Kitchen cabinets are not all made the same way. There are kitchen cabinets that are so well made that they add value to a home and there are some at the opposite end that would drive away potential buyers.
While cabinets might look like they are superior, they may be made of low-grade materials or they might have poorly made hinges, making them quick to break under the heavy use that happens in kitchens.
8 Qualities of Superior Kitchen Cabinets
Fortunately, once you know what to look for in kitchen cabinets, you will be able to shop for superior ones at an affordable price.
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The Best Kitchen Cabinets are Made of Solid Wood
Kitchen cabinets can be made of a variety of different materials, but the best are made of solid wood. Cabinets can be made of particle board or similar materials that are easy to break, but solid wood is durable and will withstand being opened and closed several times per day.
The exterior doors could be free of knots and other blemishes. The interior pieces and structural pieces can be made of plywood but should be thick enough to withstand the weight of plates, cups, and flatware as well as canned goods and other pantry items.
The Hinges Should be Adjustable and Have the Soft-close Feature
Hinges might all seem the same, but they are not. The best ones are adjustable. Usually, cabinet doors are placed perfectly by the installers, but after time the cabinet doors can sag. With adjustable hinges, sagging can be quickly taken care of by a homeowner.
While you might occasionally feel the need to slam a cabinet door when you are having a bad day, it’s not good for cabinets to be treated that way. That’s why the best cabinets have soft-close hinges that prevent slamming
Shelves are Locked in With Durable Brackets
If you’ve ever purchased low-cost shelving for your home, you’ve probably been a victim of cheap plastic shelving brackets. These are usually little plastic pieces that fit into pre-drilled holes that hold shelves in place. The small pieces often fit poorly and fall out, so shelves become wobbly.
Superior quality kitchen cabinets do not have those pesky little plastic brackets holding up the shelves. Instead, there are durable metal or wooden brackets that can support significant weight. They should be installed perfectly so you never have to think twice about them.
Interiors That can be Easily Cleaned
If cabinet interiors are made of particle board, any spills or water rings will be soaked up and stay in the low-grade wood forever. Eventually, the interior of your cabinets will fall apart. But, if the inside of your cabinets is made of durable, cleanable materials like melamine, laminate, or other non-porous materials, then you can wipe spills without worry.
Dovetail Joints Instead of Staples
Low-quality drawers are put together with staples. After a time, drawers held together with staples will fall apart and the faces bow or droop. Superior quality draw boxes are put together with dovetail joints made of solid wood.
These milled joints are usually nailed and/or glued together which makes them incredibly strong and will give them a long life in your kitchen. The drawer box itself should be made of ⅝-inch solid wood on all sides. Poorly structured drawer boxes often have weak particleboard on the bottom.
Framed Cabinet Fronts and I-beam Internal Structure
Superior cabinet fronts have frames, which gives the cabinet doors something to rest upon. Lower-grade cabinets do not have frames and are often labeled as European or modern cabinetry, but those styles of cabinets can have frames, too. Framed cabinets have more strength than unframed cabinets.
The frame of a cabinet provides a place for hinges and glides. It also keeps them structurally stable while they are being shipped and installed. Interestingly, frameless cabinets are often made of low-quality wood – like particle board, while framed cabinets are usually made of solid wood.
Along with frames giving support to the exterior of the cabinet, the best cabinets also have i-beams give internal support. These beams fit inside the top of the cabinet box and run from front to back. The beams sit in a dado slot and keep the cabinet from shifting from side to side. Beams can be made of nearly any material, simply having them adds to the strength of the cabinet.
Warranties and Certifications
Superior cabinet manufacturers stand behind their work and offer warranties to their customers. Usually, cabinet manufacturers offer limited lifetime warranties that will repair or replace the product for the original purchaser. Some warranties will guarantee cabinets for as long as they are in use, as long as the use involves normal wear and tear.
Other manufacturers offer warranties that last for a specified term, like a five-year or ten-year warranty. Low-quality cabinetry usually does not have a warranty at all. Some warranties have requirements for installation; they might have to be installed by a specially trained contractor for the warranty to be valid.
Along with warranties, the best kitchen cabinets come with certification from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association Certification Program (KCMA). This association sets standards for cabinet manufacturing, installation, and ownership. KCMA has been testing and certifying cabinetry for 45 years. You can find the KCMA label on products or on websites, like this company that has the label at the bottom of its website.
Sustainable Materials Used in Construction
Superior cabinet makers use sustainable resources in their products. They might use environmentally friendly glues or sustainable wood resources. The finishes might be eco-friendly. The KCMA has been offering a certification called the Environment Stewardship Program (ESP) for manufacturers, installer, and consumers.
These eight qualities are easy to spot. Certified and sustainable cabinets will be clearly labeled with stickers. Before you select a cabinet, be sure to open and close the drawers and doors. Look at the inside of the drawers and cabinets to see the brackets and materials used. Be sure that everything is up to the standards of being labeled a superior cabinet.