Categories of Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets define the look of your kitchen and represent a significant portion of the kitchen remodel budget, so it’s important to give careful thought to which type of cabinets will suit your needs best. Because of the wide range of quality and price, understanding the following basic categories is a good place to start the decision-making process.
RTA Cabinets – Ready-to-Assemble Kitchen Cabinets
Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) cabinets are sold in kits at hardware stores and home improvement centers. Some retailers will special order an entire kitchen of RTA cabinets. These cabinets are designed to be assembled onsite by the homeowner or an installer. Although size and style choices are limited (custom sizes are not available), RTA cabinets can work well for a budget kitchen remodel.
Stock Kitchen Cabinets
Stock cabinets are fully assembled cabinets that are sold off the shelf or special ordered at hardware stores, home improvement centers, and cabinet dealers. These product lines offer a broader selection of door styles, colors, woods, moldings, and construction options than RTA cabinets. They also come in a wider range of sizes and heights, but as with RTA cabinets, custom dimensions are not an option. Stock cabinet boxes and drawers are usually constructed of laminated particleboard. Some lines offer options such as plywood box construction, solid wood dovetail drawers, and full-extension drawer guides. Many stock and RTA cabinets come with a vertical support rail in the center opening of double-door cabinets, which are 27” to 36” wide. This rail limits access to the cabinet’s interior to some extent. Some companies may remove the center rail on base cabinets with roll-outs, but it usually remains in place in all wall cabinets. Consult your retailer for exact details on cabinet options and center-rail design.
Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets at this level offer an excellent value and a remarkable range of sizes, colors, insert options, door styles, woods, and molding treatments. Factory assembled, they are termed “semi-custom” primarily because the cabinet depth can be altered. Other customizations available at this level vary widely among manufacturers. These cabinets are often designed to be “full access”—up to 36” wide—which means they do not require a vertical support rail that can hinder access to the cabinet interior. Common semi-custom cabinet box materials include particle board, medium density fiberboard, and plywood.
Custom Kitchen Cabinets
Custom kitchen cabinets offer the greatest selection and versatility. They can also complement and highlight existing architectural features for a unique kitchen design. Cabinets can be built to your specific needs, sizes, and configurations, with many companies offering custom colors, stains, and door styles.
Cabinet and drawer box materials are similar to those used in semi-custom cabinets. Common custom cabinet box materials include particle board, medium density fiberboard, and plywood. Interiors are covered in melamine, vinyl, or clear coat-finished plywood. Drawer materials range from basic laminated particle board to solid wood with dovetailed joint construction. Some custom cabinet companies offer “green” materials for environmentally conscious customers.
Custom cabinets are divided into two sub-categories: factory made cabinets and locally made custom cabinets. Many manufacturers produce factory-made custom cabinets, which are some of the most expensive and finest quality cabinets available. Customizable in nearly every aspect, factory-made custom cabinets with wood exteriors are often available with a baked-on catalytic conversion varnish finish. This hard, durable finish will not deteriorate over time and is superior to even the best site-applied finish. It resists acidic and basic foods such as citrus, milk, alcohol, and oils and is easier to wipe clean. The process requires a specialized baking booth that many local custom shops lack. Many major manufacturers carry limited lifetime warranties for catalytic conversion varnish finishes.