Purchasing kitchen cabinets from one of those Big Box or Home Improvement stores can turn out to be huge mistake. You have no idea if the person assisting you in designing and ordering one of the largest purchases of your life has been working in the cabinet business for 20 years or 2 weeks. If you would like to take a chance with your money and your project timeline, then don't bother reading on and just go for it. Lots of people do, and many of them are really sorry they jumped so quickly. Please read on.
FIGURING OUT WHAT STYLE CABINETS TO BUY ONLINE
There are two basic styles of cabinets available now, the traditional cabinet and the frameless European style cabinet. For people that would like a nice clean modern look, the European style is probably right for you. With no face frames on the cabinet boxes all you see are the doors and drawer fronts with no trim in between. Kitchencraft or Arch Bay by Kitchencraft is the most well known manufacturer of the more modern European style cabinets. Made in Canada.
For an older or historical style home, the traditional style cabinets are probably what you're looking for. A face frame is attached around the entire front of the cabinet box, leaving a visible trim between the doors and drawer fronts. Kraftmaid cabinetry is the most well known company for producing the traditional style cabinets. Made in the USA. Norcraft, Mid Continent, Ultracraft and Somersby kitchen cabinets also have traditional styles and are manufactured in the USA.
Many accessories and trim items are available for both types of cabinets including, but not limited to crown molding, light rail molding, fillers, corbels, glass door inserts, glass shelves, and the list goes on and on. It can be quite the challenge to decide on everything you would like in your new kitchen.
Kitchen cabinets are basically all constructed the same way. They all start with a box, with or without a face frame, fixed shelving or adjustable, a door and possibly some drawer fronts. Ordering cool options for your kitchen is always an option, like pot and pan storage, rolling trays, full extension drawer runners, etc. Now you have a box with a shelf or two, possibly a roll out tray, doors and a couple drawers. So what's the deal with the huge difference in price you ask? That is a good question.
Thickness and type of material used in the cabinet sides is one of the differences between cabinet manufacturers and options. Door profiles, wood species and color of the finish vary a little between companies. Not enough to create such a big difference in prices between certain kitchen cabinet companies. The finishing processes are all excellent, but the Canadian manufacturer Kitchencraft claims to use one finishing process that the USA's EPA won't allow here. Whether it make that much difference in the quality of the finish, I don't know. Please don't spend huge amounts of time researching all the finish specs from the big cabinet companies. Get some samples and choose what you like. Move on because there are plenty of other decisions you are going to have to make before you kitchen project is complete.
Plywood ends and all plywood construction are a couple construction options to consider. Some companies offer plywood ends as a standard construction method. Furniture board or high grade particle board is what most of us know the other construction material as. Furniture board is fine for cabinet ends as they are all going to be screwed together and to the walls. Some contractors prefer plywood ends in a very humid climate. That's a personal choice that I'm not sure I agree with. Now when it comes to a sink base cabinet or vanity, I would probably order those cabinets with plywood ends just in case of a water leak under the sink. I think that plywood would dry out more consistently than furniture board. But again, the choice is up to you. Do a littler research on that and decide for yourself if it's worth the extra cost.
A couple great things to look for as standard equipment or an option is full extension drawer runners, and easy closing drawer guides like the Blum Blumotion types. The full extension runners allow the drawers to be opened all the way so you can use the space in the back of the drawer normally not accessible with a standard drawer guides. The Blumotion drawer guides slow the drawer down as it is closing so they don't slam shut damaging the drawer fronts over time. Nice and quiet too.
Specification books and color brochures are a must to have after you've decided on a kitchen cabinet manufacturer. This will help you decide on the gigantic amount of add on goodies that are available to you. If you already have an idea of what you need in your kitchen like storage for baking pans, spice racks, roll out pantries, you are ahead of the game. Take a walk around your current kitchen and think of all the things you don't like about it and with it had, and make a list to help you design the layout of your new space.
The major wood species for kitchen cabinet are maple, cherry, oak, alder, hickory and pine. Probably the most popular being the maple and cherry as they have a nice tight consistent grain and take finish very well. Don't forget that cherry cabinets will darken with age, so you might want to select a color that is a shade lighter than what you want to end up with years down the road. Ask your cabinet specialist more about the amount or darkening to expect over what period of time.
Thermo foil is another finishing process that most all of the major cabinet companies use. They place a thin sheet of material over usually a furniture board door or drawer front, heat it and vacuum it down to the surface. This method creates a very clean, smooth and durable finish on your cabinets. It is also less expensive than solid wood doors and drawer fronts. The only major drawback with thermo foil is colors. Usually the people that order this type of cabinet want a very consistent white or beige color throughout the kitchen. I'm sure in comes in more colors than that, but would you really want any of them? Take a look and see if this is something you would like.
With some of the cabinet companies running on 8 and 9 week lead times for delivery, you do not want any mistakes made by the person sending your order to the factory for production. If they make a mistake on your order, even the smallest thing like one letter or number on only one important cabinet and you'll be waiting weeks and even months to install your new kitchen. Use a cabinet specialist from a reputable online cabinet distributor. They do this day in and day out. They have years and years of training in the cabinet industry. Don't chance this huge project on a pimple faced kid and the DIY store that went to 2 week training course on how to design and sell cabinets. This is a huge investment for you so don't make this mistake with your kitchen cabinet project. You will be so upset if this happens.