Avoid the smoke and mirrors
Traditional cabinet showrooms are masters of grand illusion. They showcase dreams and desires’, hoping to distract you from what is hidden underneath. With overtly bright lighting that offsets real colors, and elegantly placed china plates that you would never use for daily dishes. The sparsely stocked pantries hide the fact you can only fit 2 cereal boxes, and a couple of cans in it. Hidden below the elegantly staged vignettes are doors that close with a thump and a shudder.
However, it all seems fine when the well-meaning sales person smiles at you. Or you get the warm and fuzzy feeling when you picture yourself flipping pancakes on Sunday morning, over the new like-stone composite countertops. And while there are ways to cut corners in design, cabinets should not be one of them.
I compare the sales tactics in showrooms similar to car dealerships. A high pressure sales person hovering over you and the shiny new paint jobs, and the smell of new leather is enough to make anyone a bit nervous. What you should really be looking at is of how well the car drives, and if it will last you longer than the limited warranty offered by the manufacturer. Not just how cool you look with your hair blowing in the wind.
Therefore when you are thinking about making such a huge investment, you want it to last longer than a year or two. This is why it’s so important to kick the tires, and look under the hood. Let’s look at a few of the characteristics you should be keeping your eye on.
What To look for
- – Box material
- Plywood is the best option. Built with strong and long-lasting sides and backs, this is considered the premium quality material for the frame of the cabinet box. It holds screws more securely, and resists moisture and sagging much better.
- Composite board is a more affordable option. This type had great resistance to temperature and humidity fluctuations and a range of finish options too.
- – Doors, and frame construction
- Face-frame stile and rails are joined with long tenons (extending wood tongues), and deep mortises (the slots where the tenons fit). Where the two meet should have an almost invisible joint line.
- Door panels are made from solid wood or a combination of wood and MDF.
- – The back
- A full-height back provides great strength and support for heavy stone counter tops, at a very affordable price. This helps eliminate the need for hanging rails, and thus cuts installation cost.
- – The drawers
- Look for solid hardwood drawers with dovetail joints (similar to the tenons, and mortises of the face frames). This reliable construction allows long lasting drawers and drawer fronts. Avoid those that use stapled drawers, as these tend to come apart very easily over time, and repair is difficult to maintain.
- – Hardware
- We highly recommend the adjustable, soft-close concealed hinges for doors. It is an almost silent open and close every time, no matter how mad your kids are at you and try and slam it shut. For the upgraded cost, your doors will thank you in the long run.
- For the drawers, look for the full-extension, soft close under mount glides. The full extension also allows you to get access to the full drawer. Partial access means that about 20-30% of the drawer remains in the cabinet.
- – Toekicks
- Its the little 4” space that you never notice, near the floor, where your toes fit so nicely. Quality cabinets use the composite / plywood toekick base to mount under each cabinet. The other option would be using 4-6 plastic adjustable feet for support. These don’t distribute the weight evenly and have a possibility of snapping under the pressure of the heavy load each cabinet supports.