two oak cabinets from a local cabinet maker. He usually made cheap contractor grades of cabinets but he assured me that he knew how to build good ones too. I specifically ordered the outer shell to be made of furniture core plywood with oak surfaces both interior and exterior. The top and bottoms sometimes lack the hardwood veneer and the contractor asked if I wanted those or with hardwood veneers too. I got oak veneer. The interior shelves were the same material and the contractor said he would add a narrow strip of solid oak to the fronts of shelves to cover the plywood edges. We could choose the door styles and mounting. We wanted to match existing plain, surface mounted doors. Highest end cabinets have doors recessed into the cabinet flush but that is very costly and rare. The cabinets were constructed with thick oak strips on the back interior surface to allow screwing to stud walls.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 12:39PM
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Cabinet sides will not and should not be made of solid wood. Exposed sides can be if they are made the same way doors are- as rail and stile. With painted cabinets practically every reputable maker will use an engineered wood for the center panel if it is a recess panel, raised panels will vary but MDF is better if you can get it.
Outgassing- any of the mfg you mention will be CARB2 certified so outgassing is minimal, especially from the base material. The worst gases will come from the paint- VOCs. But those are worse for the environment than they are for you. There are some low or no VOC paints out there- in most cases the gases they give off are worse for you but better for the environment. Most VOCs are gone within a month.

If you want the absolute minimum gases from raw materials you can get NAUF ply or particle board from some manufacturers.

Dovetails are all the same, all glues, always overkill but the public wants them.

At the level of cabinet your considering 1/2" sides are fine for framed, thicker is nice to talk about but not needed. For frameless 5/8 or 3/4 are pretty much equal.

Factory paint is tougher- BUT harder to repair if chipped.
Site applied paint is easier to repair, harder to get really smooth (which some people prefer) Most mfgs. limit or void the warranty on unfinished cabinets making a local a better option if that is what you decide. Painted cabinets with abusive toddlers starts to say painted so they can be touched up easily. If you have the kid from the Ikea commercial well....

Construction of frames on framed cabinets come 3 ways. Pocket hole, dowelled frames, or mortise and tenon. Quality is in that order. All (but one) semi custom brand I know of are pocket hole, some "almost custom" are too, the majority of locally built cabinets are pocket hole- check with the maker.
P &F and Rutt will not be pocket hole.

Most if not all of that and any important differences should be had from who you are dealing with. At least to a point, not all designers are geeks (most aren't). But unless they have been too lazy or arrogant to go to a factory training in the last ten years they will know a lot of what you need to know.
Both brands you list are better than average. If your in Western CT then there is a good chance the local maker is also very good but check further.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 2:42PM
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It can be difficult for a layman to fully understand the differences between cabinet lines because there are many many factors that are incorporated into cabinetry as a product line.

Most people compare the box construction by simply plywood or furniture board and the thickness of that material. Rutt cabinetry boxes are 3/4" material glued and doweled together. Depending on framed or frameless construction, some parts are captured between other panels. The backs on both cabinet construction types and the bottoms on framed. With Regency, the backs of the cabinets are all 3/4" thick and are without the "hanging rail" standard in many other lines. Regency is designed to be competitive with Greenfield, Brookhaven, Signature, Kountry Kraft and many other upper middle range cabinet lines.

Beyond that, Rutt Regency has many features that are included within the line that other competitors just don't do. The cabinets all come with full dust tops (as opposed to just a 4" wide strip in the front and back) The advantage is additional stability in the base cabinets. The only drawer slides and drawer box offered are with Blum full extension soft close, under mount dove tailed boxes. Regency is made in the same factory as Rutt Classic, it is made to the same standards of finish and fit. So you still have many options to customize doors and drawer styles. You can choose profiles, center panel raise patterns, the thickness of door rails/stiles. One of my favorite features was that there is not upcharge between wood species or even paint. (they charge for glaze and distressing) So Mahogany, walnut, rift cut oak, cherry or painted cabinets (on poplar) are all the same price. The cabinets are fully custom beyond simple size designations. If you design it and it can be warrantied, they will make it. (Custom hoods, special furniture details, specialty moldings and assemblies etc) Additionally they make all parts of cabinets and doors. When you select a stained wood finish, the wood used to make each door is hand selected for color and grain. With flat panel doors the grain on the drawers and doors are automatically aligned. If you look at the dovetails on the drawer box, you will notice that they are all smooth and finished. That is because they make the box, then finish it. Some mfg order finished natural maple, then dovetail and fit the box so that the end grain of the dove tails is unfinished. Stains are hand applied, paints and the clear coat (a catalyzed clear conversion varnish) are applied in a huge spray booth. They offer a life time warranty.

Now regarding paint. Rutt Regency uses poplar for all of their painted products. Poplar has minimal graining and takes a paint exceedingly well. If you really want maple, they will do that for a 10% upcharge. Note that all painted cabinetry will crack, some mfgs more so than others. Also with paint, look at the samples and run your hand across them to see how smooth they are. I have seen some painted doors that have a lot of debris in the finish. Some of the lower quality lines also have more significant cracking, it depends on what you consider acceptable. If your family is abusive to furnishings, I would reconsider getting a painted finish (unless you distress it) A simple clean paint will readily show any damage. A stained wood is far more forgiving because of the graining that is evident, but also can be touched up more easily.

I installed a Rutt Regency kitchen in January of this year. I have frameless plywood with Huson II doors in stained/glazed cherry. My installer did a wonderful job. I love the soft close door hinges (the soft close is integrated into the hinges, no hump back add on) The drawers slide easily. The drawer inserts are flexible and handy. I love my deep drawers that hold everything I need within easy reach. When it comes to cabinetry you really get what you pay for.

Also, many kitchen designers will not go into the technical aspects of the cabinet construction unless you ask. Why? Because most buyers and just not that technical.

There are many people here that have bought cabinets made in a local shop and swear by it. I however wanted the better finish. The color matching of the grain was important to me. I knew what I was getting with Rutt. As long as you invest the time to plan ahead, ask questions and verify the details and read and question the KD to ensure you are getting what you expect.

Go to the Rutt website and check out the plant tour. You can also find additional information regarding the environmental issues that your are concerned about.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 7:48PM
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Thank you all! Just found this post again and have started saving my posts to my clippings so I can re-read them as I get a grasp of everything and as I chat more with the mfgrs. So forgive me if some of my questions were repetitive.

I really really want the white cabinets so within that constraint, I was trying to find the best type of finish. I posted a new follow up thread to that question.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 11:18PM
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Ivette ordered high quality cabinets - Crown Point - and painted herself. Or a painter could finish onsite. Click here for pictures of her kitchen.

Like you, and everyone else, I wanted the best bang for my buck. We were building and DH said we weren't going to have a kitchen if I didn't order something soon. I literally looked at everything available online and in local showrooms. I also visited a few custom cabinetmakers. 80K just for cabinets wasn't an option. But I held off ordering something "eh" because I knew what I wanted in my head. I ended up getting exactly what I wanted for a bargain price... French Gray Island. I just kept looking until I found the right person to order the cabinets through, and the cost was a 1/3 of the original 80K estimate.

Like Ivette's cabinets, they were finished on-site (by painter, then faux finisher). The island was painted, but not finished before delivery. We've been living here almost 7 years now and the paint finish has held up, has no chips, dings, etc.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:48AM
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