Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing kitchen cabinets doesn't have to be confusing.  With a little research on your part you'll know what to ask for, what you want and need, and where to find it.  All while saving the most money you possibly can.

1st - Decide what you need, what you want, and what you can afford.

  • What style are you looking for?  Shaker, Country, Retro, Classic, New England, Cottage? Are you open to suggestions and ideas?
  • Do you want wood, laminate, frame cabinets or frameless (Euro style).
  • What type of countertops are you going with?  Laminate, solid surface, marble, granite, quartz, concrete, tile, glass?
  • Do you need an entirely new kitchen, just a bath vanity, or only a rollout fixed?
  • Do you need help with the entire process, which means you might need to hire or be your own contractor, or is your project small?
  • What is your budget?  If you have $200 you can paint your cabinets for a fresh look or get new handles or knobs.  If you have $5,000 or more you will be able to get an entirely new kitchen.  If you have over $10,000 you can actually begin thinking about remodeling (changing walls, plumbing, etc.).  Kitchens really can run from a few thousand to several tens of thousands depending on where you live and what you want.

Thinking about these questions will help get you going in the right direction.

2nd - Decide where you are going to look when choosing kitchen cabinets - don't limit yourself to factory cabinets only.

After you’ve decided what you want and need and are choosing kitchen cabinets, check around. If you need to purchase new cabinets, don’t fall prey to the idea that all custom kitchen and bath cabinets are out of your pocket-book range. There may be cabinet shops out there that are actually less expensive than many factory cabinets (especially when you figure in all the costs like installation, tax, moldings, etc.).  But, do be sure to check out the factory cabinets too.

Bids should be free - at least once.

All initial bids should be free.  If you have to pay someone to bid on your project - Run.  But, don't expect someone to bid on your cabinets more than once for free.  If you make changes to your plan, or change you mind as to what you want and it needs to be re-bid, expect to pay a small fee at a custom cabinet shop.

Factory cabinet bids will likely continue to be free no matter how many changes you make.  But, remember, the more times you change your mind, the more chances there will be errors, especially with factory or semi-custom cabinets.  Semi-custom cabinets are just factory cabinets with a few more options than stock cabinets.

Explore rural and small shops - you may find some bargains

If you are in a metropolitan area, take a look on the internet or in phone books from outside your area, under the headings cabinetry or kitchens. Rural cabinet shops have cropped up all over in the past 20 years. They are usually very good and usually less expensive than metro custom cabinet shops (although, don’t rule them out either, again, check around).

Keep your eyes open when going local.

Remember to always check any cabinet shop out first, before you put your hard earned money down. Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself as you compare kitchen cabinet companies:

  • Check the better business bureau.
  • Go to the local grocery store or coffee shop and ask if anyone has heard of XYZ Cabinet Shop and what kind of work they do.
  • Ask the cabinet shop for references.
  • Ask to see a kitchen they have completed.
  • Ask to see their picture book of work done.
  • Ask to talk to one or more of their previous customers, get phone numbers and call on your own.
  • Ask to tour their shop.
  • Real World Experience:

    My husband and I owned our own custom cabinet shop in rural Wisconsin for 14 years. Many times our customers were so satisfied, they would offer to let anyone see some of our work and visit their home. When we had a prospective customer that was unfamiliar with us, sometimes we would take our previous customers up on their offer (of course, always giving them advance notice and at least a thank you note as follow-up, if not a bottle of champagne – or their favorite beer!)

    We ran an honest shop, but we have seen some horror stories. One local fellow thought he was a cabinet maker, and wasn’t. He built cabinets in his spare time out of his barn (and not a nice one, either). He was always cheaper than factory built cabinets, but his work wasn’t nearly as good as factory. Often times he wouldn't even complete a job. There the homeowners sat, with half a kitchen. Our shop had to finish his work more than once.

    You can get some relative bargains out there, but you can also get taken - keep your eyes open while choosing kitchen cabinets!

    KEEP IN MIND: SOMETIMES FACTORY - DEPARTMENT STORE - LUMBER YARD CABINET QUOTES CAN BE SNEAKY

    When choosing kitchen cabinets, don’t just look at the bottom line price. If you quote factory cabinets (even some custom shops will leave these things out, too) make sure that the following are included in the price, or that you get prices for and consider:

  • Is tax included?
  • Is top trim included?
  • What about toe kick? And if quoted, what kind is it? Just some black thing that won’t go with your kitchen and bath cabinets?
  • Are the handles an extra expense?
  • What about countertop – is it anywhere in the price?
  • Who is going to install this, or is it included in the price?
  • How much will they deduct if I can install it myself?
  • How much will they deduct if I can stain and finish the kitchen and bath cabinets myself?
  • 3rd - Get what you need, what you want, and what you can afford.

    While choosing kitchen cabinets, make sure you are given a quote for what kind of kitchen and bath cabinets you want. If any cabinet shop or salesperson is hesitant to quote what you really want (especially if they can't explain why) be concerned.

    They should be helpful and not just push what they want to sell or what they have on hand. If they think something won’t work for you, they should be able to give legitimate reasons as to why, not just that they don’t sell those things. It’s okay if they lead you in the right direction, but after you weigh your options, you should get what you want.

    Again, don't forget about Countertop options.  They really make a big difference in price.

    When choosing kitchen cabinets, ask your supplier what they offer for countertops.

  • Laminate Countertops – what edges do they offer?
  • Wood Edge Countertops – what edges to they offer?
  • Marble Countertops (be cautious, there are different qualities of marble, and it is never real marble, it is a resin:  Unless, of course, you have oodles of money and do buy real marble from, like, Italy).
  • Solid Surface - what companies can they get?  Do they install or does a third party?  Can they make the seams look seamless?  What kind of guarantee comes with the product and how long after the cabinets are installed will the countertop be installed?
  • Quartz Countertops (Cambria, Silestone, CaesarStone, etc.)
  • Granite Countertops - for granite and quartz, also find out when installation will be.  It is usually a week or more after the cabinets are installed (sometimes up to a month!).
  • Tile - do they tile, do you tile, or do you hire someone else to tile?  Also, who prepares the surface for tiling?  Will there be a wood edge around the tiles, or will they just be bull-nozed?
  • If you want concrete or glass - can they suggest good suppliers or do you have to find your own (please note, concrete and glass are relatively rare and often expensive - more-so than granite or quartz).
  • Keep the above ideas in mind as you are choosing kitchen cabinets.  You will make informed decisions and save yourself some money.

    Return to Kitchen Cabinet Idea page from Choosing Kitchen Cabinets page, or see our related sites.

    And remember - Have a Happy Kitchen!!

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    How to Install Kitchen Cabinets - List of 20 things you'll need, plus 5 more you might.  Are you sure you're doing it the easiest way?  Here's some simple suggestions that will save you time and money.

    How to Measure Kitchen Cabinets - Measure twice & get the right cabinets once (on the first try).

    Kitchen Cabinet Finishes - From Lacquer to Water base - What finish is right for you?

    Kitchen Cabinet Hardware - It's what's on the inside that counts!

    Kitchen Storage Accessory - What to change to make your kitchen work for you!

    Kitchen Storage Idea - Beyond De-cluttering!

    Rustic Kitchen Cabinets - Knots, Distressed Woods, Rustic Handles - Can you handle it?

    Plus Lots More - Check out our home page or site map!

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