Shopping for them can be intimidating, especially for a first time buyer. There are hundreds/thousands of major cabinet companies, and many more smaller custom shops where you can get any cabinet made from any species of wood that your mind can imagine. Add to that list the explosion of RTA Kitchen Cabinet importers, and the laminated manufacturers, and suddenly the list can be overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that higher price always means high quality in construction, or more features being available.
In the past, pricing had always been the way to categorize cabinets. Traditionally, the higher-quality cabinets simply cost more money. As I mentioned before, with more and more importers conforming to the KCMA (Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association) building standards, some of the RTA kitchen cabinets can actually offer a sturdier box than the traditional, made to order kind. Regardless of what type of kitchen cabinet you decide to go with, it does not take much effort to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the actual cabinets.
Most manufacturers build their base and wall cabinets in standard sizes. The base cabinets are often 34.5 inches tall and 24 inches deep. They come in widths starting at 12 inches and can go up to 48 inches often in increasing width increments of 3 inches. Wall cabinets are often 12 inches deep and 30 inches or 42 inches tall. They also come in the same size widths as the base cabinets. Wall cabinets also come in several different heights and depths for locations such as over the refrigerator or over the microwave/hood range unit. With custom kitchen cabinets, you have even more choices available, since they will be created specifically for your kitchen space.
Different semi-custom manufacturers make different-sized cabinets for all sorts of special looks and situations. It is not uncommon to have one cabinet extend beyond adjacent cabinets to create a distinguished look. It pays to shop around to see all of the different possibilities and special features offered by the custom and semi-custom cabinet manufacturers.
One of the biggest advantages to true custom cabinets is the ability to make one giant base or wall cabinet instead of separate boxes that are screwed together by the installer at the jobsite. A custom-cabinet maker can easily make one giant base cabinet 8 feet long that installs as if it were a piece of furniture. The same is true for wall cabinets. The advantage of this method is the lack of vertical seams where two traditional cabinet boxes would mate up to one another.
Pay particular attention to the materials used to build the cabinets. Some of them are made with minimal-quality engineered lumber, particleboard, or fiberboard. . If you plan to load a wall cabinet with heavy traditional china, the weight of the dishes may cause the cabinet to pull apart over time. This is particularly true when it comes to the semi-custom cabinets that the name brand cabinet manufacturers sell at the big box stores (which is why price is not always an accurate gauge of cabinet quality). Many of the RTA Kitchen Cabinet manufacturers use solid plywood sides, which obviously creates a stronger box than a particleboard or fiberboard box. When it comes to custom cabinets, the material choices are endless and can usually be specified by the customer.
Another factor that will determine the price of kitchen cabinets is the material used to hold it together. Custom manufacturers will often use a combination of dovetailed joints, wood biscuits, and glue to create tight joints. Mid-grade cabinets will have a wide range of materials holding them together (staples and nails on the lower end, to cam lock assembly and wood glue on the higher end). Most RTA Cabinet Manufacturers utilize the cam lock system, which creates a nice sturdy cabinet, and when enhanced with wood glue, can last a life time. Steer away from any cabinets that are using staples, wooden dowels, or just screws. The strength of the cabinet will be compromised at the joints with these weaker joining materials.
I have been remodeling houses for over 10 years, and have been able to weed out some of the kitchen cabinet choices that didn't work for me. If you are interested in learning more about my personal preferences, check out my author bio.