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Smart Cabinet Buying Advice from Experienced Designers

Are you trying to make an educated cabinet purchasing decision? IN-HOUSE shares a wealth of knowledge (critical factors) relating to making that all important cabinet purchase for your home. Homeowners tend to have the same purchasing desires. They want to find a product that enhances the style of their home, functions well, adds comfort, value, and fits within their finances. Consumers often overlook a few important details when purchasing items for their home. The following points are important in achieving your happy mojo.

Cabinet Layout Design

One of the first things that come to mind when you want new cabinets is the layout of the space. It isn’t rocket science to design your kitchen, bath, or built-in furniture, but it is always sound advice to obtain professional guidance. As we sell cabinets to homeowners we observe a high level of dissatisfaction with their current layout or past design. Almost every homeowner we talk to has a high level of aggravation from living in a space that does not make them happy. This means that many design concepts have not considered the homeowner’s needs and desires. You can best avoid this corundum by working with an experienced design professional that is concerned with your exact needs.

What kind of design professional should you use? There are many designers with little or no experience and those who have been in the business for years. The more experience they have, the better chance you have at obtaining that dream space you desire. You may also want to seek individuals that have references or positive client reviews. A well trained individual knows the national and local building codes, listens to your wants and needs, and understands design flaws and how to avoid them. If you seek advice from a qualified professional you should be ecstatic with the results. Click here to hire a professional designer.

Cabinet Construction and Durability

A majority of our business is helping homeowners remodel. The second biggest factor in homeowner dissatisfaction is living with poor quality products that look unsightly or have ceased to function properly. We have seen drawer failure, degrading finishes, laminates peeling, joints separating, cabinets falling off walls, shelves sagging, lazy susans breaking, doors falling apart, and other disasters. The images below show some results of poor cabinet construction.

Badly constructed cabinet door has broken.

This cabinet door failed (see image above) the test of time because it wasn’t made with proper construction techniques. Wooden cabinet doors with a frame and center panel should have a “floating” center panel. So when humidity causes the wood to grow, the center panel will not swell enough to force the surrounding frame apart. There is room inside the frame to let the center panel grow. To keep the floating center panel from sliding around in the frame, the cabinet maker inserts small rubber stops (to absorb expansion) before assembling the door.

Cabinet Finishes

Cabinet with peeling finish.

Finishes that become unsightly can knock your self-esteem, are embarrassing, and drastically reduce your home’s resale value. A few years back a finishing concept called thermofoil laminating was introduced to the cabinet industry. To answer the large demand for traditional style solid color cabinets, many cabinet makers began using this product. Thermofoil was promoted as the solution to white paint. It was supposed to outlast painted finishes. In theory the idea sounded great, but in practice it often failed. Thermofoil is heating a plastic laminate causing it to form around and adhere to a detailed substrate. This plastic had a memory that made the material want to spring back to its original sheet form. Many of these cabinets have delaminated over the years. One of the biggest issues appeared around heat sources. When ovens heated, the laminate on the cabinets next to the heat source peeled. In some cases heat was not the problem. When you bend plastics they tend to want to return to their original form (as seen in the photo above). If you really want a solid color, we recommend avoiding thermofoil and opt for a glued on durable laminate or a baked on paint.

Cabinet drawers delaminating.

Not only is it important to get a good finish on the outside of the cabinet, but some products offer interiors that just don’t hold up. With technological advances there are some great benefits. If you are looking for a stained wood cabinet or a painted cabinet, there are new finishes that outlast the older concepts. Catalyzed finishes are durable. These modern products are finishes made from a two part mix. Like epoxy, they are hardened by adding the catalyst. We find that these finishes combined with proper surface preparation and adequate coats, are extremely resistant to household chemicals, and normal use. They are far superior to some of the finishes found on lower priced cabinets.

Cabinet Materials

As worldwide commerce grew the U.S. has experienced an influx of cabinets made with cheap labor and little manufacturing oversite. When reviewing the majority of these products we have seen many huge flaws in material and construction methods. It is extremely important to obtain sound bones to lay the finish on.

Different types of cabinet materials.

The image above shows various types of materials that might be used when constructing cabinets. The lower priced boxes are made with thinner budget products. Finish degradation and or cabinet box failure is almost always related to the materials used. When a cabinet company cuts manufacturing costs, they select low grade materials or employ less qualified workers. Initially the cabinets might look good, but years down the road they need repair, refinishing, or at worst replacement.

There are different grades of plywood, MDF, and others. Just because the company advertises that they use plywood, it doesn’t mean the plywood is stable, rigid, lacking voids, and won’t delaminate. Budget type cabinets often use very low quality glues and materials to save on overhead costs and pass on low pricing. The homeowner suffers in the long run.

Are All Cabinet Drawers Alike?

Tradtional dovetailed drawer image.
Rounded dovetailed drawer image.

