Buying Kitchen Cabinets
The number one question most people ask when buying kitchen cabinets is, “how much will it cost?” It seems like a simple question, but many variables can affect the price of your new cabinets. The most accurate way to calculate the cost is to get an estimate based on your actual kitchen measurements, and the accessories and materials you want. It takes time and effort, but this is the only way to go if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
The cabinet industry is highly competitive. Many of the players are knowledgeable about each other’s prices and products. This is a necessity in a market that requires specialized knowledge and has high overhead. Because of this, cabinet companies often have similar prices for similar products and even though the cabinet lines may look the same, they can turn out to be very different. To make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, the question you should ask is, “what exactly am I getting for the price?”
Asking the following questions when shopping for kitchen cabinets will help you make informed decisions:
If the Cabinet exteriors are wood, do they have Factory Baked-on Finish or a Site-applied Finish?
Many factory-made cabinets with wood exteriors are finished with a baked-on varnish that will outlast finishes that are applied on the job site. The baking process converts the final coating from a liquid into a solid that will not crack or get “gummy” over time. A baked-on finish also will resist damage from oils and acids such as vinegars, citrus juices, and tomato sauce. Spills and drips wipe off easily. Most local custom cabinet shops finish their kitchen cabinets on-site (unless the shop is equipped with a baking booth). Site-applied finishes can never fully cure, making them more susceptible to decay and wear. Also, dust and dirt can become embedded in the finish while it’s drying.
What level of service does the Cabinet Dealer offer?
The level of service offered by a given cabinet retailer affects the price. For example, exclusive, high-end showrooms will manage your project from start to finish and pay close attention to every detail. How important is that to you? Do you have the budget for that level of service? Would you rather do some of the legwork yourself and save some money?
What kind of drawers are you getting?
Cabinet drawers have moving parts and will see heavy day-in, day-out use, so construction and hardware quality are important. In quality face frame cabinets, the drawer boxes are made with finished solid-wood dovetail construction. Quality European-style frameless cabinets have boxes made of either metal or solid-wood dovetail. Lower-quality drawer boxes are typically made of laminated particle board or unfinished plywood. Drawer guides need to support a minimum load of 75 lbs.
If the Cabinets have wood exteriors are the exposed sides made from the same material as the Cabinet Doors?
To lessen the price some wood door kitchen cabinet companies use a coordinating melamine or laminate on the sides of the cabinet box instead of matching wood veneer. This material does not wear as well or age to the same color as wood. Many companies offer an optional upgrade to wood veneer side panels for homeowners who want a more durable product.
If the cabinet doors are wood, how intricate are the style and construction?
A kitchen cabinet door's style, detailing, and construction can have a significant impact on the price. Cabinet doors that are mitered, heavily grooved or that have moldings on the center panel take more labor to produce and are therefore more expensive. Construction-wise, with frame and panel cabinet doors, the center-panel can be made of either solid wood or a veneer over a core material such as particle board. Solid wood is pricier than the veneer/substrate.
If the Cabinets are Factory made:
How many choices and options are offered?
With factory made cabinets, product lines that offer more choices will be more expensive. Lower priced lines will offer fewer options and the range of standard sizes available is smaller too.