About Cabinets

Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets

This page focuses on several different aspects of cabinetry. We will look at refacing or refinishing kitchen cabinets and options for maximizing space utilization. There will be also sections that deal with the different features, components and construction methods used in producing toady’s cabinetry. The other applications section will address different applications (other than kitchen & bath use) for cabinetry. Some of the most popular options available to you when remodeling your kitchen are Alder Kitchens, Beech Kitchens, Cherry Kitchens, Hickory Kitchens, Maple Kitchens, Oak Kitchens, Painted Kitchens and Retro styled kitchens.

You may select here to choose any of the following sections :
Refacing and Refinishing | Space Utilization | Cabinet Types | Cabinet Components |
Interior Options | Other Applications

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Refacing and Refinishing

Many people consider the option of refacing their cabinetry instead of replacing it when remodeling their kitchen. Re-facing cabinetry involves removing the old cabinet doors and drawer fronts and in some cases the drawer boxes. The cabinetry is then sanded down and either re-stained or laminated to the color and finish specified by the customer. The re-facing company will have new doors and drawer fronts made and installed over the existing cabinetry. This process usually takes only a few days and does little more than making the kitchen appear newer than before.

It is important to note that if your kitchen could be changed or set up more efficiently that re-facing will generally not be able to solve this problem. Re-facing does not usually clean up or repair the insides of the cabinetry and changing appliances is also sometimes difficult. Therefore, when any changes in the layout or configuration of the kitchen are desired re-facing becomes less viable as a remodeling alternative.

Re-facing is marketed as a quick and inexpensive way to remodel kitchens. Re-facing can most effectively be accomplished if three requirements are met: 1.) The basic structure and hardware of the cabinetry is in good shape, 2.) The customer is pleased with the placement and positioning of appliances and the cabinetry configuration and 3.) The current space utilization meets all the customers needs effectively. However, if these requirements are not currently being satisfied refacing can approach the cost of replacing cabinetry. Replacing the cabinets will allow the consumer with more design flexibility and make both the insides and outsides of the cabinetry new.

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Space Utilization

One of the most common reason for kitchen remodeling is that the client complains that they don’t have enough space. What is usually meant by this statement is that the space is difficult to access or poorly organized. New cabinetry can add some space by adding cabinets, or making them taller or deeper, but additional gains are to be realized by using the existing space more efficiently.

Many older kitchens have blind or dead areas, particularly in the corners, which make access and storage difficult or impossible. Many times these areas were left this way because it was the least expensive way for the original builder to fill the kitchen space. The corners can usually be changed to accommodate a corner cabinet or lazy susan type unit which will allow greater access and storage.

Another common problem in kitchens is lack of organization. By using components designed to keep things in place, neat and accessible less space is actually required. Accessories such as tray dividers, pull out trays, pots / pans drawers, built in trash containers, cutlery trays and spice dividers can help organize and maximize space utilization.

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Cabinet Types

There are two basic methods of cabinet construction. The first method face frame cabinetry which is sometimes known as traditional cabinetry. The second type of cabinetry is frameless cabinetry which is also known as european cabinetry.

Frameless or European style cabinetry can be made with either laminate or wooden doors. These cabinets when assembled together show a flush, consistent and continuous run of cabinet doors giving the cabinetry a neat, clean look. Frameless cabinets are constructed by making a cabinet carcass which is usually 5/8″ -3/4″ thick and affixing the cabinet door directly to the cabinet box. The cabinet doors are designed to tight tolerances to minimize gaps between the doors. This method of construction allows maximum access and interior space because there is no face frame to interfere. Frameless style cabinetry can actually increase interior drawer space by as much as 20% over comparably size traditional cabinetry. Frameless cabinetry also tends to be slightly taller on the inside of cabinetry than face frame cabinets.

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Face framed cabinetry is constructed by making 2 separate components the cabinet box and the cabinet frame an assembling them together. The cabinet box may be made from materials such as plywood or particle board and the face frame is typically made out of lumber consistent with the wood species of the cabinetry. In building this type of cabinetry some manufacturers uses thinner material on the cabinet boxes because of the rigidity added by the face frame. On average materials used to make traditional cabinet boxes is thinner than on frameless cabinetry. Face frame cabinetry also allows less interior and drawer space than comparably sized frameless cabinetry.

Face framed cabinetry can take on many different appearances depending on the size of the doors produced. Doors made to fit inside of the face frame will create a flush appearance and are called the inset cabinet style. These cabinets are usually only produced at higher quality levels because of the precision in manufacturing and installation required to make the doors and drawers operate properly. Cabinet doors can also be made to cover the opening of the face frame by a small margin ( approx. 1/2″). This style will allow the cabinet face frame to be seen and is known as traditional or regular overlay style. The third type of face frame cabinetry is known as full overlay. This method is used to “fully” cover the face frame and make the cabinets appear as a continuous run of doors. However, where two cabinets are joined together there tends to be slightly larger gaps than between two doors of the same cabinet. This method is designed to give the cabinetry the same look as the frameless construction method, but does not offer the same gains in space utilization as frameless cabinetry.

