Homeowners Guide to Cabinets
Cabinets are in the majority of rooms in your house...
You have kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, laundry room cabinets, entertainment room center cabinets, office cabinets, etc.
When you look at a picture of a beautiful kitchen, you probably aren’t wondering what type of wood the cabinets are made of.
If you remodel and the cabinets aren’t good quality, then you will definitely notice and you will not be happy with the issues.
The challenge is cabinets are expensive, especially in a kitchen where you need a lot of them. If you buy bad cabinets they won't last long and you'll have to redo the remodel down the road.
Because of that, we created this homeowner cabinet guide so you can learn about the types of cabinet construction and what is best for you. We tried to keep it to the basics to not have excessive information that takes too long to read and probably not necessary for homeowners.
It not a secret that in the home remodeling service industry, cabinets have a long lead time.
Most homeowners who haven't remodeled often don't realize how much time is involved, so here is a basic timeline in chronological order:
- 1After we sign the agreement, we schedule a meeting with the cabinet manufacturer to come out and discuss your cabinet layout and style in more detail. We want to ensure the measurements, layout and design are exactly how you want it because if a change needs to be made it can drastically increase your project timeline and cost more money. This appointment is usually scheduled 1-3 weeks after you sign the agreement, depending on everyone's availability.
- 2It usually takes a week for the manufacturer to get the cabinets priced out and provide the number to all of us. The homeowner then has to see if there's any changes they want to make to either increase or lower the cabinet costs.
- 3If there are changes that adds another week usually
- 4If there are no changes then we do the cabinet render to verify the layout that fits within the budget and homeowner's goals. This usually takes 2-5 days.
- 5Then the homeowner reviews the render and approves it which can take 1-14 days.
- 6Once we have an approval for everything we order the cabinets. Depending on the cabinet line and the manufacturers backlog, cabinets can take 5-10 weeks to arrive
So as you can see, there's a lot of back and forth to do the proper planning and ensure you are happy.
From the time that you sign an agreement, it can take 3-4 months for the cabinets to be installed. We try to speed this up in any way we can, but it is important to have the right expectations.
Stock, Semi-Custom & Custom Cabinets
Stock cabinets provide a faster and easier option compared to semi-custom or custom. Stock cabinets are made in common cabinet sizes, and are made in specific colors, door styles and finishes.
Stock cabinets usually take 5-7 weeks to be built so they are faster than other options. They are also less expensive because they are made in mass repeatedly. Many homeowners pick stock cabinets because they have plenty of options to choose from and they help keep the cost within their budget.
Semi-custom cabinets are more money than stock cabinets, but less than full custom cabinets. Semi-custom cabinets are available in more styles and options than stock cabinets, allowing you to create a personalized style and look.
Semi-custom cabinets can be ordered in a wide choice of finishes, stains, paints, glazes and specialty finishing styles such as distressing. They are also available with fun and functional storage options and can be embellished with crown molding, cabinet legs and feet, and a range of hardware choices to create a unique style.
Many homeowners choose custom cabinets because they want to add fun storage options or a few extra touches like crown molding.
Custom Cabinets are the most expensive but provide you with endless options. They will definitely take the longest to make, but you can ask for virtually anything if you have the money and time to wait for them.
Most homeowners do not have a need for custom cabinets and if they want one or two custom aspects to their kitchen or bathroom, they simply go with semi-custom cabinets.
Framed VS Frameless Cabinets
There are two main types of front-facing cabinet styles. One is where there is a frame around the cabinet from behind the cabinet door and the other is where there is no frame around the cabinet box and it attaches directly with the cabinet doors.
Framed Cabinet Box Construction
This is the more common option, especially in the United States. It is less expensive than a frameless box construction. Face frames allow for easier installation and door/drawer adjustment.
This adjustment is important to ensuring everything looks right. Framed cabinets also have more options for modifications and sizes.
