Cabinets eat up roughly half of all kitchen remodeling budgets according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, a group that trains and certifies kitchen designers. You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to more than $1000 for an individual set consisting of a typical 21 inch wide base and a 30 inch tall wall unit. Add the installation cost of nearly 50% of the cabinet cost you can see where your money went.
But when you take away the beveled doors and the fancy hardware even the highest priced cabinets are still essentially wooden boxes. That makes well built drawers and other details the most crucial parts of any kitchen cabinet. The following is a guide to some of more critical features you should consider when shopping for cabinets.
Drawer Box Construction- The best have wooden sides and dovetail joinery with a plywood fitted groove bottom. Of lesser quality,but still ok, are metal sides and stapled drawer bottoms. Least desirable is stapled particle board construction.
Pullout Drawer Construction- Premium quality means wooden sides and dovetail joinery although stapled wood with a groove is acceptable. Doweled or stapled particle board is a sign of lesser quality construction.
Drawer and Pullout Hardware- Full extension guides are best for both drawers and pullouts. A mid level alternative is side rails integrated into a metal box or an undermount double roller design(for drawers) or integrated metal sides(for pullouts).
Shelves- Look for medium density fiberboard or 3/4 inch plywood. Most cabinets have 3/4 particle board which is acceptable. Thinner particle board such as 5/8 inch or 1/2 inch tend to be less desirable as they are apt to sag.
Cabinet Box- Furniture grade plywood (1/2 to 3/4 inch) is top of the line, although most use 3/8 thick unfinished plywood or 1/2 or thicker coated particle board. Thinner particle board may have problems holding shelf pins and drawer hardware.