1. It is always best to start your search by looking for products that are certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association which subject the cabinets to tests that replicate years of normal abuse. Certified cabinets must be able to withstand exposure to humidity, temperatures ranging from -5 degrees to 120 degree Fahrenheit and are subjected to normal everyday condiments such as vinegar, coffee, and ketchup without blistering or showing any signs of discoloration.
2. It is important to know the kitchen cabinet language. The most important is knowing that stock and and semi_stock cabinets are the most popular types available on the market. Stock cabinets is by far the leader because of it’s very low price tag, availability, and never ending supply of accessories and hardware to make your cabinets more personal. Semi-Stock cabinets offer a much larger range of sizes, finishes, and styles. The obvious highest end cabinets are custom made to just about whatever look or function you want to obtain. However, the average time to complete these custom cabinets is 12 weeks and can run in price anywhere from $12,000-$75,000 depending on the amount of cabinets ordered,detail,features, and material used in their construction.
3. I believe that it is important to put your own touch into your kitchen, and keep in mind exactly what function it will serve. Most cabinets offer user friendly options such as full extension roll out shelves so you don’t bang your hand as you reach for that can of tomato sauce that is buried deep in the back. Large drawers in the base can hold pots, pans, and other large cooking utensils which will stop you from having to store your pots and pans in the oven like I have seen many clients do.
4. I also believe that besides functionality it is equally important that you choose the correct look. Light colored woods like oak and maple make your kitchen seem brighter and larger. Where as darker woods like cherry and mahogany create a more dramatic effect. To give cabinets less visual heft, most manufacturers offer turned leg pieces that mimic the look of furniture. Also trim kits for appliances will help pull a kitchen together visually.
5. Make it a must to know exactly what your cabinetry is made of. The box is the cabinets backbone, the stronger the better. I prefer heavy boxes with at least a 1/2 inch thick walls or structural support that can be attached to wall studs with screws. Most cabinets today are made from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) or OSB ( Oriented Strand Board), but my favorite is plywood with dado or mortise joints and metal or wood corner braces with the drawer boxes being made of dovetail joints. These are only found is custom cabinets and will normally cost quite a bit more than cabinets from a big box store, but the old saying is in it’s truest form in this case, “You get what you pay for”.
6. Think ahead for repair and fixes sometime down the road by purchasing a repair kit before you leave the store with your new cabinets. A normal repair kit should contain items like colored wax, putty, or markers to cover set nails or repair dings or scratches. I always suggest buying a few extra hinges and drawer slides because these are the items that seem to go first.
7. Don’t screw yourself. If you are installing the cabinets yourself make sure you use 2 1/2 inch deck screws, because drywall screws will snap under a heavy load of the upper cabinets. And always make sure you screw your cabinets in to studs which are normally 16-18 inches apart in your wall. Sometimes it is best to hire a professional for installation because they might have to cut open the wall and make a support brace to support your cabinets. I can’t tell you how many times people called us asking us to help them after they installed the cabinets themselves or hired handyman Harry to hang them only to have then come crashing down ruining their counter, the cabinets and contents, and more than likely the wall.
8. If you are still hell bent on doing it yourself I suggest you screw a 1X3 cleat just below the bottom of your wall cabinets which should have a line. This will help support the their weight while you install the cabinetry. This hob normally requires 2 people when possible, but wall cabinets can be installed properly if you use cabinet jacks.
9. Always make sure your cabinets are flush and plumb. I normally attach a line of cabinets together using C clamps on the floor followed by wood screws and then lift the cabinets as one whole unit which makes it easier to install and make sure you are level.
10. If either you or a professional company are replacing your current cabinets do not just rip them down or let others do that because you can receive a tax write off by donating them to such charities as habitat for humanity and similar organizations that will help give your old cabinets a new life while getting you a nice write off and helping the less fortunate.