Kitchen Cabinets — The Four Signs of Quality

Yes, it is a big deal. Kitchen cabinets are the highest ticketed item on the kitchen remodeling project, coming in at approximately 29 percent* of the kitchen remodeling project on average.  So if you are shopping for kitchen cabinets and you don’t know where to start, here is some important info you should know when looking into changing your kitchen (and bathroom) cabinets.

Do not get discouraged by the wealth of information you will find about each cabinet maker. There are a few key elements to compare to assess the cabinets’ quality. The bad news is that it’s virtually impossible to do an apple-to-apple comparison. Why? Because kitchen cabinets are priced based on several key factors, but each manufacturer assigns a different price percentage to each factor.

Let’s take inset doors—those nice, really popular cabinet doors that are inserted into the cabinet frame, that are more expensive than regular partial or full overlay doors because the space to fit the door has to be carefully cut. Well, many cabinets makers would charge you 5 percent for inset doors while others would charge 18 percent for the exactly the  same thing.  Now, it gets even trickier.

Door styles are priced into categories, graded A–F, where A is the most affordable and F is the most expensive, but doors are arbitrarily categorized by the different manufacturers. So the same door can be considered a different price level depending on the brand you look at.

Then there is the finish. Stained or painted? Glazed, brushed or antiqued? Again the price tag is dictated by the maker, so watch out. If you want to keep your budget under control, maybe you can compromise on the glaze if you really want those beautiful white painted cabinets.

Another important factor is the wood specie. Again, different manufacturers use different percentages to price their wood species. A cherry rather than a birch cabinet can cost you anywhere from 15 to 20 percent more on the total cabinet price.

Not overwhelmed yet? Well,  if you see “X” brand cabinets everywhere you go and you see stacks and more stacks of  books of free literature, be advised. Are you paying for their huge marketing campaign or for  the quality of your brand new investment?

Finally, when considering a cabinetry manufacturer, always ask your designer (because we assume that you hire a professional to design your kitchen!!) how the manufacturer responds to a crisis. For instance, if the cabinet broke, how long would you have to wait for a replacement? There are many things happening behind the scenes of a kitchen remodel, so keep that in mind too!

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what your priorities are. Do you want cabinets that will last 8 years or 80 years? Do you really want that inset door or can you give that up in exchange for that rich cherry cabinet you absolutely must have?

My advice is,  look around but do not obsess. Get informed, but ask the expert. Sit back, relax, and try to trust your designer. That could be your best  move of the whole selection process!

The 4 Signs of Quality:

  1. Box construction: ¾” plywood on sides. Melamine or laminate interiors are ok, because they wear better over time.
  2. Drawer construction: Dovetail drawers are a must.
  3. Drawer glides: Full extension glides, rated for 100lbs (75 lbs is standard).
  4. Doors: Choose a full overlay door style for an updated look (3/4 overlay looks builder grade).

Kitchen Cabinets—Price levels & quality

“Big Box” stores: Do-it-yourself stores are fine for short term investments and quick fixes, but they offer limited sizes, finishes, and questionable construction. Great for your first condo or rental property, but NOT great for resale value or long-term wear. Would you trust boxes that are stapled together to last?

Stock: Basic sizes and finishes, but of better quality than from a big box store. What you give up: the design flexibility of specialty cabinets that improve function and upgrade the look of your kitchen, like Super Susan corner cabinets, glass front cabinet doors, and flexible sizing.


Most kitchens remodeled  for between $35,000 to $85,000** are designed with semi-custom cabinets that have great design flexibility with a good price tag.


Top of the line cabinets—so free your imagination and design anything you want!  Obviously, expect to pay accordingly for it.

*Source NKBA

** Source Terranova Construction, K&B

Share this Post!

Related post