Once the decision has been made to remodel your kitchen, the next decision is how much to spend. Since most homeowners spend an inordinate amount of time in their kitchen, it follows that selection and detailing are paramount. Once the budget is set, it is decision time on one of if not the most important part of the home- your cabinetry.

The cabinetry will set the tone for the entire design and feel of the home. The owner must choose between a wide variety of styles, materials, mouldings and hardware. First and foremost will be who will build your cabinets and or install them. If you choose custom cabinetry, it may be done by a “local guy”, or a state of the art facility of a large cabinet builder.

With options and pricing at dizzying levels, it is important to note your plans for the home in the long term. Whether you will be there for the long haul, or are you planning to move in the near future must be considered. Most importantly, plan for what you want now, functionality and quality wise.  If it does what you want now, chances are good that others will agree with your choices, should you need to sell your home.

When choosing cabinets, there are different grades of hardwood, softwood veneers and composites. Three common varieties of panel materials are typically used as kitchen cabinet cores.

Plywood – Some manufacturers offer plywood as standard or as an upgraded cabinet construction.  Plywood is typically made from layers of thin wood veneers, laid crossways and glued together under pressure.  Plywood is the strongest material for a cabinet case, and qualifies as an “all wood” cabinet.  Expect plywood construction to be a significant cost addition.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is made of very fine wood fibers that are glued and compressed under great pressure. It has a very smooth surface and has greater screw-holding power than particleboard, the other composite material. The smooth surface is also an ideal surface for application of wood veneers, plastic laminates and melamines. It is less expensive than plywood, but more expensive than particleboard.

Particleboard is a combination of wood chips, shavings, fibers, and adhesives. It differs from medium-density fiberboard in appearance, since its larger wood chips are in the core, and smaller, finer chips are on the surface. It’s heavier than plywood, but not as strong structurally.

When choosing “custom cabinetry” know that it is built to particular specifications from plans and drawings. In addition to the integrity of the construction - the outer finish of a cabinet is what truly distinguishes its value and longevity.  Finishes can be simple 2 to 3 top coat applications, or sophisticated, multi step operations; applied in a controlled environment.

Cabinetry has to endure a lot of wear and tear in a typical home and the durability of the finish is no trivial matter. The finish itself can tell you a lot about the expected lifespan of the most significant home improvement investment you will ever make.  Generally, the better the warranty given with a set of cabinets, the better, and more durable the finish will be.

Rick Beckham is a designer at Cabinets and Designs

located at 4200 Westheimer  p. 713-627-8970