Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cabinet Styles

What cabinet works for you?
When first shopping for cabinets, you may become bleary eyed sifting through the terminology and the minor differences between box styles and wood species. The big picture is that your Kitchen is the largest investment that you will make in your home and the cheapest way to increase equity. With cabinets, you get what you pay for.

Cabinets come in two styles, frameless or framed. Frameless cabinets stem from Europe and are often referred to as Euro-style. In frameless cabinets, the door covers the entire front of the cabinet, details and styles come from the door itself. Frameless cabinet boxes have more usable space than framed cabinets and are generally built stronger than framed cabinets.

Framed cabinets are easily identified by having an exposed solid wood frame surrounding the door. Framed cabinets are the most commonly purchased cabinet and offer a very traditional look. The face frame is ¾” solid wood and is finished to match the doors. Cabinet boxes range from 3/8” to 5/8” thick material. Because the face frame stiffens the cabinet box, lighter weight material can be used opposed to frameless boxes.

Cabinet boxes are made of three different possible materials, medium density fiberboard (MDF), particle board or plywood. MDF is a poor choice for most cabinets due to it’s a ability to absorb moister and swell. Particle board is the most popular material and is generally coated with a melamine veneer to help protect it. Melamine is a highly durable and easily cleaned alternative to wood veneer found in plywood. Plywood is always the most expensive option and holds up well against moisture and abuse. It is also the mandatory material if you are going with concrete countertops due to the added weight. The added cost of plywood with only a moderate increase in durability compared to particle board makes it a less popular option.
Doors and face frames are either solid wood or a veneer glued to a substrate. The price of the cabinet brand will often dictate the quality. When looking at doors and face frames, feel for sturdiness, look for grain selection, check smoothness of finish and material thickness.
Wood selection is also very important. Denser woods such as maple, hickory and cherry will hold up better than alder and pine. Ask a qualified sales person about the pros and cons of the different wood species.

Cabinets are the most heavily used items in the home, unfortunately with cabinets you get what you pay for. The more you spend the longer they will last. If you know your family is tough on cabinets, then look for a lifetime warranty, dovetailed drawers and a sturdily made box. For extremely heavy use, avoid the softer woods like pine and alder, they just do not hold up as well.

It is the kitchen options that really defines a great space. Including crown moulding, finished ends, drawer inserts, wine racks, lazy susans, pantry pullouts, etc. These features add cost to the job but can also turn an average kitchen into an amazing one.

With cabinets, you get what you pay for. The budget cabinet lines will have only a few door styles and finish options compared to a high-end cabinet line that will have unlimited combinations of woods, finishes and styles. Other components such as hinges and drawer glides will differ substantially from the budget to the high-end. Generally a budget cabinet will give 5 years of problem free use, a mid to high end cabinet will provide 15 to 25 years of service before replacement will be needed. Options will also increase the cost of your project, but will also add the most value.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to start a Kitchen or Bath project.

Kitchen and bathroom decisions can be the hardest in the home industry. There are many choices and they are all expensive. You are also stuck with your decision for a long time so you must choose wisely.

First Steps:
Answer these Questions
  1. Find Drawings, samples, photos of what you would like to see in your project
  2. List functional items that you would like to see.
  3. Figure out your budget.
  4. Establish a timetable for project completion.
  5. Choose general types of appliances, if possible, get product Model Numbers
  6. Determine who will do the labor involved.

Find a Designer
Your project will be expensive and you will be stuck with the results for a long time. Choose a qualified designer who is certified or working towards it to do your design and provide your cabinets and countertops. Also look for a company that has an established showroom and long history in the business, if there is a problem a few months or years down the road you will want to make sure that someone will be there to solve it.
Trust is a major factor in this line of work, generally I would stay away from lumber yards and home centers for cabinets and countertops. Their staff is usually not trained in design and they are never there after the sale is complete.

A designer will generate drawings and pricing from the information obtained. Ask many questions, review drawings and make sure that the designer understands your needs given your specific budget. Designers are not mind readers so providing the correct information is very important.
Once a design and price is accepted, cabinets will come between 2 and 10 weeks depending on the brand. Countertops are turned around in 3-4 weeks. A designer will check over your order and schedule deliveries and installs if required.

After the Sale
Cabinets and countertops can be very difficult. There are often variable that are unforeseen such as appliances not matching their specs, warped sinks, out of square walls, rotten framing etc. How these issues are dealt with is what separates the true professionals from the rest of the group. A good design center will have protocols and staff dedicated to handling any problems if they occur.