So you’re thinking about purchasing kitchen cabinets online? Are you ready to take on that kind of project yourself, or would it be your best choice to hire a designer, contractor and/or installer?
Let’s talk about these questions, and discuss the things to remember while shopping for custom cabinets on the web or in your home town. This could very well be the most important article you’ve ever read on the subject.
Remember, kitchen cabinets are all basically the same, the construction doesn’t change much. You basically have a box, maybe a fixed shelf or adjustable shelves, a door and possibly drawer fronts. You can get some fancy options, like roll out trays, trash bins, spice racks, etc, etc, etc, but we’ll talk more about them later. So, other than a wood box with a variety of internal options, you have a door with hinges, drawers, drawer fronts, and maybe shelves. Keep this in mind when shopping and pricing. It can save you tons.
Don’t fall for all the hype about one cabinet company being superior to another. They all make their cabinets the same way. Except for a few options like thickness and type of materials for the cabinet sides, profile, species of wood and finish color. Some companies claim to have a better finishing process than others, when in fact, most of them use almost identical methods to finish their doors and drawer fronts. They are all very high quality and you should not spend too much time comparing the finishing processes. Customer service from your distributor, and follow up are key to a happy transaction.
The only major difference in cabinet design is the fact that you can purchase a set of cabinets with a face frame visible, or the frameless style. The standard, or framed cabinet, is the style you probably have in your kitchen now. You can see a visible piece of wood between the doors and drawer fronts. The frameless, or European style cabinet, has no face frame, so the doors and drawer fronts are situated right next to each other when installed. This style cabinet is better suited to the more modern home or office. Where, the more traditional framed cabinets may look better in an older style home, cabin or office. It’s one big choice you have to make right up front. If you’ve never noticed the difference in the two styles of cabinets, I suggest you take a look at some images online, or in a kitchen magazine to see which style is right for your upcoming cabinet project.
Construction of the cabinet box itself is another choice to consider. Some manufacturers offer plywood ends or all plywood construction. To tell you the truth, when the sides are going to be screwed together, and the cabinet attached to the wall, I personally don’t see the advantage to plywood ends over standard construction. But some people insist on plywood ends or all plywood construction. I have read somewhere that plywood ends may hold up longer in a very, very humid climate. I’ll probably be dead before I can see if it made any difference buying standard over plywood ends. You do the research and see what you think.
The hardware most of the higher end cabinet companies use is identical. Good under mount drawer glides are pretty much standard equipment. 6-way adjustable cup hinges standard. Door and drawer pulls can be purchased from the cabinet distributor as well, but the cost is usually higher than you can find locally or online. Shop around for handles you like.
There are a mind boggling number of accessories and trim available. If you are looking at purchasing kitchen cabinets online, it’s a must that you purchase a specification book and color brochures before you start to design your kitchen or cabinet project. I’m telling you this because once you realize all the options and accessories that are available, you’re going to change your design over and over until it’s just right. Save the time, get the books. Big optional choices include but are not limited to: self closing drawer slides, crown molding, light rail molding, fillers, slide out trays, spice racks, appliance garages, rosettes, fluted fillers, corbels, shelf brackets, lighting, glass doors, glass shelves, appliance panels, finished end panels, the list goes on and on. I suggest you look at tons of photos of kitchens you like, and keep them in your project planner or in your wish list. This is a great way to narrow down the things you need or want, and the things you don’t.
Species and finish are probably the hardest things to decide on when planning a new kitchen remodel. Pine and Hickory are great for their rustic look. Oak is a very common and sturdy wood for cabinet doors and drawer fronts. It will always be a good seller. Oak has a more open grain and is not for everybody. Maple and Cherry are the most popular species when it comes to cabinet doors and drawer fronts. It has a very tight and close grain making a smooth, almost perfect surface. These are the favorite wood species by far, you won’t be disappointed if you choose one of these. On the other end of the spectrum is thermo-foil and painted finishes. If you want a perfectly smooth, white or beige finish, this is the way to go. They use a very thin film to cover the doors and drawer fronts. It’s heated and vacuumed onto the surface, making a very smooth and consistent finished product.
