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Evaluating the Quality of Kitchen Cabinets

May 31, 2008
Most stock cabinets are manufactured with demanding tolerances, ensuring quality throughout the product line. In fact, because of the sophisticated equipment used in today's cabinet manufacturing, the quality of machining may be superior to what most small cabinet shops can offer. Even RTA cabinets which in the past had a reputation as being lower quality, have really made significant improvements in the manufacturing standards to compete with the higher end cabinets.

One of the advantages of buying stock cabinets is that you can usually inspect them before you buy, and the turn around time is significantly less. With custom cabinets, you don't have the chance to physically inspect the quality until the cabinets are made. However, not all stock cabinets are the same quality. Cabinets that utilize particleboard or MDF are not going to hold up as well as a cabinet that uses plywood for the cabinet box. The other problem with cabinets made of MDF and particleboard is that they will tend to use a paper veneer or thin wood veneer that won't be easy to repair if it starts to peel or chip away.

Heavily discounted or closeout cabinets are highly suspect. Beware of photo-simulated wood grain, paper-thin laminates, low-quality or mismatched woods, and haphazard joinery. Make sure the dealer or distributor is reputable and can offer some examples of past installations before buying closeout deals (since you most likely won't be able to take them back!)

As mentioned before, the first place to inspect the quality of the cabinet is the material used for the cabinet box. The second place to look when checking quality is a drawer. Study how it's made- the detailing of joinery, quality of inner surfaces, fit of the pieces, and how well it glides in its tracks. Is it on high-quality ball-bearing extensions, moderate-quality rollers or cheap plastic runners? Check to see how far the drawers will extend.

Then check the cabinet doors for proper fit and ease of action. Most stock cabinets and RTA cabinets come with the doors already mounted to the door frame, which will save you the time and effort of trying to get them level. Check any edge banding around the perimeter for workmanship. Note whether the hinges are adjustable and how far the door will swing open.

Another important feature to inspect is how the cabinet box is held together. Lower end stock cabinets will use staples or wooden dowels. Custom cabinets will obviously be the highest quality and should feature dovetailing, but even new innovations such as the cam lock will hold up just as long, if not longer.

So when it comes to judging the quality of kitchen cabinets, make sure you dig past the finish/style of the cabinet, and look at the bones of the cabinet to see how long they will hold up to normal wear and tear.
About the Author
I have been remodeling houses and rental properties for over 15 years. I have discovered the secret to saving thousands on kitchen cabinets. Find out my secret to buying kitchen cabinets at 30-40% below retail.
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