Cabinets can devour the bulk of a budget during a kitchen remodel. Because they are a major investment (and one that's not likely to be made again anytime soon), sort through the available options and make choices with confidence.
If existing cabinets are of good quality, in excellent working condition and the layout functions well, the most affordable option is to simply paint or restain them. Another alternative, refacing, involves installing a new veneer on the exterior of the cabinet box and replacing the doors and drawer fronts, and should be handled by a professional. Design by Candice Olsen
Costly Doors and Drawer Fronts
If you decide to reface rather than replace your cabinets, be forewarned: Doors and drawer fronts account for the greatest expense. "Sixty to 70 percent of the cost of the cabinet is the door," says Jeff Cannata, past president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and president of Designer's Showcase Kitchens & Baths Inc. in Carol Stream, Ill. "So, if you're paying someone to put a new door on or a new drawer in ... it might be more affordable to purchase all new cabinets." And with new cabinets, there's an added bonus: the freedom to explore different kitchen layouts.
Starting Fresh With Custom Cabinets
Once the decision has been made to install new cabinets, there are other choices ahead. Are custom cabinets required or will stock cabinets fit the bill? Custom cabinets are built to exact specifications and offer endless design possibilities. This option requires the longest lead time and is the most expensive route, but it also allows you to include cool hidden conveniences like this built-in refrigerator, cleverly disguised as part of the cabinetry. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram
Best of Both Worlds: Semicustom
Semicustom cabinets are just that: partially custom. While the cabinets are made to the homeowner's size requirements, the manufacturer produces them in predetermined increments. Often a spacer may be needed to conceal unused wall space, and that sacrifices storage. The range of materials, designs, finishes and accessories available is not as broad as entirely custom cabinets, but semicustom cabinets cost less while still allowing more flexibility than stock cabinets. Design by Rebekah Zaveloff
Extraordinary Results With Stock Cabinets
Stock cabinets, which are the least expensive of new cabinet options, are premade and come in standard sizes. Though stock cabinets often get a bad rap in terms of quality of construction, there are many on the market that are made of solid wood. "Eight out of 10 kitchens could probably be done with stock cabinetry. And what I mean by that is a good designer can design with any line," Jeff says. "Anyone can say, 'Oh, I need this cabinet to be 21 1/2 inches.' But a good designer should be able to design using a 21-inch cabinet." Design by Thomas A. Conway
Opt for Durability
No matter what type of cabinet is selected, it's important to evaluate the quality of hinges, doors, drawer systems and finish. Homeowners should choose cabinets that offer at least a five-year warranty, according to Al Pattison, president of NKBA.
Select the Right Door Style
Next, consider the construction type and door style. Framed cabinets, which are popular in traditional kitchens, have a front frame around the cabinet opening. The door attaches to the frame. Frameless, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The door attaches directly to the side of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets, which are often used in contemporary kitchens, offer an advantage over framed cabinets. Because there is no front frame, there is open access to the cabinet interior. Photo courtesy of Erinn Valencich.
Add Hidden Functionality
After giving thought to the cabinets' exterior, turn some attention to their intended use and interior features. "It used to be that we would place cabinetry in the room and make it functional," says Al. "Now every cabinet has a purpose." There are pullout drawers for pots and pans, oversize drawers for baking sheets and even high-tech under-counter cooling drawers that keep beverages and snacks within easy reach. Accessories like lazy Susans, built-in spice racks, drawer organizers and other cabinet extras make the kitchen a much more efficient and enjoyable place. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram
Complete the Look With Hardware
As a finishing touch, add pulls, knobs and handles that complement your kitchen's design style to cabinets. Hardware comes in a wide variety of styles, finishes and colors at all price points, and the right hardware contributes to a truly finished look.