One thing you almost never hear from homeowners after they remodel a kitchen is this: "I wish I'd spent less time researching my project before I started." So be sure to do your homework and compare the options. This is especially true when it comes to the cabinetry, which can account for as much as 40 percent of the cost to remodel a kitchen. Well-chosen cabinets are important not only in terms of convenience and functionality, but also good looks and appealing ambiance. What's more, the right cabinets will add buyer appeal and resale value when you put your house on the market.
Types of Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets come in 3 basic types -- stock, custom, and semi-custom.
Stock refers to "off-the-shelf" models, which come in standard measurements (24" deep X 34.5" high for base cabinets and 12" X 30 or 42" for uppers) and a limited number of designs. Buy either the ready assembled or the flat pack version. Choose stock cabinets if you are on a limited budget and/or in a hurry to complete your kitchen renovation -- they are the least expensive variety and do not require any lead time to construct.
Custom means cabinets that are designed and built especially for your remodel, usually by a local carpentry contractor. The costliest type of cabinetry, they're great for unusually shaped kitchens and for discerning tastes. Opt for custom cabinets when you're prepared to spend a little more to get the uniquely personalized style you want. Allow 6-8 weeks for your cabinet to be custom built to your specifications.
Semi-Custom cabinets generally are factory-made, mid-priced, and manufactured to standard measurements, but offer you some leeway in customizing details like door or drawer style and trim. Take note, though, that the more changes or additions you make to the basic design, the longer you will have to wait for your cabinetry to be ready to install.
Materials and Features
Educate yourself about the wide variety of cabinet materials, features, and accessories available these days. Study the photos on architecture and design websites and magazines to discover what will suit your family's needs and preferences.
Materials. More than 90 percent of kitchen cabinets are made of wood such as maple, oak, cherry, and hickory. Within this category, you have a broad selection of solid hardwoods or softwoods. Select the kind that appeals to you, bearing in mind that blond or light-colored woods will tend to visually enlarge a small kitchen. Feel free to use naturally dark woods, like alder, or dark stains to lend a touch of drama to a larger space. Two less costly wood-look alternatives are: 1) veneer cabinets which are made up of a thin layer of quality wood over a plywood base and 2) laminate cabinetry, consisting of a photograph of wood grain adhered to particleboard.
Design Features. Have fun with the special features that will transform your new kitchen cabinets from ordinary to oh wow! How about glass cupboard fronts, display racks for your finest china, or decorative carpentry work like beveled doors or molding?
Accessories. Some of the newest accessories in kitchen cabinetry are designed to allow universal access, such as easy-close doors and shorter base cabinets to fit lowered countertops, or to accommodate 21st technology (for example, a built-in electronics charging station).
If you are planning to sell your home, be aware that a practical yet attractive modern kitchen is top of the "must-have" list for most prospective buyers. Some 90 percent of house hunters look for homes online, and most of them scrutinize photos with an eagle eye. They tend to look for kitchens with updated cabinets in the latest styles and colors, with trendy hardware and popular new features such as appliance-concealing cupboards. At the same time, cabinetry that is too intensely personal is likely to turn them off. That means a screaming red lacquer finish is out.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.