Investing in new kitchen cabinets can be expensive. While new cabinets can help increase your home’s value, it’s essential to choose the best cabinets for your kitchen. There are so many cabinets available between online manufacturers and big-box retailers that it can be challenging to find premium quality at a price you can afford. Let’s explore the different types of cabinet construction, cabinet styles, popular colors, and accessories available.
Choosing Kitchen Cabinets
When searching for the best kitchen cabinets, you should first look for quality. It can be hard to tell the difference at first glance. It’s worth it to do a little research into what makes a quality cabinet.
Signs of quality kitchen cabinets
On the outside, most cabinets are beautiful, even those with a simple, unpainted wood finish. But when it comes to cabinets, looks can be deceiving. There is a difference in cabinet quality, and you can tell when you look for these features.
First, look for all-plywood cabinets. When it comes to kitchen cabinet materials, many cabinets are constructed out of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or particleboard (wood chips glued together with resin). Both have their place in furniture manufacturing, but for kitchen cabinets, which are susceptible to moisture and temperature changes, you want solid wood. The best kitchen cabinets use plywood that is durable and is not affected by heat and moisture.
Second, look for dovetail joints in premium drawer construction. The dovetail joints lock together like a puzzle and are secured with construction glue. Drawers without dovetails often use staples and glue alone to secure the drawer sides. The best kitchen cabinets have well-built drawers with full-extension glides on the bottom of the drawer. The full-extension glide allows you to pull the drawer almost entirely out of the cabinet to access the contents.
Third, look for solid wood frames surrounding the inner cabinet panel (as in Shaker-style cabinets). The best kitchen cabinets have a frame made of one solid piece of plywood in the same finish as the cabinetry. Lower-end cabinets have frames made from veneered particleboard or MDF.
Fourth, look for I-beams securing the cabinet box, which is a little harder to find when buying from stock cabinets as you need to see the underside. With premium cabinets, you’ll find I-beams made of 1/2″plywood stretchers, as seen on base kitchen cabinets. Makers of premium cabinets use a dado joint that holds all four sides of the cabinet, giving extra strength to the unit. In lower-end cabinets, you’ll typically find corner gussets or braces made of plastic, but you can also find them in wood or metal. The corner pieces usually get stapled to the corners to help the cabinet hold the shape. Glue, screws, and nails are sometimes used as well.
Types of Cabinets
When looking for the best kitchen cabinets for your money, you want to consider which type of cabinet fits your budget. Stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets can all look amazing in your kitchen, but they all have various price points.
These are the cabinets you’ll find on the shelf or for display at any big-box retailer. Stock cabinets come in sizes ranging from 12 to 60 inches wide in 3-inch increments and standard heights of 30 to 36 inches. Smaller cabinets placed above the stove or refrigerator come in heights of 12 to 18 inches. Fully-assembled cabinets will cost more than ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets. However, the biggest thing to consider with stock cabinets is the construction quality. Most stock cabinets are built with particleboard and MDF to keep them affordable.
Semi-custom cabinets come in a wider variety of finishes and wood selections than stock cabinets. You can add different cabinet storage options to semi-custom cabinets, such as drawer peg systems, pull-out shelves, lazy susans, and much more. Depending on the manufacturer, you can find cabinet sizes that you can’t find with stock cabinets. Cabinet manufacturers even have smaller, in-between-cabinet pull-outs to take advantage of the smallest of spaces.
Semi-custom cabinets have all-plywood construction, making them more durable than stock cabinets. Semi-custom cabinets have been known to last 20 to 30 years with proper installation. You can find affordable semi-custom cabinets available RTA through online kitchen cabinet companies. The cabinets can also come pre-assembled but will cost more than RTA cabinets.
Custom cabinets are built right in your kitchen according to your specifications. Custom kitchen contractors build with solid hardwoods that you can’t find in a semi-custom or stock cabinet line. Contractors can build custom cabinets for any kitchen space, size, or shape. As a result of the wood requirements and installation time, building custom cabinets is the most expensive cabinet option.
Kitchen Cabinet Materials
Cabinet quality is the most important consideration when it comes to choosing the best cabinets for your kitchen. However, it is also essential to understand the differences between particleboard, MDF, and all-plywood materials.
Particleboard and MDF are wood products produced by bonding wood chips together with resin. These types of wood are affordable alternatives to solid hardwood or all-plywood sheets. Particleboard can be very stable, and when covered in a laminate or wood veneer, it can look nice for 5 to 10 years. However, it can crumble, particularly on the edges and wherever there are hardware attachments. Further, the material tends to absorb moisture. If there are problems with the screws and joints, the material is hard to repair.
