If you are like me, and I know I am,

It’s easy to get fedup while shopping for kitchen cabinets. All these kitchen showrooms are the same. They are giant sterile rooms with industrial neutral floors. They typically have 16-foot or higher ceilings (which will distract you from noticing how tall the cabinets really are) and are lit by several thousand watts of lights. 

In this environment, everything looks amazing. The ultra-high-end countertops uncluttered by coffeemakers and yesterday’s mail. The cabinets —The cabinets are perfect. No scratches, no dings, none of your children’s crayon art and favorite stickers, no dishes cramming the beautiful open shelves. The cabinets painted in the latest color endorsed by Joanna Gaines.

When the soft close doors swing shut with a thump and the drawers slide to a gentle stop, you’re sold. This environment is designed to make you feel as though you are buying artisan furniture that you will be able to pass down to your children one day. The unfortunate reality is

even the most avid fan of HGTV wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a high-end cabinet, and a dressed-up shipping crate. It is not their fault, the difference is hidden.

What to look for in a well-built cabinet

Face: All pieces visible from the front of a cabinet.

1. The wood used on the face of a quality cabinet shouldn’t

have knots, pitch pockets, sanding scars, grain irregularities, or color differences.

2. Face-frames should be fastened tightly. Where two pieces of wood meet in a joint, the line between should almost disappear.

3. Drawer fronts need to be cut from a single piece of hardwood.

4. Flat door panels are made from solid pieces of wood.

End Panel: The side of the cabinet exposed to view.

 5. Solid wood is chosen for the similarity of grain and color.

 6. Frame pieces have mortise-and-tenon joinery;

 the assembled panel is attached to the carcass (a plywood box) with screws driven from the inside out.

Drawer: All sides are made from hardwood

7. All sides are routed with a groove that supports drawer base.

8. Joints are dovetailed at all corners.

Carcass: The plywood box that forms the cabinet’s interior

9. Side and floor panels are 1/2 inch minimum thickness.

11. Plywood shelves are at least 3/4 inch thick.

12. Cabinet floor and back fit into a routed side panel.

Details Make the Difference

Tunable Hinges: Whether visible or hidden, a hinge should be not only strong but also adjustable so that doors can sit flat on the face-frame.

Floating Panels: The frames around panels on the cabinet doors and on the exposed side of the cabinet have deep grooves. Panels aren’t glued or nailed into the grooves, and this allows them to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity without cracking or pushing the frame apart. 

Drawer Slides: A drawer supported by two side-mounted slides are much stronger than one that runs over a single slide centered underneath. The quietest slides run on nylon bearings. A good slide can carry loads of at least seventy-five pounds and will allow a drawer to open fully.

Frame-to-Carcass Joints: A strong connection between the carcass and the face frame (the five narrow pieces of wood that surround the drawer and the doors) is a mark of good craftsmanship. At the bottom corner of the back of the face frame, the vertical piece (the stile) has a wide groove, which locks onto the side panel of the carcass. The narrow groove across the horizontal piece (the rail) lines up with an identical groove in the floor of the cabinet. Biscuits glued into these grooves join the rail to the cabinet floor.

Shelf Locks: Shelves should be adjustable and supported by brackets. To keep the shelf from wandering, a locking device such as a plastic retainer plugs into an adjustment hole above.

Make stock cabinets look like custom.

There are also a few things that I like to do to dress up stock cabinets and make them look more custom.

Crown molding: cabinets can be given an upscale look by adding molding at the top of the upper cabinets,. I like to use a larger L cove rather than the more common smaller ones.

Custom island backer panel: pre-made cabinets do come with plywood backer panels. Rather than using the stock backer panels, I like to build a custom one. This could be done with a craftsman style, shiplap, or even by building custom bookshelves or wine racks.

By adding feet into the existing toe-kick, The cabinet will look like a freestanding piece of furniture. This is a relatively inexpensive way to customize your bathroom or kitchen island.

We hope this made your cabinet buying experiance a little easier.  If your building a new home, Macatawa Homes is here to help. Shoot us an email or schedule an appointment so we can sit down and get your dream home started. Did we miss something or do you have a suggestion about something you think is more important? If so, please leave them in the comment section below, we would love to hear them or feel free to start a conversation over on Facebook.