Selecting the Best Cabinets for Your New Kitchen
You want to get the best cabinets your budget will allow for your new kitchen. Cabinets make up the biggest expense in a kitchen remodel cost breakdown. Therefore, you want to make an informed decision because there are many many cabinets to choose from. How do you know which type of cabinet is right for your new kitchen?
We will help you sort through the options with some basic facts that will give you the confidence you need to select the one that is just right for you and your budget. In this article, we discuss what you will be looking at, how and why it is priced and whether or not the product is the best cabinet choice for your new kitchen.
When Choosing Best Cabinets, there Are No Wrong Choices
Really, there are no wrong choices when it comes to what is the best cabinet for your kitchen. Your budget will guide your decision making. We get that. Think of buying cabinets like buying a car. Which price category can you afford? Sports car, mid-size sedan or luxury SUV. Also, like cabinets, upgrades are available, yet they cost extra. As a result, you shop for the size and extras you can afford.
That’s why it’s important to communicate your new kitchen wish list to your kitchen designer. He or she will advise you which extras are worth the cost and which ones you can skip. In addition, he or she can suggest lower-cost-but-just-as-good substitutes for the big ticket items.
Beware the Big Box Store When Shopping for Best Cabinets
Something to remember if you visit a big box store. They represent many different manufacturers’ cabinet lines. The sales staff’s job is to sell you one of them, whether the product is a good fit for your remodel project or not.
We don’t want you to get talked into something you don’t like or can’t afford by a big box store salesperson looking to make a commission or meet a monthly sales quota.
What Kind of Cabinets Do You Need?
Are you in your “forever home”?
Your kitchen designer will ask you at the onset: what are your plans for this house? Is this your forever home? If the space you are remodeling is where you plan to spend many years, you need cabinets that are durable and long lasting. Preferably with a lifetime warranty.
Will you be moving in a few years?
However, if your plan is to spend a few years and then move on to a bigger or newer home, you will want something that wears well and still shows nicely when it comes time to sell. If this is your situation, is also a good idea to choose a timeless door style and color, something no buyer is going to dislike.
Do you have children?
If you don’t have children, you can get away with a slightly lower end brand of cabinetry (if it’s what the budget requires). You will not be as hard on a kitchen as an active family would be. However, the best cabinets for a family will be well-built of quality materials if they want them to last more than just a few years.
What is the value of your home?
Also consider the value of your home and expectations for the future of your neighborhood. You would not want to install a $110K kitchen in a $250K house. On the other end of the spectrum, you would not want to put an entry level cabinet into a $2 million dollar house on a country club golf course. There is a level of expectation and quality at every price point.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recommends remodeling a kitchen with a budget of 10-25% of your home’s value. (See our Kitchen Remodel Cost Estimator.)
RTA (Ready-to-Assemble) or Stock – Best Cabinets?
RTA, or stock cabinets as they can be known, come in different levels of quality. These cabinets are great if you are on a tight budget or working on a “flip” house.
Because these cabinets are inexpensive, you need to be certain that the materials meet KCMA requirements for safety. Further, you want them to be CARB2 compliant, meaning there are no toxic chemicals that may off-gas and be harmful to you and your family.
Pros. Many RTA lines come at a very good price. They will probably be built from engineered wood or particle board with another name. Some might offer 3/4″ thick dovetail drawers with soft close hardware and soft close doors as standard or as upgrades. The door styles, colors and sizes are limited, but with a creative designer, you can make most designs work at this price point.
The quality on stock cabinets varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. There are good ones and bad ones; your kitchen designer will help guide your selections.
Cons. RTA cabinets get shipped “flat packed” on a pallet and must be assembled by your contractor or installer. Some manufacturers will offer assembly. If your contractor or installer has the time and the patience and you have the money, they can be a nice, relatively inexpensive option. You will have to plan for the added expense per cabinet to have them assembled on the job site.
The finishes will vary from bad to good. Do not expect a fine or furniture grade finish from this category or you will be disappointed.
Choosing the Best Cabinets – Semi-custom
Many semi-custom brands can be found in big box stores at a variety of price points, and, for the most part, they are good cabinets. However, shopping for them can be very confusing.
Some semi-custom cabinets might be constructed of manufactured wood. You can upgrade to an all-plywood box, but it comes at a cost. The frames are hardwood, but the actual boxes are not hardwood. To upgrade your design to an all-wood box can add to the overall cost of the project.
Cabinet interiors are particle board covered in a wood-look laminate. Interiors can be upgraded at a cost as well. Dovetail, full extension soft-close drawers may be standard, or they may be an upgrade. Same with soft close hinges for cabinet doors. If you want glass doors, that’s an upgrade. You will most likely want finished interiors on the cabinets with glass doors — another upgrade. Do you want crown moldings? Another upgrade.
Can you see how the price begins to rise? This is why it is so important to think about the features that are important to you, what you can do without, and what you are willing to pay extra for. Again, look to your kitchen designer for help.
Our goal is not to discourage you, but to educate you how your new kitchen will be priced and questions you can ask if you’re comparison shopping.
And speaking of hopping, don’t assume that the big box stores have the best deal. Their mark-up is huge. Independent kitchen dealers and designers want your business and will negotiate to make the sale.
When Comparison Shopping, Make Sure You Are Comparing Apples-To-Apples
Be sure you are comparing the same quality, style, wood species, interior features, upgrades etc. when shopping for your best cabinets. A great deal is not a great deal if you don’t get what you expected.
Semi-custom cabinets offer a variety of door styles, wood species, finishes, paint colors, cabinet sizes and interior storage options.
The manufacturers’ warranties on these cabinets are also very good, some are even lifetime. Many of these cabinetry lines are well established and will still be in business years down the road should you have issues.
The Luxury of Custom Cabinets
When shopping for cabinets, custom cabinetry is always the best choice if you can afford it. Custom is wonderful because it is designed just for your space. Custom cabinets are the best cabinets for homeowners who want a high-end, personalized look that is unique to them. They are also the best cabinets for people who are in their forever home.
They are perfect for areas in your home that have unusual size and space requirements, like built-ins, or architectural details where semi-custom sizes won’t work. Custom cabinetry is recommended when you cannot find a door style you like in the wood species you want. If you want your cabinets built in zebrawood, they can be yours.
The pricing on custom cabinets will vary between cabinet manufacturers. The door style and wood species will determine a large portion of the price. For example, a raised panel door style is going to be significantly more expensive than a flat panel Shaker style door. Cherry or Quarter Sawn Oak will be costlier than Maple or Oak, and so on.
Many homeowners love the idea of custom and have a great appreciation for things that are hand-crafted. To them, the luxury of custom is a value. After all, if you can dream it, they can build it.
There You Have It.
We’ve outlined the different grades of cabinets available on the market today. One of these will be the best cabinet choice for your new kitchen.
Experts in the building and remodeling industry breakdown the costs involved in a kitchen remodel project. These are numbers from Forbes for Fall of 2023.
As you can see, cabinets are by far the most expensive item. You want to make sure you choose the best cabinets for your new kitchen.
Sizes, color options and door styles are limited at this level, as are interior storage features. If you are looking for upgraded features like pantry pullouts, spice pullouts and other specialty features, you won’t be able to get what you want at this price level.
KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.