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Cabinets: How to get the best value

Ian explains the qualities of cabinets; what you want from your cabinets and your contractor.  The quality of cabinets is varied. Let us help you get the most from your cabinets and cabinet hardware.

Cabinets:  How to get the best value

Date: 9/12/2013 3:50 PM

Location: Denver

 Difference in quality of cabinets

Cabinets come in different qualities, like cars, there is everything from the Kia Rio to the Lamborghini-Veneno - all share similar components but the difference comes in the details - here are some details to pay attention to.

Structure of the Cabinet

Here is an easy way to see what you are getting - look at the sides of the cabinets and the back of the cabinets - cheaper cabinets are made of particleboard or particleboard coated with a melamine surface that could be a multitude of colors or imitate wood veneer.  Better cabinets are made of plywood ½” or thicker – also be sure to ask about the formaldehyde content in the glue in the plywood – beware of imported, cheap high formaldehyde plywood.


Make sure you are getting ¾” plywood shelves – particleboard or MDF (medium density fiberboard) tend to bow with weight.


There are a multitude of drawers – we offer two types – dovetailed and engineered drawers – I tell my clients that our dovetailed drawers will last 300 years and our engineered drawers will only last 200 years – pay attention to what the drawers are made of – solid drawers that are dovetailed need to have nice tight joints – don’t accept gaps – engineered drawers need to be made out of a quality plywood with matching edge banding – Hafele offers a quality metal drawer system for those wishing to stray from either option – they are nearly indestructible. 

Wood Species

Maple, cherry, oak, hickory, birch and pine are standard American choices for cabinetry – if you wish to go to a veneered door and drawer front, the sky is the limit – opening the door to select cuts of veneer and even reconstituted veneers that are made of real wood that simulate the rarest of wood species without being a threat to our environment.  Your better cabinets will offer you a multitude of options that will differentiate your kitchen from everyone else’s.  See examples of reconstituted veneers used in wall paneling. 

Door Style 

Here is where the language of cabinetry can trip up a potential buyer – we speak in terms of raised panels,  recessed panels(or flat panels), doors that are either raised or recessed panels with applied moldings, mitered doors or slab style doors.  Quality is in the door and drawer front as this is what you mainly see – insist on tight joints, reveals and challenge your cabinet company to offer you something different and unique. 


Here is where the consumer needs to ask questions – there are many options in finish and most consumers and builders don’t understand this part of the game – the least expensive finish is a nitrocellulose lacquer and CAB Acrylic lacquers – this is a quick and easy finish that dries quickly but does not hold up – its average cost is less than $10 per gallon.  A step up from this is a Pre-Cat Lacquer – again this is a less expensive alternative and does not involve the skill level or equipment needed to spray conversion varnish, which is a product that needs a catalyst and is extremely durable and requires a high skill level of finish and great equipment. 

Disposal of waste 

Disposal of finish is extremely expensive – ask your cabinet company how they are disposing of their waste – they need to have a special designated area for waste that is regulated by the EPA.  Special disposal companies pick-up the waste and responsibly dispose of it – If you are a consumer or responsible builder, make sure to ask – this is a threat to our environment. 


Pay attention to hinges and drawer slides – Hafele does a great job of offering quality choices at a multitude of price ranges – here are some options – side mount slides are generally the least expensive – here are some options that are less expensive but high quality – a step-up would offer you a full extension side mount slide – again here are some options – the best options now are the full extension undermount slides with a soft closing feature – these allow the hardware to be hidden and offer a self closing soft closing feature.

Hinges are the same – first, you have to choose between a hidden hinge or a decorative hinge – the decorative hinges come in a variety of finishes and styles and can enhance the beauty of your cabinetry.  If you wish not to see your hinges, you can choose the hidden hinge or European cup style hinge – Hafele offers a quality but less expensive cup hinge that offers a great solution for less money.  They also offer a higher quality hidden hinge that offers a multitude of adjustability and soft closing features.


This is where you can spend some money and get great returns on your investment – Hafele offers a multitude of options ranging in price ranges.

  • Silverware and accessory dividers
  • Trash bins and recycling bins
  • Lazy Susans
  • Magic Corner
  • Spice Organizers
  • Knobs and Pulls
  • Roll out options
  • Pantry Systems
  • Drawer organizers

Trim and Installation 

Perhaps the most overlooked and most important part of the equation is the installation.  You can have great cabinets but a poor installation will ruin the quality of the cabinetry – it is imperative to have the installers work directly with the manufacturer – there are details that need to be communicated and most of the larger big box stores pay the installers per unit – try to avoid this and find a company that has a tight relationship with their installers and oversees the quality of installation. 








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