5 Tips for Choosing the Best Kitchen Cabinets

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated March 24, 2022
woman in kitchen opening brown cabinets
Photo: Yakobchuk Olena / Adobe Stock

Don’t box yourself in by choosing the wrong kitchen cabinet design

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If you’re doing a kitchen remodel, you know that kitchen cabinets play a huge part in the look and functionality of your kitchen. And there are so many features to consider—color, material, hardware, and style—the list goes on. Here are five tips for choosing the best kitchen cabinets for your kitchen.

1. Consider Color

When decorating your kitchen, the color palette of your cabinets is the first thing you want to nail down. You have an endless array of colors to choose from. 

White and Light Cabinets

Remember that light and white cabinets will open up your space and are a classic, timeless option. Depending on your design scheme, you can choose cooler or warmer undertones with light grays and tans. However, lighter cabinets will show scuffs more than a darker option.

Dark Wood and Black Cabinets

Dark wood and black often go together in a more contemporary kitchen design. They will hide scuffs and dings more easily than light-colored cabinets and add warmth to a larger kitchen. The drawback of darker cabinets is that they can make a space look and feel smaller, so these go better in spacious kitchens.

2. Decide on Your Customization

You have three choices when it comes to building your kitchen cabinets: stock, semi-custom, and custom. Familiarize yourself with these common kitchen cabinet terms so you can make the right choice for your space.

Stock Cabinets

Stock kitchen cabinets come in standardized measurements, with widths starting at 12 inches and increasing to 60 inches in 3-inch increments. They come in a standard height of 30 to 36 inches, are usually available same-day, and will be the most cost-effective option. 

Semi-Custom Cabinets

You have more extensive wood and finish choices than stock cabinetry with semi-custom cabinets. Semi-custom cabinets come in the same sizes as stock cabinets, but you can customize with add-ons like pull-outs, lazy Susans, and dividers. These cabinets usually require a little more time for delivery and cost more than stock cabinets but less than fully custom ones.

Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are handcrafted to fit your kitchen. These are a great option if you have weird corners or other oddly shaped spaces that stock cabinets won’t fit in. Fully custom cabinets usually take around nine weeks, but the wait might be longer or shorter, depending on your project and the cabinet company.

3. Choose a Material

kitchen with white cabinets and bay window
Photo: Hero Images /Hero Images / Adobe Stock

Varieties of kitchen cabinet materials are seemingly endless, so there’s something for everyone.

Solid Wood

Solid wood cabinets are long-lasting but also one of the more costly options out there. Expect to pay between $100 and $1200 per linear foot for the cost of solid wood cabinets.

These cabinets rarely come in stock options, which means you have to factor in the cost of the solid wood material and the cost of customization. Your local cabinet maker can make these out of maple, oak, or cherry.

Furniture Board

While solid wood is an attractive option, there are many other materials you can choose for your cabinets that are just as pretty. Furniture board, also called particleboard, is made of wood chips pressed together into sheets. Manufacturers use it as a base layer for plastic laminates and wood veneers. If you’re looking for stock cabinets, you’ll find plenty of options in this material.  

Laminate

Laminate cabinets come in various colors and patterns and are trendy for kitchen cabinets. The material is low maintenance, durable, and resistant to warping, chipping, fading, and stains. Manufacturers frequently use laminate in stock cabinets because of its versatility, and you can also use it for custom jobs.

Plywood

Cabinet makers glue layers of medium to softwood together to construct plywood cabinet sheets. Plywood is a strong material because the grains of the woods alternate at right angles throughout the layers. A drawback for any type of wood is that moisture and heat cause it to expand and contract, but the cross-grain pattern prevents that warping from happening.

Wood Veneers

Wood veneers offer the look of solid wood cabinets at a fraction of the cost. Manufacturers attach veneers to the outer layer of plywood, so these cabinets have the same warp-resistant construction as plywood with the look of solid wood.

4. Ask Yourself: Framed or Frameless?

A modern kitchen with black cabinets
Photo: Nicky Dowling / Moment / Getty Images

Once you’ve decided on the color, material, and customizations, the next thing to think about is whether you want framed or frameless cabinets. Framed cabinets have a piece that looks like a picture frame on the front of the cabinet, and the frame helps define the cabinet’s shape while providing a layer of stability that frameless cabinets lack.

Frameless cabinets don’t have the frame inside but compensate with thicker outer panels. These cabinets have more room, allowing you to store more oversized items than you might in a framed model. 

Framed cabinets usually come in a broader selection of styles and colors and are less expensive than frameless cabinets. However, cabinet installation usually takes longer because there’s an extra piece on each cabinet, which may consist of a less sturdy material.

5. Select Your Door Design and Hardware

The multitude of door design choices and kitchen cabinets hardware may overwhelm you. Your door design and hardware options will all boil down to what vibe you want your kitchen to have. 

Do you want a contemporary look? Slab cabinets with bar pulls are the way to go. Are you looking for a more traditional feel? Raised panel cabinets with carved pulls are a good option.

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