Dovetailed drawers can be durable, right? Properly made dovetails were extremely durable until recent times. The image on the left shows a multi-facetted dovetail. The image on the right shows the modern dovetail cut using a “dovetail jig”. Notice the sharp corners on the original joint and the rounded corners on the new style joint. We have seen many drawers fail when the new dovetail was employed. The problem for the consumer is that once the drawer is assembled you can’t tell which style dovetail was used. Just because they show a dovetailed drawer box doesn’t mean they will stay tightly joined.

Cabinet Assembly – Think Green

In recent years on-line shopping has become extremely popular. Advertising has become more aggressive. Homeowners have more to choose from. This is exciting and has moved buying into a new era. Along with that have come many advantages and some major disadvantages. One of the biggest introductions in the cabinet industry is the “Ready To Assemble” (RTA) cabinets. I am not knocking the idea of saving money, but I must point out what you may not know about RTA cabinets.

For centuries cabinets or furniture were bench made by wood workers that learned the art of craftsmanship. There are ancient pieces of furniture on display at museums that are thousands of years old. Old quality furniture is often handed down or being sold and reused over and over. This was entirely possible due to the meticulous joinery in the cabinet assembly. Longevity in the furniture world is defined by how much movement is allowed when utilizing the product. If the cabinet doesn’t flex or move because the joints are tight and fastened properly, the cabinet will stand as an heirloom. When cabinets flex, even in tiny amounts, the product will eventually fail to be useful. Heavy items stored and shuffling around can flex a box into failure.

RTA cabinets being assembled. We do not sell RTA cabinets.

We do not sell RTA cabinets.

Now we will discuss more about RTA. Ready to Assemble cabinets are shipped in a flat package designed to be easily put together with common tools. The assembler only needs a screw driver and a willing helper to put a cabinet together in minutes. Well, at least that is the theory. The image above shows how “easy” it is to put together an RTA cabinet. Set it on the carpeted floor so you don’t scratch the floor or the cabinet. Get on your knees and stick your head between the parts as you align some weak plastic brace to another part. Then set some tiny fastener in the brace and screw it tight. Now, stick some other panels together… Rinse and repeat and eventually a new kitchen is born. It’s easy, right? Well maybe it is not so easy after all.

RTA cabinet interior showing plastic fasteners.

Low quality.

At this point, the assembler can stop and take a closer and proud look at the last half hour of enjoyment. Are those panels fastened by plastic clips? Aren’t those screws really tiny? I wonder if the white plastic drawer slide mounts poked into a 1/8” thick cabinet back will support the new drawers. At least someone saved a bunch of money and it will look good, for a while. Hey are those cabinets square? Isn’t that side panel a bit warped? Will it hold my stone countertop?

Poor assembly methods remind me of a builder in town that didn’t have a great reputation, but built inexpensive houses that are in need of repair today. His workers had an inside joke they would repeat when they were forced to do subpar work. They use to say “You can’t see it from my house.”

Real durable goods are made on a bench, square, sound, with old fashioned joints, proper glues, and proper fasteners (if fasteners are used). Craftsmen build them to stay in the home for the life of the home. I am a fan of thinking green and not investing in temporary goods. Yes, the RTA advertisements sound attractive and the price alluring. Just remember to be prepared for the future.

Types of wood assembly joints.

The above image shows some of the common joinery used to build wooden objects. Some joints hold up better than others. Prior to recommending cabinets, IN-HOUSE always examines the material, joinery, finish, and insists the craftsmen warranty the product for life.

Cabinet Pricing

What drives the cost of new cabinets? All of the items previously discussed greatly affect the price you will pay. Early on we represented cabinets that did not meet our current quality standards. Poor quality manufacturers have learned how to word their specifications to entice. We have to admit that it is easy to fall for the lure of savings. When we sold those cabinets we observed unhappy homeowners. We argued with manufacturers about warranty issues often. Some battles we won, other we lost. We learned the hard way that price was directly connected to the quality of the build and long term homeowner satisfaction. Now, we offer over 500 price levels and feel good about everything we sell.

Our award winning design team has done some of the finest homes on the East Coast. Some clients are interested in a basic space while others have luxury concepts in mind. We can provide products that fit all desires.

Our cabinet prices are very competitive:

10’x12’ Basic Functioning Kitchen 2019

  • Kitchen cabinets laminate $6000 - $10,000
  • Kitchen cabinets wood $8,000 – $15,000

Want more?

  • Average Cape Cod kitchen cabinet orders tend to run $12,000 – $20,000
  • Better Cape Cod homes tend to be finely detailed and often run $28,000+
  • Upscale very uniquely refined kitchens can start at $30,000+

When you are finished with your whole kitchen you will invest at least $12,000 or more (cabinets, counters, appliances, installed). At IN-HOUSE we like to interview you to find out what your dreams and needs are. We establish our design goals within an agreed upon budget and present concepts that meet any needs you feel are important. If your dreams reach higher than your budget, we will gently guide you back to sound decisions. If you wish to reach higher and obtain that dream kitchen with the best of everything, we have finely crafted custom options for that unique space.

Fall in love with your home again. Give us a call at 1-508-834-73991 to obtain your free in-office consultation.

To see our contemporary cabinets, click here.

To see our traditional cabinets, click here.