Kitchen Cabinet Quality
Kitchen cabinets represent a significant investment. It is important to make sure that you purchase a highly durable product. The challenge is that it can be difficult to tell the difference in quality between a cabinet that looks good today and a cabinet that will look good ten-plus years down the line.
The following points below will help guide you towards the cabinets that are right for you and your kitchen.
If the cabinets have wood exteriors are the exposed cabinet sides made from the same material as the front of the cabinets?
To save money on wood door cabinets, a coordinating melamine or laminate may be used instead of matching wood veneer on the sides of the cabinet box. This material does not wear as well or age the same as the wood. Many companies offer as an option an up-grade to wood veneer side panels. Ask your designer for details.
Are the kitchen cabinet-box interiors finished?
Kitchen cabinet interiors and shelves need to be finished with a water-resistant material which provides a wipe-clean, stain resistant interior. Ideally, this material will be a heavy vinyl or melamine, or plywood with a baked-on finish.
Do the base cabinets have durable drawers?
Cabinet drawers are used heavily and have moving parts, so it is important to make sure their construction and hardware meets certain standards. In quality face frame cabinets the drawer boxes are made with finished solid wood dovetail construction. Quality frameless cabinets have boxes that are made of either metal or solid wood dovetail construction. Lesser quality drawer boxes are usually made of laminated particle board or unfinished plywood. Drawer guides need to support a minimum load of 75 lbs.
Don’t be afraid of particle board – necessarily.
Particle board has a bad reputation from its early days when the product was poorly made. However, in recent years it has evolved into a highly stable and durable product. In fact, many manufacturers now call it “furniture board” to avoid the negative stigma. Although particle board is not the favored choice for drawer boxes, it does have some advantages when it comes constructing the cabinet box and shelves. For example, it is well suited for attaching cabinet door hinges to the sides of frameless cabinets. Plywood has the potential to feather off in sheaves when extreme weight is placed on the hinges. In contrast, particle board holds the screws in place under similar weight.
How thick are the kitchen cabinet shelves?
Shelves in quality kitchen cabinets will be at least 5/8 inch thick. This thickness helps to prevent any bowing or warping of the shelves from the weight placed on them.
Do the cabinets have a back?
This may seem like a simple question, but some companies skimp on materials by omitting a full back panel. Instead they will have a small top strip to fasten the cabinet to the wall and use the kitchen wall as a back. This construction makes the cabinet less stable. From the time of its construction at the factory a kitchen cabinet should have a full back panel. The back panel is an important component in keeping the cabinet squared and leveled, making for an easier installation.
Are the kitchen cabinets “full access”?
A well-built cabinet box will have enough support from the sides so that a center vertical support rail is not needed between the doors of cabinets ranging in width from 27 to 36 inches. These cabinets are called “full access cabinets" or "butt door cabinets." Many cabinet manufacturers will advertise this feature in their brochures.
Do the cabinets feature wood-to-wood construction?
Cabinets assembled in factories feature “wood-to-wood” construction, which means that the wood parts are joined to each other by a tongue-and-groove or wood dowel system, instead of being merely screwed or bolted together. The wood pieces settle together with wood-to-wood construction and bond on a microscopic level that helps to increase the box’s strength. In addition, factory machinery insures that the box is built precisely level and square. By contrast, in ready-to-assemble cabinets, the parts are attached with metal or plastic hardware, which does not offer the same strength or permanence. The cabinet's levelness and squareness is dependent on the skill of the person assembling it.
If the cabinet’s exterior is a wood, does it have a baked-on, catalytic conversion finish?
Many factory made cabinets with a wood exterior are finished with this baking process that far outlast any finish that can be applied on-site. The baking process converts the final coating from a liquid into a solid cabinet finish that will not crack or get gummy over time. The finish stays non-reactive with oils, vinegars, and acids like orange juice and tomato sauce. Spills and drips can simply be wiped off. Most local custom cabinet shops (unless the shop is equipped with a baking booth) spray the finish on-site. This finish can never fully cure, making it more susceptible to decay and wear. Additionally, any dust or dirt present on the site can become embedded in the finish as it dries.