Frameless Cabinet Box Construction
This style option is more popular in Europe and it will cost you more money. Because there isn’t a frame around the cabinet, there is a small increase in accessibility for items inside the cabinet.
You have to get more cabinet fillers (pieces of wood that go in between cabinet boxes, in the front of the cabinet to provide clearance for drawer and door openings.
Cabinet sides are ordered finished at the factory. There are also fewer options in sizes and modifications due to the difference or limitation of the construction.
Wood Materials Of Cabinets
There are many options for cabinets, many of which are low quality, or ridiculously expensive. We will discuss the 3 main options homeowners are interested in.
One option is cabinets that use natural wood for the cabinet drawers, doors & boxes which is one of the most expensive options. These are usually chosen by homeowners who do not have a maximum budget for their remodel and are looking for the highest quality available.
The next option which is the most popular where you have a combination of plywood box construction with solid wood drawers and then natural wood doors if stained or HDF doors if painted.
Another option is particle board which is one of the least expensive options, but also lower quality and a lot more risks which we will discuss in a moment
Natural Wood Cabinets
Natural wood for all elements of the kitchen cabinet (boxes, drawer sides, drawer faces, cabinet door) is rather expensive and not necessary for 99% of homeowners.
Natural wood has a great look to it but it comes at a price. Many cabinets will have a veneer on them to look like natural wood. This is very common in the inside of cabinets where homeowners want a nice look, but they don’t want to pay the amount of money for natural wood.
The downside to natural wood is you can’t control the look of it because the wood has natural elements to it like knots, bird pecks, burls, wormholes, mineral streaks, gum streaks, and color changes.
So imagine spending a lot of money on your cabinets to find several of them have odd looking sections because of these variants you can’t control. This natural wood look isn't the fault of the cabinet manufacturer or remodeler, so if you don’t like the look you end up having to pay for more cabinets, which is not a good scenario.
Plywood is generally thought to be the better product when building cabinets. Plywood weighs less than natural wood or particle board, yet it is very strong.
Plywood is often considered the best choice for cabinet boxes because the wood is strong, therefore it holds screws and other fasteners better. Plywood is also more resistant to scratches & dents compared to particle boards.
So Plywood is strong, yet light and can hold unto fasteners quite well. The last thing you want is your cabinet falling down because the wood can’t hold the screws in, which leads us to particle board...
Particle board Cabinets
Particle board is something you probably don’t want in your house. Particle board is made from sawdust mixed with glue and other binding agents and put under pressure to solidify and cure. Because of this method of creation, particle board is not dense which means if you cut into it, you’ll see holes and gaps.
These holes and gaps make particle board weak, creating issues when trying to screw or fasten your particle board cabinets.
Particle board is also rough and does not make it easy to sand down to a smooth look.
It also can swell easily when introduced to water or just moisture. Once it is introduced to moisture particle board gradually disintegrates, making it a bad choice for a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or wet bar, where water is common.
We recommend you stay away from particle boards.
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
MDF is similar to particle board but it is more highly engineered. The size of the particles is very fine, and those particles are bonded together under higher pressure. Because of the smaller particles and increased pressure, MDF is more dense compared to particle board. MDF also sands better than particle board because the particles are small and it can provide a smooth surface.
MDF pros are that it is strong like wood, it won’t warp and it lasts a long time under right conditions. Medium density fiberboard is great for areas that get a lot of moisture like bathrooms. Bathrooms get a lot of humidity and temperature changes and real wood or particle boards don’t do as well in those conditions.
MDF can be fabricated into different shapes and styles easier than other wood types and therefore it is used a lot in cabinet doors. MDF also cuts cleaner and smoother then regular wood or particle board. MDF is also cheaper than natural lumber wood.
MDF cons are that it scratches easily and you can’t repair it because it can’t be sanded the same way you can with natural lumber wood. MDF doesn't do well when exposed to high temperatures, so it isn’t good for Phoenix Garages or outdoor kitchens.
