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Tips on Kitchen Cabinets

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, there are plenty to choose from. Here is some information to help you choose what kind of cabinet is right for you.

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Stock cabinets are the most basic, no-frills type of cabinets. Home centers and suppliers usually keep these on hand, so they're usually available for immediate delivery with no need for special ordering. They are the least expensive option, but you will usually be limited on choices in terms of color, finish and door-styles.

Semi-custom cabinets add more detail and options like crown molding, molding on the bottom edges, side panels, and glass doors. More choices in styles, color and finish are available, but semi-custom are more costly than stock. You may have to have your dealer order these from the manufacturer.

With custom cabinets, the sky's the limit. In this category, practically anything you can dream up you can have built. Sizes and dimensions are variable and can be customized to fit specific spaces -- down to the last 1/8-inch. When customizing, you can select from a myriad of specialty features, and the quality of workmanship will be high. So will the price. These will typically cost at least twice as much as stock cabinets. At this level, you're investing in quality and aesthetics.

There are several categories of materials used for cabinets, and corresponding price ranges. Here are the main categories

  • Laminate is the less expensive material, and is the same material that countertops are made from. A disadvantage is that it can only be made in flat panels. However, it's a good choice for kitchens with a sleek, contemporary look.

  • Vinyl-clad doors are basically a laminate that's been shrink-wrapped around a door panel. It offers raised features and detail with the low-maintenance of a plastic.

  • Wood is a more expensive choice, but it offers the classic look of a natural material, and can be made with a variety of styles and finishes. The price range for wood doors is wide, as is the selection. Wood doors may be painted or stained to give a natural finish that shows off the natural wood grain. Well-crafted wood doors can be thought of as analogous to fine furniture.

One of the more exciting design developments in kitchen cabinetry is the creative use of mixed elements. Stylized kitchens today are created with a latitude in design that can make any kitchen unique. Light-stained wood can be used against rubbed paint or dark finishes, and a variety of doors, features and hardware can be combined creatively for a distinctive look. Glass panels, raised panels, scalloped edges and overlay doors are just some of the design options you can choose from. Maintaining a sense of balance and unity is the challenge (and the fun) in custom designing a kitchen.

One important consideration when choosing cabinets is the design of the drawers -- especially since drawers are the elements that get the most use in a kitchen. Full-extension glide drawers allow the drawer to be pulled out all the way. Standard stock-cabinet drawers only pull out about three-quarters, so access is limited. Also pay close attention to the basic construction of the drawers. Dovetail joinery and all-wood construction is a mark of fine workmanship. Less expensive drawers are typically made of plastic with wood fronts, and may simply be stapled together. Also, pay attention to the glides. Metal glides hold up longer than plastic ones.

Keep in mind that, in a typical remodeling budget, about half of the cost will be allocated to the cabinets alone. Selecting them therefore is one of the most important design decisions you'll make for your kitchen.

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