Cabinets can make or break the beauty and function of your new kitchen. You want cabinets that not only look great, but are easy to use, store your items effectively, and last twenty years or more. You do not want lopsided doors, scratched faces, loose hinges, or droopy drawers after only a year or two of your installation. The question is, when looking for new kitchen cabinets, how do you choose high quality cabinets that will give you years of service. Here’s what you need to look for as you choose your new cabinets.
Generally, cabinets boxes are made of one of two types of material – plywood or particleboard. The highest quality cabinets are constructed of full plywood backs and sides which helps them stay square from delivery to installation, resist moisture, and support your chosen countertops. All-plywood construction (APC) is strong and resilient enough to stand up to the wear and tear that comes in the kitchen. Cabinet boxes made of particleboard, also known as MDF (medium density fiberboard), furniture board, engineered wood, hardboard, etc., are susceptible to joint blowouts, collision, crushing, and moisture damage. Because particle board is made by pressing and gluing wood particles together it simply doesn’t have the same strength as plywood.
As you look for cabinets, don’t only look at the faces, but also at the back. Cabinets designed with full-height plywood back panels (3/8-inch thick or more) are the strongest and most long lasting. Cabinets designed this way can be installed and attached directly to the wall studs wherever needed. Weak back panels with extremely thin plywood, picture-frame construction or metal hang rails and brackets may result in cabinet failure.
Premium kitchen cabinets include melamine interiors which are non-porous and easily wipe clean. Melamine, a smooth, durable laminate, is impervious to stains, water, and wear and will last the lifetime of your cabinets. The alternative interior is stained wood veneers which are vulnerable to moisture, stains, and is difficult to clean.
In addition, high quality kitchen cabinets feature soft-close hinges which are adjustable and open and close with ease. These hinges close without slamming and can be adjusted up-down, in-out, left-right as needed. Lesser quality hinges often result hard to open and close doors that sit unevenly and can only be minimally adjusted.
Likewise, premium cabinets provide soft-close undermount drawer glides which promise to deliver silent, smooth movement through the years. These soft-close undermount guides are also equipped to handle more weight (up to 90 pounds) than lower quality weak glides. Low quality glides typically utilized plastic rollers and metal slides which are susceptible to wear and can result in loose, sagging, or sticking drawers. While on the subject of drawers, high quality cabinets feature dovetail drawer boxes. The dovetail design means drawers won’t likely bend or bow and their faces never fall off. Lower quality cabinetry features staples holding together notched butt joints and are made of particleboard, metal, and plastic.
Relating to Customization and Warranties
High quality cabinets offer custom modifications in style, size, and features, all of which can be tailored to your wants and needs. Lesser quality stock cabinets come in limited sizes and styles with few additional features.
Though warranties aren’t necessarily a tell-all when it comes to quality, it certainly tells you if the manufacturer stands behind the product. That said, a lifetime warranty brings the implication of a higher quality cabinet than a product with short term warranty or no warranty at all.