Another con to medium density fiberboard is it doesn’t stain well. It soaks up the stain just like water and can swell and become rough. Another challenge with staining is it doesn’t have any wood grain pattern to show once stained, so it wouldn’t look good.
High Density Fiberboard (HDF)
Also referred to as hardboard, a high density fiberboard (HDF) is a type of engineered wood product. High Density Fiberboard is similar but much harder & denser than particle board or MDF with a density greater than 50 pounds per cubic foot.
The high density of HDF makes it popular in flooring because of the foot traffic and pressure.
HDF creates a smooth and uniform surface wherever it is used. HDF does not have any grain and unlike wood, resists cracking in temperature and humidity changes. This makes it a popular choice for painted finish cabinet doors. HDF is usually more expensive than MDF but less expensive than natural wood.
If a homeowner is interested in any type of painted cabinets, HDF is a fantastic choice to help homeowners get a well priced product that will be durable and last a long time.
So HDF is a great choice for painted cabinets, but you need natural wood for stained cabinets to show off the wood grain.
All of our cabinets have:
Here are some of the cabinet styles we offer:
We hope this homeowner cabinet guide was helpful. This should help with choosing good kitchen, bathroom cabinets that will save you money without running the risk of bad cabinets that won't last long. If you are also interested in flooring, check out our flooring buying guide.
If you haven’t already checked to see if we will be a good fit for each other, find out below:
By scheduling the phone consultation, it ensures everyone gets a call back at an exact time that works for both parties.
Our Admin Manager will review your remodel needs, provide advice, answer your questions, and give a price estimate. If it's a good fit at the end of the call, we schedule the in-home evaluation, and then provide a written proposal.
What Your Neighbors Are Saying
"Easy to work with this team. I've worked with many contractors over the years and I must say this is the first time I've ever really been impressed.
They showed up daily on time, worked hard the whole time they were there, listened to what we wanted, did an awesome job, completed on time as promised, fairly priced and cleaned up their job site daily.
Would definitely recommend and will use them again if needed. Thanks to Jeremy for reaching out to my request, and thanks to Mark and Ben for helping us create our dream shower!!"
Dawn | 2018
"I recently had Phoenix Home Remodeling complete renovations in both my master, (2) guest bathrooms, kitchen, and entertainment wall in my home. I can’t tell you how happy I am with the results!!
The process they set in place and communication on a daily basis made the entire project so much easier than expected.
The use of BuilderTrend software helped to keep me on budget and communication between the team and myself seamless. The team of employees were amazing to work with; especially given this was my first time remodeling a home.
The work and amount of care for my home, lifestyle (we lived in the house during the construction), and quality of work was evident from day one until completion. I would highly recommend this company to anyone who is in need of a home project or upgrades.
I am pleased beyond measure with my newly updated home and cannot thank Phoenix Home Remodeling enough for their time, effort, and personalization they put into making this project well worth the investment. Thank you PHR!!"
Julie | 2020
As a commercial contractor my experience with residential contractors has been less than stellar so I am generally jaded towards them. These folks are not like residential contractors.
These guys have a good business model in my opinion and do excellent work!
On time, reasonably priced, and quality installation.
Our first remodel and largest expense outside of the home or auto purchase and they made it as easy as possible for us. If you can wait for this team to do your remodel you will not be sorry.
Colin | 2019
"We recently used Phoenix Home Remodeling to remodel our early 2000’s Kitchen.
The process was very easy and we enjoyed getting to know the team that came to do the work!
We appreciated the straightforward approach to the overall plan, expectations, timing, and cost.
This is a local to Ahwatukee company which was very reassuring that these folks not only work but live in this community with their name on the line.
Communication was seamless and the work was exactly what we wanted! We will definitely use them again for future work and highly recommend them.
Thanks for a great experience, and fantastic results!"
Maggie | 2021