Cabinets can make or break a space. They have infinite options, endless design possibilities, and can easily cost more than the car you drive. So I believe you would want to know the how and what of your cabinets. Before going forward, I am going to give some definitions.
1. Case: The inside box of your cabinets. The carcass can vary in quality and finish and can be easily overlooked.
2. Face Frames: Face frames attach to the front of cases and can range in size. Most cabinet doors attach to these face frames. There is also a chance that your cabinet will have anything more than edge banding (a thin veneer) on the front of your cases.
3. Toe Kicks: The space under the cabinet that allows room for your toes as you stand at the cabinets. There are different styles and they can house a variety of items. Heat registers, drawers for step ladders, or even central house vacpan’s.
4. Hinges and Slides: The necessary hardware used to operate your doors and drawers. These can greatly affect the quality feeling behind your cabinets.
5. Doors and Drawer fronts: Covering all or most of the openings in your cabinetry, these are the main visible aspect of the cabinets. Material and style are of utmost importance.
6. Finish: The coatings that protect your investment. Much like the paint on your car, finishes give style and protection. Stain, paint, and top coats are all in for consideration.
7. Knobs and Pulls: One of those items that usually doesn’t make the first or second round of discussions, knobs and pulls can be vastly important not only to the look of the cabinet but to their function.
these are a few terms that you will want to know when designing and ordering cabinets. They should reflect your personality, but be of a quality grade that will yield many years of use. My rule is, if the budget is tight, build fewer and allow for future expansion. A few really well organized cabinets are infinitely better than many cheap cabinets that you will want to remove in the future. The greenest build is building to last!
So here are 10 Questions to Ask Your Cabinet Maker:
1. What materials will you use in making the cabinets? Poplar core sheet goods (plywood) for the cases and solid hardwood for the face frames are a must for longevity.
2. How are the cabinets being assembled? For the norm, dadoes (a groove in the side of the case to accept top or bottom) for strength and pocket screws for face frames will suffice. Cheaply stapled cases without glue will readily fall apart.
3. What are the finishes and will they be finished on site or in shop? Personally as a builder I prefer Shop finished cabinets. For some historic homes, site brushed oils look timeless, but there are many conditions on a job site that can lead to adverse finishes. A sprayed conversion varnish or lacquer are both good finishes. I prefer clear drawer boxes and interiors unless visible through glass doors or the absence of doors. Quick note, sheet goods for cases can be bought finished such as a UV Maple plywood. These assemble quickly with no need for spraying interiors. Nothing is worse over the long run than with a painted interior that gums up with use.
4. How are the drawers and slide out shelves made? Dovetailed drawers are the standard of strength, but material and an alternative type of mechanical connection are the most important. Solid wood sides are best, but please no stapled MDF. In fact, please no MDF at all in cabinets. MDF is not a structural material when attached perpendicular with like materials. I have seen a few painted shelves that turn out okay in MDF, but I still prefer quality sheet goods.
5. What Hardware will you use? Under mount soft close are my favorites. Blum has a spectacular line and are a delight to use. With good hardware you will find that you open and close cabinet doors just for fun or to show your friends. Ask to see a sample and slide if back and forth or open it. For the doors, there are soft close features that will keep them from banging. Quality hardware will last much longer.
6. What are my doors made of and what will the style be? Raised panel, Shaker, are all types of style. Inset or Overlay refer to cabinet positioning. Inset doors are inline with the face frame. Overlay doors overlaps the face frames. If you are confused of style, there is a good chance a consultation with a cabinet designer will help. As for material, solid wood will lend itself to a long life. Remember in design, the taller and wider the door, the more chance the door has to warp. It is one of the beauties of wood that being a natural material it will move.
7. Will you provide the design and shop drawings or will I need to? This is one aspect where cabinet design can make or break the feel and usefullness of your kitchen. I would highly recommend input by a professional on this subject. Where to place pots and pans, linens, silverware, the dishwasher, sink etc can be exciting and overwhelming. You can be as detailed as you want! Find out who needs to supply and approve this information before the wrong cabinets are made.
8. What is behind the doors? This is a tricky one because when you approve drawings, many times the number of shelves, slide out drawers, trash bin recievers, and many other items can be left out of the conscious. This is a great time to tackle expectations on what is included.
9. How long will the cabinets take to make and install? This is a simple question that can change everything.
10. Is the installation included? Installation is a big factor, and I prefer that the cabinet maker installs. That way any mistakes or adjustments are their responsibility. Also ask if the knobs and pulls will be installed as well.
So on your next cabinet purchase, relax, and enjoy the process. The work will be well worth the usefullness and beauty of an amazing set of cabinets.
What questions would you add to the mix?