Now let’s talk about shopping for cabinets. Looking at cabinets at your big box store, or wholesale discount superstore, is an adventure in itself. You can wait days just to sit down and talk with somebody to get the ball rolling. Remember, chances are that these salespeople haven’t been doing this very long, and probably have never seen a cabinet installed in their lifetime. Cheap is not always better, and the discount stores are not always cheap. Be careful when it comes to cost, it can blow a hole in your budget before you know it. Know the measurements of your project completely before starting to get quotes from anyone. Use the images from your wish list as a guide to help in creating a complete list of the items you’ll need for your project.
We are now down to the nitty gritty. What cabinet companies should I look at? Well, I would look at all the major brands that you’ve already heard of. These would be: KraftMaid, KitchenCraft, Kemper, Merrillat, Thomasville, Somersby and Diamond. Keep track of the door styles and colors you like most. Keep a good list of who has what, and what you really like about each line. Remember, they’re all about the same.
Go to your local Home Depot or Lowes and stock up on any free brochures, color samples, and design tools they can give you. (Sorry guys, I’m sure you have a large advertising budget). If you have to curb your curiosity, go ahead and check out IKEA and Mills Pride too. These are what’s called knockdown cabinets. You purchase the boxes in 4 + pieces, and assemble them yourself. They are fastened together with the same type of twist locks you’ve seen on the entertainment center you bought from Wally World or Tarjet’. Not the hot setup in my book. And I personally, won’t let them end up in my properties either. =) Who knows, they might me the right fit for your project.
Now that you know what you’re after, get some quotes from the big box stores, some private Mom and Pop cabinet distributors, and from custom cabinet makers in your area.
Make sure you compile a complete list of the cabinets, trim and accessories you want, so your quotes are based on the same details and accessories. You may be really handy around the house, and want to tackle the cabinet project too, please make sure that you know how much work is involved, before taking on this kind of demo and install yourself. You may want to start shopping now, for a good installer in your area because they’re always busy on your timeline. Ask around, and make sure they have good references. Check the references too. Make the calls to verify their talent. It’s a big investment and you want it done right the first time.
As for where to get a good deal on cabinets, that is “the” question isn’t it? I know it was mine. It’s very important to remember, you need service before, during, and after the delivery of your new cabinets. Most online cabinet distributors will sell you some cabinets, and that’s the last you’ll hear from them. Warranty issues? Follow Up? Customer Service? 90% of the cabinet websites don’t even know what those terms mean. I learned the hard way, and finally found a great distributor to handle our cabinet orders.
They had just what I was looking for, knowledgeable staff, great customer service and follow up after the sale. After getting the run around by a couple of other so called discount cabinet websites, we finally found a good one.
This company carried the brands we were interested in. They assigned us a personal cabinet specialist working on my list of cabinets and helping with some design changes. He even found that my measurements were wrong in my layout, and corrected the list to compensate for the mistakes. This would have been a disaster if the cabinets where delivered to my home, and they didn’t fit the space. Be really careful with your measurements. Sort of like the old saying, “measure twice, cut once”. But, on a much more grand and expensive scale.
They ended up saving me about two thousand dollars, compared to the prices I was getting locally. The service was their selling point for me. I was assigned my very own Customer Service Representative that made me feel at ease after shelling out many thousands of dollars for cabinets online. Purchasing from a place that I’d never seen, from a person I’ve never met, was a little different. But by the time we were getting close to our delivery date, I was totally comfortable with them, and the fact that I was really going to get my cabinets delivered. My Rep kept me informed all the way through the process, including delivery, and even checked with us to make sure everything was ok after I inspected our order. I did have a couple tiny nicks on some trim, not a big deal. They sent me out a touch up kit and instructions to correct it at no charge. We were very impressed, with the follow up service and speed.
I decided to have my cabinets installed by a local professional cabinet installer, because we needed to move back into our house quickly. I could have handled it easily, you can ask my wife, she’ll tell you how handy I am. No, really. Ok whatever. I was going to do it myself, but we ran out of time in our rental. It was worth every penny hiring an installer. Our kitchen and bathroom cabinets look awesome. The installers know how to touch up the finished project also. I tiny nick or scratch is not a big deal when you see your new complete kitchen with the countertops installed. I recommend this cabinet distributor to everybody I hear talking about kitchen cabinets, a new home being built, a remodeling project, or any general contractor looking to stop wasting his valuable time at the huge retail stores. We all know who I’m talking about. You bought your last bag of fertilizer there.
This company also gives a small finders fee for referring your friends or family. I’ll bet they send out a lot of checks! I know this will help with the choices you make in your project. I only wish I had read an article like this before I started mine.