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What to Consider When Choosing Cabinets

Welcome to “At Home With Tom & Sandy.” As we always are, Tom and I are happy and enthusiastic and maybe a little wound-up to give you the inside scoop, what’s up, what’s down and what’s hot on cabinets this month.

Cabinet [kab-uh-nit]

Noun – a piece of furniture with shelves, drawers, etc., for holding or displaying items: a curio cabinet; a file cabinet, a wall cupboard used for storage, as with kitchen utensils or toilet articles: a kitchen cabinet; a medicine cabinet, a piece of furniture containing a radio or television set.

Adjective – pertaining to a political cabinet

Sandy: What should we discuss today, Tom, Noun Cabinet or Adjective Cabinet?

Tom: Since we both love the construction industry, I say let’s stick with the Noun Cabinet.

Tom: Hey, Sandy, ask me anything about cabinets!

Sandy: Really – anything?

Tom: Yeah, ask me, come on, ask me!

Sandy: Okay, Mr. Reilly, give me all you have on cabinets.

Tom: We all have cabinets in our homes, offices, apartments, garages and every place of business has some sort of cabinet. Some are good, some are great and some are just over the top.

Sandy: The difference in those categories of good, great and over the top must have something to do with the construction materials. I have seen a lot of different cabinets. Tom, what is the real measure of a cabinet, surely, it just isn’t the doors, is it?

Tom: Correct. The basic cabinet is a box. Base, or lower, cabinets are typically two feet deep and upper cabinets typically one foot deep. There are four materials used commonly in the construction of the cabinet boxes.

Sandy: I am sure they are all wood products. I am aware of particleboard and plywood, with some solid wood thrown in. What is the fourth?

Tom: There are two types of particle board. Each are made with wood chips and glues. Regular particle board is one the other is MDF board, Medium Density Fiberboard. This is made under pressure and is a dense and more structurally sound product.

Sandy: So, the boxes are always made from one of these four products. How would you grade them from good to “over the top,” as you put it?

Tom: I would start with Particle board, then MDF, moving to plywood and over the top would be a solid wood cabinet.

Sandy: I have seen solid wood on cabinets, but the whole box? That would be over the top. Those products sound more like furniture.

Tom: Well, yes and no. Often upper cabinets might be fitted with clear glass in the door frames. Since you can see inside, those cabinets are the ones you might see solid wood boxes.

Sandy: Tom, can cabinets also be a veneer of wood on any of the other products as well?

Tom: True. We can talk about that when we get to finishes. Going back to the box construction, they can be either face frame, or frameless. This has to do with how the cabinet fronts are made. The face frame is typically solid wood, and door hinges are mounted to this frame. With frameless cabinets, the hinges and doors are mounted to the sides of the box.

Sandy: That would be more of the Euro style where the doors and drawer fronts cover the entire box, as opposed to the face frame cabinet where the styles and rails are partially exposed.

Tom: The doors and drawer fronts can be flush with the frame as well. This inset style has a very slick look to it, and gives more texture to a cabinet system.

Sandy: I have seen that style and it is a fantastic look. Ultra-modern! I have seen kitchens where wood grain is all lined up, boy oh boy, is that neat.

Tom: Yes they are. That style tends to be a higher end cabinet. There are other styles that look great as well. The face front or partial overlay are fairly standard and comprise most of what we see these days.

Sandy: The door and drawer front choices are what make the look. And there are so many to choose from, hundreds I would guess.

Tom: Oh yeah. When we understand our client’s aesthetic goals, we can help narrow down the choices to a less formidable array of choices.

Sandy: Can I go back to finishes now?

Solid wood isn’t the only frame I have seen. Particleboard, MDF and plywood is often clad with a veneer of either wood, plastic laminate or in some areas I have seen a photographed finish applied to one of the manufactured wood products.

Tom: Yes, I have seen that as well. That is often referred to as a Melamine finish. The thin, plastic-like film is adhered to one of the manufactured wood products to protect that product as well as lining the cabinet box making it easier to clean and maintain.

Melamine is also a great finish for cabinets that are used for storage in garages and sheds. With those applications, I highly recommend using plywood for the cabinet frames. Why? Because plywood tends to be stronger and more durable than the other manufactured wood products.

Sandy: We talk about wood cabinets that can be finished with a stain, making them lighter or darker depending on the chosen color scheme. Would you recommend painting cabinets or stain if wood is being used?

Tom: That depends on the client’s aesthetic goals. Paint can add a colorful solution to staining wood. It certainly opens up different possibilities. Personally, I like wood and would probably opt for a stain if the wood grain is really cool, like a rosewood or fine maple type of grain.

Sandy: Tom, these days, with all of the Get Stylish cabinets that homeowners desire, I would think that even high-quality cabinets can be ordered if there is a tight timeline because of the dramatically improved cabinet materials, form and function and then if folks have the time they can order – of course – the wonderful custom cabinets.

Tom: Homeowners these days have what seems like thousands of cabinet styles, configurations from wall to base cabinets, door styles, finishes, even solid wood shelves, hinges and drawer slides are extremely popular now days.

Sandy: Tom, based on that statement, I would say there are unlimited possibilities for mixing and matching kitchen cabinets or vanity cabinets so the homeowner can get the configuration they desire.

Sandy: We have several fabulous cabinet contractors in town and whether homeowners are working on high-end homes or a small condo or anything in between, our cabinet Van Goghs as I call them have a solution that will fit any budget, lifestyle and give the homeowner great value for their money.

Tom: To end our cabinet column, I want to let our readers know there are many things to take into consideration when planning your cabinets. First, consider placement of the cabinets. Open floor plans have become a common trend, and the placement of your cabinets will be important.

Sandy: I would say next order of importance would be the consideration of the materials for the cabinet design.

Tom: Yes, Sandy, you are right and then the next order of importance would be to consider cabinet doors. Door style is an important component of kitchen cabinet design, as it commonly defines the style of a kitchen. Modern cabinets have a more streamlined design, featuring straight, clean lines without extra ornamentation and then there are the traditional cabinets, often with raised panel doors.

Sandy: And then I love cabinet hardware. Hardware is such an opportunity for a homeowner to express their personal design style. It is an inexpensive and easy way to change the look of your cabinets. I would love to change my cabinet hardware like I change shoes! How cool would that be?

Tom: Whatever details a homeowner decides to go with when choosing their kitchen cabinet design, it will make a big impact in your home. My recommendation is to take some time to check out all the different combinations.

Sandy:  Tom, I hope our column has informed homeowners that the range of kitchen cabinet design ideas is endless, but the truth is that kitchen cabinet styles generally falls into one category and that is the one which suit the design tastes of the homeowner.

As always, thanks to our readers for stopping by and reading “At Home with Tom and Sandy.” You’re in good company and we love sharing our column with you. Always love hearing from the community. Enjoy October! QCBN

Tom Reilly, architect, contractor, Renovations 928-445-8506

Sandy Griffis, executive director, Yavapai County Contractors Association. 928-778-0040.


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