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Newsletter #251

Residential Construction Kitchen Cabinetry

November 2006 Home Page

New House Building:
Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips



  1. Introduction – Kitchen Cabinetry
  2. Types of Cabinets: Custom, Semi-custom, Stock
  3. Cabinetry Materials and Styles
  4. Cost and Value
  5. Cabinet Retailers
  6. Summary
  7. Thought for the Day
  8. Subscriptions/Removal Instructions

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Introduction to Kitchen Cabinetry

Kitchen cabinets are an integral part of any home. They are the centerpiece of the kitchen, giving it the distinctive look you want, but they are also what make a kitchen organized and functional. This month’s newsletter will deal exclusively with kitchen cabinetry, the many options available and helpful ways that can save you money. Useful links are also provided throughout the newsletter to ensure that you have as much information as possible for your kitchen cabinet project.

There is a lot more to kitchen cabinets than you might think. Cabinets come in many shapes, sizes and are made from a vast array of different materials. That is why it is important to plan ahead and decide on some of the characteristics you want in your new cabinetry. This newsletter will provide you with most of the information you could need for your home project. The focus here is on the new homebuilder; however, much of this information can be applied for home renovation and improvement.

Kitchen cabinets can account for a great deal of the cost of a kitchen. That is why there is attention placed on cost savings. Not only will savings on the initial cost be addressed, but the value that you will receive from your investment is looked at. Some details are laid out in comparing different cabinet retailers, as well. These days, it is more than just cost savings that are of importance. There is also focus on environmental savings within the newsletter.

Itís a good idea to know a little about the stores and retailers that offer kitchen cabinets. We give you a short list of some of the popular retailers and what they can offer you when you begin selecting the perfect kitchen cabinetry.

After you read through the information offered in this newsletter regarding kitchen cabinets, various styles and materials, along with cost savings, there is a list of helpful links following the summary. These, along with various other links throughout the newsletter, are meant to let you do a little extra research, should you have more questions.

Some useful links

Introduction to Kitchen Cabinets

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Types of Kitchen Cabinets

There is no lack of options when it comes to kitchen cabinetry. Essentially, kitchen cabinets are separated into three categories: stock, semi-custom and custom. This section will take a look at what you can expect with each type of cabinet to help you begin to narrow your search depending on your needs and budget.

Stock Cabinets

Just as the name implies, stock cabinets are pre-made in certain sizes and styles and made available, in-stock, at most home renovation and improvement centers. These ready-to-assemble or pre-assembled cabinets are usually designed to be simplistic in design and are often made from ‘engineered’ wood in order to keep costs to a minimum. Also, these can be purchased right off the shelf or within a few days.

Stock cabinets are usually available in standard widths in 3” increments, from 9” to 48”, but are limited when it comes to finishes and door style. Because the style of kitchen cabinet usually sets the overall style of a kitchen, the reduced options will make it more difficult to find something to match your decorating ideas.

Semi-Custom Cabinets

One step above stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets open up the style and dimension possibilities. Options such as molding, glass doors, sliding shelves, corner cabinets and a greater number of finishes become available. The increased personalization comes at a cost, however, as semi-custom cabinets are significantly more expensive than stock cabinets.

Semi-custom cabinets are not actually customized; you can select certain features that you would like and order the cabinets. After you order them, they are simply assembled in a factory, according to certain design layouts. This means there will be some time delay before you can expect your cabinets to be delivered. Usually, 4 to 6 weeks are required.

Although, semi-custom cabinets are made in a factory, there are significant improvements in workmanship and material quality. Much like anything else however, there are variations and levels of quality. You will find showrooms dedicated to semi-custom cabinets in most home centers, and staff are on hand to aid you in planning and laying out your particular cabinetry.

Custom Cabinets

When it comes to custom cabinets, there really are no limits to what you can do, aside from the limitation of the amount of money you are willing to spend. Although money is the only limitation, don’t confuse this to mean that custom cabinets are always the most expensive option; it all depends on the details and intricacy of the design.

Custom cabinets are built by carpenters, only when an order is made, and offer many advantages over semi-custom and stock models. These include the option of hand-picked woods including exotic woods, uncommon cabinet dimensions, Lazy Susans, and almost anything you can think of. The availability of these options not only requires extra expense, but it also requires time. Allow anywhere from 6 weeks to 20 weeks, depending on complexity and availability of your carpenter. Some on-site work may also be required for custom cabinets.

One more note about custom cabinets before moving on -- remember that the word “custom” does not automatically mean quality. Construction standards will vary, so you will have to do some investigation, prior to choosing a custom cabinet maker.

Some useful links

Kinds of Cabinets

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Cabinetry Materials and Styles

Kitchen cabinets are made from a long list of different materials. Given below are some of the most common materials available, along with a brief description of their characteristics. Because different materials can only be utilized to create certain styles, information about cabinetry design and style is also given.

