Do you enjoy cooking in your kitchen? How easy is it to find the things you need to cook a simple meal for a family gathering? Does it take a search and rescue team to help you locate everything you need in order to make that meal possible or is it simply easier to call for take-out from your favorite restaurant? The reason for this might just be the cabinets in your kitchen, or better yet, the lack of planning and proper design consideration before the cabinets were originally constructed for your space.
Texas has been known for their many custom cabinet shops that work with the builders and custom builders to build all the cabinets that are in your home today. Back in the 80s and the 90s, the objective was to build a room full of cabinets that look good, and they do but in most cases, no thought went into space planning or how the cabinets would be used and constructed to hold all the necessary organizational systems that would benefit the user at any age, let alone as we age. My all-time personal favorite is that corner cabinet that has a shelf without an end in sight, called the blind corner. It’s a perfect spot to store all the things you really don’t want to see, that is until it’s time to move. How about that wall cabinet that has a vertical divider in the middle of a small wall cabinet that you need for your plates to fit into but can’t because the divider is in the way. Or the particle board shelves in the base cabinets that are so low and sagging that you have to get on your hands and knees just to see what’s in them.
As you know, most homes in Texas have these “custom built” cabinets and decades later, we are ready to trade them in for something that will work much better for us. Today, eight out of ten consumers considering a kitchen remodel are looking into upgrading their kitchen cabinets. If we plan to make an investment in the kitchen, we would be wise to consider much better cabinet construction, improved organizational system and the many benefits of an ideal layout for the space. Fortunately, things are changing in Texas. Consumers finally have more options and the “custom built on-site” cabinet shops are getting a run for their money by higher-quality, long-lasting artisan cabinetry.
But, before you set sail on your next kitchen renovation project, there are things you need to know about kitchen cabinet construction. Remember, better built cabinets will serve you well for years to come, as well as, the next generation that will be buying your home.
Several critical components are required to create a quality kitchen cabinet:
- Custom design and proper layout. These take into account how to optimize your space and are built to accommodate the working triangle.
- Organizational systems. These are thoughtfully planned by design professional to best suit your personal rhythms in the kitchen.
- Quality cabinet construction.
- Custom sizes, built to 1/16th of an inch to the space, uniquely designed for each kitchen.
- Semi-custom cabinets that are built in specific unit increments that you string together a cabinet run.
- Cabinet box construction built using hardwood ¾” construction.
- Drawer box construction with hardwood dovetailed boxes, not stapled ½” plywood or particle board.
- Quality cabinet hardware, such as bottom mounted full extension, soft close glides, and European concealed hinges.
- Finish. Non-toxic, water-based finishes that are finished off-site and baked on.
- Installation. Qualified and experienced trim carpenters that have the necessary experience, knowledge, skill, and integrity to install cabinets correctly. I have personally seen great quality cabinets ruined by the installers who had no idea how to install them.
Organizational Systems Examples
Considerations for cabinet box and shelving construction:
During the planning process, we work with customers to figure out the exact “look and feel” they want in their cabinets. In achieving the right style, the following are important elements.
- WOOD SPECIES refers to the type of plywood the box will be constructed out of. Most cabinet manufacturers go with the wood species that the rest of the kitchen is designed in, such as furniture board, maple, cherry, walnut, hickory, oak or paint grade poplar, to name a few.
- BOX CONSTRUCTION is where the rubber meets the road. It determines the overall quality of the cabinet as well as the cost.
BEST: The Box construction is built in ¾” plywood using the same wood species plywood as the rest of the kitchen. The face frames are solid wood ¾” joined with concealed screws and glue. Rails and stiles are dadoed to receive end panels, tops, and bottoms.
BETTER: The Box construction is built using ½” plywood construction.
GOOD: The Box construction is built using particle board – nailed or stapled into place. Particle board is engineered wood product that’s made from wood chips and particles that are combined using adhesives and fused together into a board and panels. This particle board makes up the largest percentage of the materials used in today’s cabinetry manufacturing industry. Most manufacturers use a vinyl or paper screen to cover over the board to make the box look like it was built using real wood. This is now most often referred to as “furniture board”.
- FACE FRAME: Solid ¾” hardwood joined with concealed screws and glue. Rails and stiles are dadoed to receive end panels, tops and bottoms.
- END PANELS: Having the right option is critical to the overall aesthetics and beauty of the finish for the project. 3/4” Hardwood plywood core veneer furniture end or flush end.
- TOPS AND BOTTOMS: ¾” Hardwood Plywood veneer core
- BACK PANELS: Nominal ¼” Hardwood plywood with many options when faced with open space or glass doors.
- INTERIORS: Stained matching veneer or natural maple plywood UV clear coat sealed.
- DRAWER BOX CONSTRUCTION: 4-sided box, 5/8” hardwood birch dovetail joinery
- CHOICE AND QUALITY OF HARDWARE: The quality of hinges and glide hardware will determine how well your cabinets will functions as the years go by.
Example: Bottom mounted full extension soft close glides – you will find this pricelss when it comes to daily use. The brand you choose determines longevity.
- FINISH: A very durable finish is an oven-cured catalyzed conversion varnish top coat. It provides a clear, non-yellowing, chemically resistant finish. The least durable top coats are lacquer and catalyzed lacquers.
As with anything else worth doing right, you will need to begin by planning for what you hope to achieve. For this reason, it’s critical that you work with the right professional who is trained in kitchen and bath design to guide you through the proper design layout of the space.
Please look for our next blog that will compare the many details and differences between major cabinet manufacturers. You won’t want to miss it.
Melinda Dzinic, CR, CKBR, UDCP
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