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Cabinets & Countertops

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Like most building products, cabinets vary in price depending on quality of construction and materials, finishes and styles and degree of customization. A set of kitchen cabinets can range from $2000 to $10,000 for the same exact kitchen. Cabinets are usually described in three main divisions: Custom, stock and semi-custom.

Custom cabinets are made to fit for a particular kitchen. The cabinet maker must come to the house after it is framed in to take measurements. He will compare the actual measurements with the plans and make cabinets that fit precisely in the space. It usually takes a couple of weeks to make custom cabinets, and with typical back work, it may take 6-8 week to get custom cabinets after they are measured.

Stock cabinets
Stock cabinets are the cheapest alternative. Large cabinet companies makes several sizes of "box" cabinets and has them already in stock. The installer or designer takes the kitchen measurements and then attaches several of boxes together to fill the kitchen space. Filler pieces are used with the boxes to make the cabinets fit exactly.

Click on thumbnail below to view stock cabinet installation




Semi-custom cabinets combine some of the stock box cabinets and some custom made cabinets. They also may have various upgrades over stock cabinets, such as improved hardware, better joints, thicker panels, and so forth.

The overall quality of cabinets is quite apparent when comparing stock cabinets with custom cabinets. Here are some of the obvious differences that you will find in the cabinets.

  • The quality of hardware; quality hardware will be sturdier.
  • Joints used. Dove tail joints and rabbet joints are stronger than butt joints.
  • Thickness of material
  • Finish (Quality)
  • Warranty
  • Appearance
  • The most visible aspect of the cabinets are the type and color (stain) of wood and the style of door and drawer fronts.

Cabinet Material- Cabinets are made in many types of wood, the most popular being Oak, maple, alder, birch, cherry and pine. Oak probably accounts for over half of all new cabinets. Plastic covered laminate board is also popular. It is usually made of white plastic but is available in other colors. It has been popular in Europe for many years.

Stains and finishes-Cabinets are stained to bring out the grain and natural beauty of the wood. Currently light colored stains are the most popular for cabinets.
After the material is stained, finish is applied to the cabinets. Traditionally Lacquer has been very popular. However, there are now polyurethane's that are harder and more durable.

Drawer and door fronts- The style of fronts has a lot to do with the overall appearance of the cabinets. Panel doors are probably the most popular type of door, with flat panel doors usually the standard and raised panel an option.

There are two basic types of cabinets with face frame and cabinets without face frames. Face frame cabinets are the traditional type of cabinets that have been popular in the U.S. for many years. The cabinet box is wrapped with 1½" wood strips. The cabinet door or drawer overlaps that frame, and the door hinges are attached to the frame. The frame provides strength, but it also makes the cabinet opening slightly smaller.
Cabinets without face frames were popularized in Europe after WWII. They were popular because materials were in short supply and face frames were considered expendable. A new hinge had to be developed to attach the door to the inside of the cabinet.
Two types of hinges are used on cabinets traditional face frame hinges and European style hinges.

Besides the wood color, type and door design, the counter tops are the most noticeable feature in the kitchen. Here is a list of the most common countertop:

  • Plastic laminate Built on site (e.g. Formica™, Wilson Art™ etc.)
  • Post-Form laminate countertops
  • Ceramic tile counter tops
  • Solid surface countertops (e.g. Corian™, Pionite™)
  • Granite (real stone)
Type Advantages Disadvantages
Plastic laminate Built on-site
Fairly durable, unlimited designs and colors, inexpensive, resists stains. Installed in a day
Can be damaged by sharp objects, has inexpensive appearance.
"Post-Form" Laminate Fairly durable, inexpensive, resists stains, installs in a half day. Limited colors and designs can be damaged by sharp objects, has inexpensive appearance.
Ceramic tile Durable, Many colors and styles to choose from, unique look. Labor intensive, takes a couple of days to install, difficult to clean. Grout is susceptible to staining.
Solid Surface Durable, stain resistant, looks similar to real stone, several color and style options. Expensive (comparable to real stone) template must be created and countertops cut off site which takes a week or two.
Granite The Real thing, Feels solid and looks expensive, and is durable, about the same price as many solid surface countertops Expensive, template must be created and countertops cut off site which takes a couple of weeks, can stain.

Notes to the owner builder
Cabinets and counter tops are install after the hard floor is installed in the kitchen and bathrooms. Although the cabinets can be installed prior to the flooring, we recommend that the flooring be installed first.


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