Cabinet Materials

Thermofoil/Thermoplastic: This material is essentially a durable plastic coating that has been vacuum sealed or ‘shrink wrapped’ onto a fiberboard base. This makes for an inexpensive material that is also very resistant to stains or marking. There is a surprising amount of variation when it comes to design with Thermofoil plastic, as the method of manufacturing allows for various inlay patterns and a multitude of colors.

Laminate: Most of us are familiar with laminate surfaces as the material that most countertops are made of. This material is usually a fiberboard base that has been covered with a hard and durable surface such as Formica. This material is long lasting; however, it is slightly less durable than Thermofoil. Although inexpensive and resistant to scratches, this material is limited in the styles available.

Wood Veneer: This type of material offers the authentic look of wood at a much lower cost than the real thing. A thin layer of wood, usually 1/8th of an inch thick, is applied to a core panel, such as fiberboard or particle board. This not only reduces the cost of the cabinets, but is also less costly to the environment because recycled materials can be used for the core panels and less wood is used overall.

Metal: Aluminum and stainless steel cabinets are somewhat of a trend in cabinet making materials. This material has many drawbacks including high cost. Also, scratches and fingerprints show up very easily on this surface, requiring constant care and attention.

Wood: Cabinets can be made from a large number of wood species and each type of wood has its own characteristics. The most common types of wood used are oak, pine, maple, hickory, cherry, poplar, alder and birch. The hardwoods including, oak, cherry, and maple provide a very durable surface, whereas woods such as pine, will dent easily. Of course, solid wood cabinets can be stained and finished to your desires and wood cabinets can be made in any style. As an environmental consideration, you can choose to have your cabinets made from recycled wood, if you are going with custom cabinets.

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Cabinet Styles

The cabinet style you choose should match the overall style you have in mind for the kitchen. Rustic, old fashioned looking cabinets will look out of place if you have modern and contemporary looking appliances and furniture. Most people designing a kitchen already have an idea of the overall style they wish to create; however, we have put together some ideas to get you thinking more about style or to improve on your ideas.

First, let’s look at door styles, since these will give most of the cabinet’s characteristics.The simplest kind of cabinet door is slab or flat panel. You can’t get much more basic than this style of door. Although basic and simplistic in form, flat panels can offer a sleek and contemporary look to your kitchen, especially with clean white enamel. A great advantage to slab cabinets is the lower price. You can save yourself some money with this kind of cabinet door and then spice it up a little with some decorative hardware. This makes these cabinets ideal for those with a smaller budget.

Recessed panel doors are another popular style of cabinet door. These consist of a main panel or panels surrounded by a raised frame. The ‘picture frame’ around the base panel of the door may be simple strips of wood or made in decorative and elaborate patterns. These kinds of cabinet doors are essentially the opposite of the third main style of doors – raised door panels. These doors are exactly what the name implies. A panel is secured to the door leaving a lower section of material showing around the raised panel. As with every kind of cabinet door, you will find many different variations in look and design.

A great money saving style of cabinet doors are routed cabinets. These doors are made from an inexpensive material, such as medium density fiberboard (MDF), which has been shaped by routers to take on the look of raised or recessed panel doors. This is then covered in laminate. Also, if you are set on the look of real wood, there are some ways to save as well. It is possible to have solid wood doors covering cabinets made from less expensive materials, such as MDF. These types of features, however, may only be found with semi-custom or custom cabinets.

As for the overall look of kitchen cabinetry, there are several styles. These are classified as follows:

  • Traditional
  • Country
  • Contemporary
  • Shaker

Each of these styles will appeal to different people and will even have an impact on the resale of a house. Traditional style cabinets use solid wood material, typically with raised panels and generally will appeal to mostly everyone, regardless of fads or current trends. Similar to this style, country cabinets are also generally wood, usually oak or pine, but have a plainer look than traditional cabinets with fewer bells and whistles. These two styles contrast shaker and contemporary styles. Shaker cabinets are known for thin strips of wood that run down the center of the doors, which help to give depth, but keep the style somewhat conservative, compared to contemporary design. The purpose of contemporary design is to show flair and express a statement of being different. Usually, sharp colors or contrasting colors are used to give a unique and personal touch to the entire kitchen.

There are so many variations in cabinet styles and every individual has their own likes and dislikes. Use the web links given below to look around and find a style that is best suited to your tastes and needs.

Useful Web Links

Cabinet Materials

Cabinet Styles

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Cabinet Costs and Value


The cost of kitchen cabinets mainly comes from the type and size of cabinets you choose, along with the material of construction. Of course, such things as the method of construction, layout and the finishes you choose will also affect the cost. Here, we will cover general cost guidelines for custom, semi-custom and stock cabinets, along with other features that will add or detract from the final cost tally. Following, there will be information about the value and lifespan of the various materials introduced previously.