Plywood manufacturers make plywood by fixing together layers of wood, with the grain running in alternate directions on each layer, making plywood strong and resistant to moisture and heat. Plywood also holds screws, fasteners, and glue better than MDF or particleboard due to its layering. A plywood cabinet can last for 20 to 30 years.
With the background and research done on how cabinets are built and what makes some cabinets more affordable than others, it’s time for the fun part of choosing kitchen cabinets: the style.
Framed vs. frameless cabinets
Kitchen cabinets come in two basic styles: framed and frameless. Most of us are familiar with framed cabinets as this is the most popular construction type in the United States. Framed kitchen cabinets have a 1/2″all-plywood box with a “frame” around the cabinet face. This frame offers extra durability and dimension.
The most common framed cabinets are Shaker kitchen cabinets. Shaker kitchen cabinets have doors and drawers with one flat recessed panel, which gives the doors and drawers a clean line around them. This style of cabinet works nicely in any style of kitchen, from traditional to modern.
Frameless kitchen cabinets are most commonly found in European cabinet construction. This cabinet does not have a frame around the cabinet box or on the door. Frameless kitchen cabinets have a thicker box built with 3/4″plywood to ensure durability. They have a smooth slab door giving frameless cabinets clean lines and a sleek exterior. This style is popular with homeowners who want a modern, contemporary look in their kitchen.
Framed and frameless cabinets come in various finishes and color options to stand out or blend in with your home decor.
Most popular colors for kitchen cabinets
Back in the day, kitchen cabinets came in a stained, solid hardwood or wood veneer. It wasn’t until the 1920s that white kitchen cabinets became popular. That popularity has not waned. Today, white remains the most-requested cabinet color by homeowners.
The second-most popular kitchen cabinet color a mix of grey cabinets and beige called “greige.” Natural browns are also making a comeback in cabinetry. Many Americans have consistently favored wood grains; 17% of those shopping for new cabinets choose wood-grain cabinets.
Kitchen cabinet storage accessories
When working with stock cabinets, specialized storage accessories like pull-out shelves or peg systems are not an option as they do not work well with particleboard and MDF. However, when you work with an online cabinet company, they consider your kitchen layout and help you find the right storage accessories to improve function. With the right cabinet pull-outs, corner cabinet lazy susans, and in-between cabinet rollouts, you can have an efficient and organized kitchen. These storage accessories will help you maximize every inch of usable space.
When working with online cabinet companies, be sure you’re buying the best-rated kitchen cabinets. Kitchen cabinet ratings come from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturing Association (KCMA). The KCMA works with a third party to test and verify kitchen cabinet quality. If a manufacturer claims to be KCMA A161.1 Quality Certified, that means their cabinets have gone through rigorous testing and are assembled using high-quality construction methods to ensure they are both long-lasting and durable.
Frequently asked questions about kitchen cabinets
Where can I get the best cabinets for my home at an affordable price?
As you’ve seen, kitchen cabinets come in all price points. The best kitchen cabinets for the money are all-plywood semi-custom cabinets. With all-plywood cabinets, you get the longevity and durability of solid wood construction and a life of 20 to 30 years. When choosing a semi-custom cabinet, you can customize your cabinets with the colors, finishes, and accessories that will work best in your kitchen and look beautiful for years to come.
What is the best time of year to buy kitchen cabinets?
Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are always affordable. However, due to overstock or discontinued cabinet lines, many online manufacturers occasionally run extra discount sales. Be sure to watch for extra savings around major U.S. holidays.
Which kitchen cabinets are the best quality?
For the money, all-plywood cabinets are the most affordable cabinets for the best quality. Construction plays a crucial role in cabinet quality, and KCMA certification is essential. When you’re considering making such an important purchase, choose high-quality KCMA-certified cabinets.
Premium kitchen cabinets are perfect for your kitchen
With this kitchen-cabinet buying guide, you are ready to dive into the world of designing your new kitchen. Whether you’re looking for grey shaker cabinet or white shaker cabinet or a special style like modern or traditional cabinets, we will help you find the perfect cabinets for your kitchen. For help with your decision on which type of cabinet is right for you, check out our kitchen cabinet gallery at Simply Kitchen. Once you choose your cabinet style, our expert cabinet designer will help you place the cabinets at the correct size and layout for optimal kitchen efficiency.