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Cabinet Components

There are many different pieces that go into cabinetry to achieve the finished product. There are of course the hinges and drawer slides and drawer boxes as well as the material used to make the actual cabinet box.

In today’s cabinetry most major manufacturers will guarantee their hinges and drawer slides for the life of the product. These items are usually fairly trouble free and will provide years of service. There are however an almost endless variety of hinges and drawer slides available depending on the application. Hinges can either be concealed or exposed, although the trend is towards hiding the hinges. These hinges will vary depending on whether they are going on a framed or frameless cabinet box. The hinges found on framed cabinets generally are adjustable horizontally and vertically. These type of hinges generally depend on a friction clamping mechanism to hold the hinge in position. Hinges found on frameless cabinets are also adjustable vertically and horizontally , but also have an “in & out” adjustment which allows full 6 way adjustability. Frameless hinges rely both on a clamping mechanism as well as a cam adjusting mechanism. The frameless style hinges generally have finer adjustment settings because the doors must necessarily be adjusted more precisely. Drawer slides come in many varieties, but are interchangeable on either framed or frameless cabinet construction. Drawer glides can be made with a nylon bearing or with steel ball bearings. The drawer slides with the nylon bearings are “self closing” which means that once closing is initiated the drawer will fully shut on its own. Nylon roller slides are generally adequate for most applications in which the load on the drawer is 75 pounds or less. Ball bearing drawer slides are very quiet and smooth operating units which can be designed to hold loads in excess of 200 pounds. However, these slides are generally not self closing and must be pushed fully shut. Drawer slides can either be mounted on the side of the drawer or the bottom. The bottom mounted glides allow the drawer box to be made approximately 1″ wider and allow for maximum space usage. Drawer slides are generally constructed so they extend 3/4 of the way, although slides are available that extend fully so the whole drawer is accessible.

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The one component of cabinetry that tends to be scrutinized is the drawer box itself. Drawer boxes can be made from materials such as hardwood, particleboard, plastic, steel and aluminum. A good quality drawer should have strong joints as well as a bottom of adequate thickness. Many people look carefully at the way the drawer is put together and totally ignore the thickness of the bottom of the drawer. It is important to remember that the drawer will only be as strong as its weakest component.

The most common drawer is a wooden drawer. Many manufacturers are now producing wooden drawers with what is known as a dovetail joint. This joint interlocks the side members of the drawer box and creates an almost inseparable joint. However there are other methods of joining the drawers together that are very strong such as using dowels or tongue and groove construction. The methods will also produce a very strong joint, but without the decorative appearance of the dovetail.

Drawers can also be constructed from plastic, steel and aluminum materials. Plastic drawers are primarily used in light duty applications and are chosen primarily as a cost cutting alternative. However drawer sides that are made from steel and aluminum can be made very strong and functional. These drawer boxes generally have the slide mechanism integrated into the drawer side which gives the user a wider drawer. These drawers generally have a thicker bottom than conventional drawers and usually carry a lifetime guarantee. However, these drawers are usually as costly as a quality wooden drawer box.

The other material used to make cabinetry is the wood material which is chosen to produce the cabinet box and face frame (if applicable) . Cabinet boxes are usually made out a plywood or particle board. When used in the proper thickness and applications both choices are excellent.

Plywood material used for cabinet construction tends to be slightly stronger than comparable thickness particle board material. However, plywood has less thickness consistency and is more likely to warp than particle board.

Particle board may actually be a better choice for cabinetry if a high quality laminated cabinet interior is desired. As mentioned before particle board material is very consistent and warp resistant material and remains very strong if proper joinery techniques are used.

It is important to remember that finished cabinetry can only be as good as the materials that go into making it. Equally important is also the craftsmanship, quality and precision with which it is made. In other words, just getting quality components is not enough in itself- the finished product must also have quality workmanship in order for it to truly be a durable, quality item.

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Interior Options

There are several options available for surfacing cabinet interiors. Cabinet interiors may be surfaced with natural wood veneers, painted or with synthetic laminate materials such as vinyl or melamine. Painted cabinet interiors tend to be the least durable choice and are primarily used as a cost cutting measure in cabinet construction. Wood veneer interiors are fairly durable and attractive interiors. In modern cabinetry the veneer interiors can be sealed very well eliminating the need to line shelves. Many cabinet makers now use a laminated or “wipe clean” interior. These materials can either be white of wood grained and are easy to maintain. There are two basic varieties of laminated interiors, vinyl and melamine. Vinyl is a less expensive material than melamine. Vinyl interiors are very similar to contact paper which is glued to the underlying core. However, this material is porous and water setting on top of this material can cause it to de- laminate and blister. On the other hand, melamine interiors are a low pressure laminate material which is non-porous and will not de- laminate in the same circumstances. For this reason melamine interiors are considered superior to vinyl interiors.

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Other Applications

Cabinetry can be used in many creative situations. Cabinetry can be used to create functional and beautiful furniture units such as hutches, buffets, wet bars, entertainment centers and even bedroom furniture. These items can easily be custom matched to kitchen cabinetry and built in for additional storage to fit in almost any application.

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