When you have a house built, the builder usually has a set allowance or budget for kitchen cabinets. For production houses, there is usually a set floor plan for cabinets with minimal upgrades, while semi-custom will have more options with how you want to spend your money and even the ability to spend more. Of course, custom builders will only limit your options to how much money you want to spend. When building your own house with your own plans, everything is up to you, but remember that setting a cabinet budget before hand will avoid many problems down the road.

To give you a better idea of how much your cabinets will end up costing, you can use the ‘20 cabinet rule.’ Assuming that 20 cabinets will be installed in a $300,000 house, you can expect to pay per cabinet $300-$400 for stock cabinets, $500-$600 for semi-custom and $1,000-$1,100 for custom cabinetry. This gives a total range of $6,000 - $8,000, $10,000 - $12,000, $20,000 - $22,000 for each, respectively. Of course, this is a general guideline and there are options out there that start from $1,000 and can reach limits of up to $100,000 or more, depending on how high you want to go.

The construction, layout, door style, material and finish used in the cabinetry will vary the overall cost within the price range indicated. The construction of the cabinets usually accounts for 60% of the overall cost. Trying to save money in this area is not a good idea. The better the construction methods, the more durable and longer lasting your cabinets will be.

You probably have many great layout ideas for your kitchen, but be aware that this will change the cost significantly. For example, a U-shaped kitchen is more expensive than an L-shape, with an additional island.

Introduced earlier, the shape of the cabinet door will also affect cost. This is a result of the amount of labor involved in construction. The more elaborate the designs, the more money you can expect to spend. It goes without saying, that higher quality materials, such as hardwoods and metals will increase cabinet costs.

When it comes to cabinetry, the more places you research, the better off you’ll be. Use our web links to help you find the best deals and save money.


As you know, not all materials are created equally, and it is not always true that the most expensive option is the best option. There are many advantages to using any material, which is why there are so many materials available. In order to determine the value received for your investment, you have to look at several aspects. What is the durability of the cabinet material? How long will it last with the use it will have to endure? Are you concerned about resale value? Answering these questions by thorough planning and research will help you make the right choices for your home.

If you are seesawing back and forth, deciding what is the best value for your money, then you can be assured that wood is always a good choice. Wood never goes out of style; it is durable, resilient, it can be sanded and refinished, repainted and has been proven to help the resale value of your home. Wood is favored by almost every home buyer for the reasons mentioned and more. Wood will suit any décor, which may end up saving you money in the future, should you undergo renovations. It is hard to say anything bad about choosing wood as a cabinet material. If you are concerned about the effect on the environment, you can select recycled and reused woods, as well.

Useful Web Links

Kitchen Cabinet Costs

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Cabinet Retailers

Most home centers, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have dedicated staff for kitchen cabinets. There are also specialty outlets, contractors, and carpenters who will all claim to be able to provide the best cabinets for your money. So whom do you choose? Here is some information regarding various retailers.

For a wide selection of both stock and semi-stock cabinets, the major home improvement stores are a good way to go. Trained staff in kitchen cabinets are on hand and will be able to answer any questions you have. Lowe’s also provides an installation service that is backed by a satisfaction guarantee. Keep an eye out for special offers, such as free hardware and free sink bases when you order cabinets that you can find regularly at Home Depot. Although Lowe’s and Home Depot are chain locations, you will find differences in price and quality of service at individual stores. It’s a good idea to check out various locations and talk to their staff and get a feeling for who really cares about you and wants you to be satisfied. Also, these stores may offer the same products, so find the one that offers the lowest price.

When it comes to private contractors and carpenters, you will find all ranges of quality and skill. Getting samples of work and talking one-on-one with the person who will do the work for you is important. Try to get some feedback and reviews from individuals who have had work done with them before. These things can really help to avoid problems down the road.

Useful Web Links

Cabinet Retailers

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Much like any home project, choosing and installing kitchen cabinets can be made significantly easier with a little preparation work and planning. The information here should have given you a taste of the many aspects involved.

Starting with a budget is often the best way to start. This will eliminate certain kinds of cabinets and layouts and will avoid headaches and disappointment once the project is underway. Custom, semi-custom and stock cabinets each have their own advantages and price ranges. Keep in mind that custom options are not always of the highest quality, so expect to do some research and inspection.

The many details of style and layout are essentially up to you, but again, they are limited by budget. The kitchen is an important room in your home, so be sure that it fits your style and personality. You can do this and save money by starting with a basic cabinet and add custom hardware or coloring. The options are vast so be excited about the possibilities.

Take the time to look through the extra links. The reading material and images will give you a good base to start asking the right questions to your cabinet maker or supplier.

Useful Web Links

In depth Cabinet Information

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Thought For The Day

" One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."

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